The Dining Divas Enjoy Mexican Food Regardless of What Border It’s South Of

The Dining Divas

By Lisa Kampeter

It was that time of year for the Dining Divas in May.  The Mexican month.  And whereas we were all in agreement the month before regarding our restaurant of choice, we just couldn’t seem to get our schedules to work.  So this month’s Divas is what I’m going to call a Mexican Combination Platter.  It’s a combination from the Diva outing this month with other Mexican restaurant favorites.

This year, the few available Divas for the evening tried out Flaco’s Cocina on Delmar.  Google translator defines “flaco” and “cocina” as “skinny kitchen”.  Being that the menu claims to have a South Beach flair, I’m going to take that to mean that we too can be thin like the beautiful people on the beaches of South Beach in Miami even when we chow down on their Caribbean and Latin cuisine.

Obviously, Flaco’s isn’t a typical Mexican restaurant.  But who knew?  The name looked Spanish to all of us.  And becoming more typical in these Spanish-looking-named restaurants is the “pay for your chips” program.  No free chips and salsa here.  But let me tell you.  It was worth it to pay for it.  The variety of salsa and the fresh chips were delish.  Four bucks for bottomless baskets of chips and salsa.   The favorite for us was the salsa picante.

On another day, when stopping by a favorite Mexican restaurant by SLU only to discover it had closed down and reopened as Diablitos Cantina, the Traditional Diva experienced the “pay for chips” program too.  And she wasn’t too happy about it.  I guess there really is no such thing as free chips anymore.  However, you can still go to Chimichanga’s on Grand, a Diva favorite from years back, they happily give you endless chips as well as great “typical” Mexican food.  Nothing fancy.  Just Mexican, how we like it.

The Divas have discussed the distaste for real Mexican food versus Americanized Mexican food.  I don’t think it’s that the Americanized versions are better.  I think it’s just what we’re used to.

And speaking of what we’re used to, what’s the ingredient in the red sauce on some enchiladas we’ve tried?  That was the question some of us pondered on a recent visit to El Palenque in Ferguson.  Cinnamon?  That’s what it tasted like.  Not sure cinnamon is what I want mixed in with my rice and beans.  And others agreed.  No thanks.

Flaco’s Cocina is funky.  Kind of like Venice Café funky but not quite so extreme.   Bright.  Artsy.  Cool.  They claim to have a fabulous patio, but we didn’t even look in that direction as the massive downpours prevented us from checking things out out-of-doors.  Our extremely personable waiter charmed us with his friendly demeanor so much so we told him that if we had an extra ticket to that night’s “big game” we were going to after dinner, we’d take him with us.

As I said, Flaco’s Cocina is not what I’d consider “typical” Mexican.  Their appetizers consist of  Lobster Fritters, Seared Tuna, and Ceviche instead of items like queso dip and nachos.  For entrees, the names are similar but finished products are more extravagant.  They truly are “prepared with care” as they indicate on their menu.  You’re not going to choose from 100 menu items here and get three tacos with beans and rice for $7.99, but you will experience delightful, flavorful combinations.  Their Fat Tacos can be stuffed with your choice of the typical beef or chicken, or you can be bold and get mahi mahi, tilapia, or tuna.   Want a more traditional item, try the chicken enchiladas or shrimp fajitas.  But if you want to be different, you can get tofu.

Even though they do not have a typical “Mexican restaurant” menu with 100 items to choose from, they do have several interesting entrees that will require a return visit at some time.  But if I’m heading to Delmar and in the mood for Mexican, I will probably return to Mi Ranchito, a truly Mexican restaurant and Diva favorite from last year.  Close to home, the Frequent-Diner Diva will choose Pueblo Nuevo in Hazelwood any time.  The Quesadilla Las Fuentes at Las Fuentes in Florissant is the dish of preference for the Picky Diva.  And of course, the margaritas at Las Palmas on Woodson make any entrée better.   Oh, margaritas…and free chips, that is.


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