SD #17: Yes, This Is About Food We Ate In August.

Great Holy Monongahela, y’all!  I am wayyyy far behind on posting our Serial Dining Woodside adventures!  I plead insanity.  I was crazy busy this fall.

It’s really, really hard to top a trip to Donovan’s.  But being committed to our Serial Dining Woodside project, we kept calm and carried on.  On August 12, we ventured out again.  Next up on the list:

Dunkin’ Donuts, 3956 61st St
Ecuador Mi Pais, 5316 Roosevelt Ave
El Guarache Corp, 6806 Roosevelt Ave
El Mariachi Restaurant, Roosevelt Ave

Except for El Mariachi, almost nothing on this list is as it seems.  That Dunkin Donuts?  Surprise!  We’ve been there before, because it’s also a Baskin Robbins!  It does, however, appear twice on the list, and rules are rules.  So we resigned ourselves to the fact that at some point that day, we were going to have to indulge in some donuts.  Commitment.  It’s a bitch.

Meanwhile, Ecuador Mi Pais?  Turns out, no longer there.  No longer a restaurant, even.  Yes, if you look closely at the window in the picture below you will still see some vestigial Ecuadorian imagery:

The former home of Ecuador Mi Pais is, however, now a mosque.  For reals:

El Guarache?  We totally missed the boat on that one.  We had walked past it dozens of times and always intended to go in and try it, but alas, we never got around to it.  Now, the site of the former El Guarache is now the home of Tia Julia, which isn’t a restaurant so much as the place the awesome Tia Julia food truck in Jackson Heights goes to reload.  Once in a great while, in what appears to me a totally unpredictable manner, the dining room is open and you can eat there.  But not that day:

Tia Julia: Restaurant or truck depot?

So here was the plan:  El Mariachi for lunch, followed by (totally against our wills, I swear) a trip back to the Baskin Robbins/Dunkin Donuts.

There are lots of reasonably cheap Mexican joints in Woodside.  In fact, we have serially dined at several of them already, and all of them have been good.  It really blows my mind that a place like Taco Bell survives at all in this part of Queens, given all of the inexpensive, authentic, muy delicioso Mexican food around.  Case in point:  El Mariachi.  We liked it.  Here’s what it looks like on the outside:

El Mariachi Restaurant

From the outside, pretty much the same as any other Mexican restaurant of its type.  On the inside, however, it’s one of the most pleasantly decorated ones we’ve been to.  Colorful, and not cheesy.  Here’s what it looks like:

As is our tendency, we showed up at a weird hour in the middle of the afternoon, so the place was nearly empty.  However, we’ve seen crowds in there at other times, and they seem to do a lot o delivery and take-out business.  We therefore concluded that the quality of the food we tasted that day is probably pretty consistent over time.  Here’s what we ordered:

We started, as always, with guacamole.  You may have noticed by now that I am constitutionally incapable of entering a Mexican restaurant of any kind and not ordering guacamole.  If the guacamole sucks, I won’t go back, no matter how good everything else is.  Anyway, here’s the guac:

The guac was good.  Not the best I’ve ever had, but definitely enjoyable.  After that, Allan ordered a torta, and I ordered huaraches, which I had never had before.  Here’s the food:

Huaraches, baby!

Huaraches was (were?) new to me.  If they’re new for you too, here’s the scoop:  The word “huaraches” actually refers to sandals.  The base of this dish is a flat, oval-shaped layer reminiscent of the bottom of a sandal.  This bottom layer is made of fried corn dough, which is called masa.  On top of the masa can be piled all sorts of different ingredients, generally including both meat and cheese (queso fresco) and some some veggies, which in a way reminds me conceptually of pizza.  I had mine with pork.  My impression was that this was a well-executed huaraches, and if you’re into huaraches, El Mariachi is probably a good place to go.  However, I personally wasn’t a huge fan of the thick, chewy masa base, which is a basic feature of the dish and not specific to this restaurant, so I probably won’t order this again, here or anywhere else.  As I mentioned before, we have since ordered takeout from El Mariachi, on which occasion I ordered the chicken enchiladas verdes, and they were terrific.

Allan’s torta looked fantastic– very well prepared, with fresh ingredients.  I asked him what he thought, and he was too busy happily chewing to respond, which I took to mean he was digging it.  So there you go.

I’m sad to say that because I am so delinquent in blogging about this visit, I no longer remember how much we spent, but I know it wasn’t a lot.

So.  On to Dunkin Donuts.  Do I really have to describe the menu to you?  No, I thought not.  Can you guess what we ordered?  Here’s a photo of them, still in the bag:

Bet you knew that’s how they were going to look.  Bet you also know exactly how they tasted.  So rather than spending time on that, let me tell you what we discovered when we went back there.  Remember the Station Bar with the totally clapped out awning?  Apparently the owners have been busy sprucing up the place!  Lookie lookie:

We didn’t look inside, but I really hope they didn’t spruce up the interior, too.  It’s such a great little dive bar, it would be a shame to change it.

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