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Restaurants & Bars 3

Los Arcos (Baltimore Update)

ko | Jul 14, 2005 10:44 AM

I read the Los Arcos review in CP when they first opened and went for a weekday lunch (they are no longer open on weekdays for lunch). Given the timing, I didn't try the margaritas which had gotten such raves. I had the chicken enchiladas and my friend had the beef barbacoa which she loved. The enchiladas were different and excellent: folded open when served, the top half of the tortilla was crunchy, the bottom half soft. They were drizzled with a mild, tasty mole and a little crema.
After that, I read on here that the food had plummeted. Sunday, the Sun had a very positive review, so figuring that perhaps they had gotten their act back together, I took my wife for dinner last night. The place was pretty busy, but we were seated immediately and the waitress took our drink order: "2 Patron margaritas, please!" Within a minute, another waitress appeared and asked if we wanted anything to drink. We told her we were already taken care of. She looked confused and went over to confer with the other waitress. Seconds later, a man appeared and asked for our drink orders. About 10 minutes later, our drinks actually appeared. The margaritas were good, but nothing special.
I ordered the barbacoa lamb, my wife ordered the chicken enciladas with a verde sauce and the sopa y tortilla. 20 minutes later, still no soup and we hadn't seen our waitress in ages. We finally flag her down and she explains that the soup is served with the entrees. About 15 minutes later, the food arrives. The barbacoa is delicious, not piping hot but warm enough, incredibly tender and nicely spiced, similar to the meats featured at the taco truck but even better. It's served with piping hot tortillas, rice with peas, and, instead of frijoles, some nicely stewed beans with thin jalapeno strips. Nothing is very hot, but it's edible.
My wife looks at her sopa and says "Why is it so red?" (she used to live in the Yucatan and there the dish is always a chicken broth with chunks of tomato). She takes a spoonful and says "This tastes like cold Campbell's tomato soup." I try it and decide it tastes like Campbell's soup blended with a little chicken broth. It's cold. She pushes it away. Her enchiladas look completely different than the ones I had, like long taquitos covered in a liberal cross-hatching of green sauce and sour cream. These too are quite cold and the sauce and chicken are both remarkably bland. She eats half and pushes it away. I have been encouraging her to return them to be heated but we do not see the waitress until I have finished my meal (I am not a fast eater). When we manage to flag down the waitress, she sends the manager over. He explains that because it is a small temporary kitchen, there is virtually no advance food prep, and, wanting to serve everything together as they individually prepare meals, they sometimes let a finished meal sit too long before serving. "Even the soup is prepared individually, every single order. I have no idea how they do that", he says in wonderment. My wife and I have a pretty good idea. Very graciously, with no request on our part, he removes the enchiladas and the sopa from the check. We do not mention our problems with the server, who never checked on us during our meal and was nowhere to be found during the meal.

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