I knew it existed, I just didn't know where. Upon first arriving in town back in Feb/March, I pawed through the yeller pages looking for clues pointing to good chow in Wichita and I noticed the name Rostizeria Los Reyes and filed it away, meaning to try it at some point. In the meantime, Sarge and I have eaten some pretty crappy "Mexican" here: Felipe Jr (gawd, what awful food...should have known from the length of the line), Ajuua (at first they fooled us, it was acceptable, but with each visit, it got worse, and the lovely smell of sewer gas, initially confined to the back room, eventually filled the whole place...won't go back there ever), El Torero, a carbon copy of Ajuua, less the sewer perfume (same menu, same owner, same slop), Angela's on E. Kellogg (seems like the salsa was good, but the food was awful), Paisano on N. Arkansas (everyone raves about this authentic place...well, for starters, the chips had a sweet flavor, no, really sweet, reminiscent of Kix cereal...nasty...the margaritas were nasty, the food was nasty...never again); there might be more, but thankfully I can't remember them (oh, except one...Tacos Raymundo on 21st west of B'way...it was on that silly list posted by Denise "The Galloping Gourmet" Neil a couple weeks back of the top ten Mexican places in town as chosen by the Mexican Restaurant Marathoners...and it wasn't terrible, as long as you stick to the "real" Mexican choices like tacos (corn tortillas, please), gorditas, sopes, etc....the Americanized, or Kansasized Mexican is just as bad as anything else...Sarge made the mistake of ordering a combo special...aimed at gringos and she couldn't eat it...i nibbled, and understood why...).
Well, finally made it to Los Reyes (512 W. 21st, near corner of Waco) and so ticked that I didn't go there right away. It is wonderful. Now, I'm not gonna tell you that everything they have is wonderful because we've yet to try everything, but it's the only place in town so far that can satisfy the cravings of someone who's lived in Texas most of his life, travelled extensively in Mexico, and often savored the food of a restaurant in Austin whose menu is in large part directed by Mexican Chow Maven Diana Kennedy, and even better, eaten many 99¢ tacos at Mexican meat market taquerias in Austin, San Antonio, Houston, and in Mexico proper.
The first taste was a couple of carnitas tacos and a gordita of carne al pastor....all were very, very good. The carnitas were properly crispy, though could have been more so...(I've tried a couple around town which, well, suck: they are not fried crisp in lard as they should be, but to accommodate tame Ameri-Kan tastes, are stewed or simply chunks of soft roast port...not the right thing at all), though the tortillas were not as good at the meat, the combo was more than satisfying...a sprinkle of onions, cilantro and nice, picosa salsa made these the best Mexican things I've found in town. The gordita was pretty good, though the masa was not freshly patted out and could have used more lard...still pretty decent...and the carne al pastor (pork in the shepard's style) was well-spiced, properly tangy and also very tasty. Would give them a high B+.
A few days later I dragged Sarge along and we had another delicious, if not perfect, meal. She went for a half dozen oysters on the half shell (Mexican? you ask...yep, if you've ever been to Mexico, you know how crazy they are for good seafood...shrimp, oysters, octopus, and various fish preparations...all on the menu at Los Reyes). It being an "R" month the oysters passed her taste test...with a bit of hot sauce and lime juice, she gobbled up each one from its shell promptly and greedily...oh, I don't eat them, so she wasn't being greedy...she did offer! She had a taco de carnitas and loved it as I had. My plate was labeled Michuacan (sic) Enchiladas...which included 1/4 of a roasted chicken. Now I've had this dish many times from outdoor food stalls in Michoacan and the version at Los Reyes doesn't really come close...no cabbage "salad" nor fried in lard spuds, and the enchiladas were too laden with sauce and cheese...the flavors were good, just not sure what what made them Michoacan style, except maybe the inclusion of the chicken which is typical "in situ" where the whole dish is prepared on a very large metal disc with an indentation in the center where oil pools, and the chicken is cooked along the edges as are the spuds and the enchiladas are dipped in the oil, then a sauce then the dish is assembled...all on the outdoor perimeter of the town square or plaza...they are usually called enchiladas placeras (from the word plaza) and are almost always delicious. Ok enough history.
Los Reyes is definitely tops on my list of Mexican places right now. I'm sure there are others as good, maybe better. I've got my eye(s) on the Broadway taco trucks which seem to only appear at night and on weekends. I'll skip Connie's and all the other places people have recommended. When I find something new, be sure I'll report on it. These places need the support, and it seems like white folk around here seem to be a bit leery of these authentic places...even Sarge was a tad skeptical until I assured her it would be ok; she was delighted with the experience. Next I'm gonna get her to try Laura's Tortas on Central...looks promising. But not sure I'm gonna get her to try Cafe Thai-Lao!!!!
Oh, the walls of Los Reyes are plastered with posters of Mexican musical groups, conjuntos, bandas, etc who've apparently passed through town---all the posters are autographed...so it appears that they all hit this place when they are performing here...I guess that is some sort of endorsement...at least it shows the food has something more Mexican to offer than On the Border, El Rodeo, etc... Okay, yes, that's a good sign...(no pun intended!).
If you've been here, post your comments, or if you have somewhere similar, post your tips... can't wait to find more hidden gems...