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Mugs | Oct 28, 200302:02 PM

I'm preaching to the choir, I know. And this is not yet another paean to Restaurante Amanecer Tapatio in Joliet but encouragement for you to stick with your own Amanecer Tapatio, whatever its cuisine and locale.

My beloved Amanecer Tapatio is closed on Tuesday, so I had lunch today at the local branch of a Chicago-area chain of Mexican restaurants. I realize chicken fajitas may be an inauthentic dish, but flavor should not be too much to ask. This dish had little. I mentioned to my Chinese-American guest, who had the same dish, that it tasted like middling Mexican and middling Chinese. He agreed: "Like bland stir-fry."

Amanecer Tapatio is run by a family. Makes its own tortillas. The owner likes to order for me, so last night she put before me a large bowl of pesole, one of the specials of the day. It had a strong flavor--as well as lots of meat I couldn't identify and which I didn't like. And her enchiladas de pollo were smaller and harder than I'm used to, yet I tasted something in them that had me smiling. Distinctive food, nuanced preparation, surprises, yes, even hits and misses. Warmth, discovery, excitement...hard to come by in places that are numbered.

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