OK, I admit it. One of my favorite pig-out foods is Tex-Mex. I can visit just about any other type of restaurant and no matter how good it is control myself from eating too much. But after a meal at Tex-Mex restaurant, I leave stuffed and bloated.
Of course, I could blame the (usually) complimentary chips and salsa that are the custom of Tex-Mexeries. And I do. But that doesn’t explain the utter loss of constraint i’m somehow able to maintain at other types of restaurants with, say, a mere bread basket. I just keep shoving those little triangles into my face.
But that doesn’t stop me from going whole hog on the entree, hog being the operative word. More often than not I’ll get a combination platter, something that will include rice and refried beans, because I don’t get enough carbs from the chips, not to mention the flour tortillas that are more common than the corn variety at most T-M’s. I think the reason I enjoy Tex-Mex so much is that I don’t have to think too hard. There is very little nuance. Heck, most of the items on any menu are the same four or five ingredients just presented in different order. For a critic, there isn’t a whole lot to do.
Which is why my meal at Azteca d’Oro, a big, surprisingly bright restaurant on University Boulevard near the UCF campus, was so satisfying. I just didn’t have to think too much about it.
At least that’s what I was thinking as I was shoveling tortillas into the thick and decidedly tasty salsa. And it’s why I ordered the special of the day, which had the otherwise off-putting name Macho Burrito. (What, it has hair on its chest?) This was a massive concoction wrapped in what the menu described as a super flour tortilla, which was so large that I believe if it were unfolded it could serve as a tablecloth for a round cocktail table. The type of meat is up to the customer (I chose beef) and it is stuffed inside with rice and beans, then topped with shredded lettuce, pico de gallo and sour cream. It was not very pretty, but macho is never pretty. But it suited a pig-out mentality.
While waiting for the burrito to be machoed I ordered the sopa Azteca, a tortilla soup with chunks of grilled chicken breast, avocado and tortilla strips with melted cheese in a chicken broth that could have been a bit richer (oh, there I go thinking again). I had ordered a cup but was served a rather large bowl. When I pointed out the mistake, the server smiled and said that was the “cup” portion. It wasn’t until later that I actually noticed the cup is priced at $4.95; a bowl is $6.95. Odd, though, that the soup was served with a teaspoon instead of a sopa spoon.
I was impressed with the quality of the staff. I was greeted warmly and genuinely when I walked in, and service was closer to professional all through the meal than what one expects from a location so close to a college campus (I’m talking about you, Rollins-College-area restaurants).
I also liked the bright and colorful interior. It’s nice to see a Tex-Mex restaurant, and a chain in particular, that doesn’t feel the need to paint the walls to look as though the plaster is breaking away to expose “bricks” below.
Yes, Azteca is a chain, one from the northwest, a region not usually associated with this cuisine. The Florida restaurants’ names are appended with d’Oro.
The atmosphere is right, the staff is right and the food is deliciously heavy and gloppy. What’s there to criticize? OK, one thing: Ad’O calls itself a Mexican restaurant. You’re Tex-Mex, Azteca. Own it, embrace it. And bring me some more salsa.
Azteca d’Oro is at 11633 University Blvd., Orlando. It is open for lunch and dinner daily. Here is a link to the website (unnecessary music warning). The phone number is 407-737-8388.