Lament: How times change… (a little culinary history/musings, probably known by most folk).. for years we had a restaurant in Leonardtown run by a very talented French chef who served varied and interesting food of all cuisines but with a French touch in sauces, combinations and flavors. After all those years, the owners got kind of burnt out, plus they had aging parents and so they elected to not renew their lease. After a long dark period, we were pleased to learn new restaurateurs were going to move in, and kind of keep the theme the same. Since they had DC restaurant experience it was hoped they would continue the tradition. (I believe) they sunk a lot of money in the place to fix the kitchen and back of the house stuff. After many delays, they finally opened
Somehow, they just never clicked. The “old clientele” kind of faded away and they began a slow decline. Pricing structure was different, probably a little higher, and some probably were put off by that. Personally I thought the food was very good, they offered unique dishes and ingredients and that may have contributed. Service was accomplished, but often seemingly penalized by the pace of the food coming from the kitchen. Things didn’t change, it seemed that they were bent on bringing DC to Southern Maryland, and not let Southern Maryland come to them. At any rate they finally decided to pull up stakes. Kind of a pity, Leonardtown is a designated "Art District" (I may get corrected here) and is trying to become kind of an artsy-f***sy (excuse me) center with local shops, coffee houses, restaurants and so forth. The cornerstone of Café Des Artistes was kind of the hub.
So against that backdrop, rumors and “I heard’s….” for a replacement ensued, some thought for a while that our up and coming “Cow and Fish” might occupy. I think a back drop of intransigence of the owners (the Dukes) not being willing to help delayed things. Nothing.
So we were there the other day and now the corner looks like
Oh no! wait a minute! is one strain of rumors true? Indeed they are
ANOTHER Tex Mex is all we need. Not only that, but a Bud Light? No Modelo, Dos Equis, Pacifico? Nope a good ol’ Bud Light, and probably ten ounce! Think maybe Guy Distributing had something to do with it? I always suspect chains, so I did some research. There are restaurants by that name (Dos Amigos) in Alexandria and Chantilly, Virginia, Orange City, NY, Pomano Beach FL, Byron and Libertyville, IL to name a few. The menus are distinctly different in layout, BUT, and a big BUTT, er, BUT disgustingly the same in content. Burritos, Enchiladas, Tacos, Fajitas, all the staple stuff that is made in that big Cocina in the sky. In addition in one place you can also get a bacon cheeseburger, another a Philly Cheesesteak (?!). “C’mon honey, I feel like Mexican tonight! Maybe that Philly Cheesesteak”. Sigh.
It is kind of a shame that “Mexican” has come to be thought of as the dishes above. Let’s check that menu…nope, I can’t find Aporreadillo, Cecina, Cabrito, Poc Chuc, Pollo motuleño, and just as well Chapulines (look that one up).
Okay. And you know what? The Inconvenient Truth is that it will fill up. Café Rio (“Self-serve eatery dishing up Mexican classics including hand-rolled tortillas, burritos & tacos”) has now opened their over 120th location near Harris Teeter. And I suppose it will also pack them in. Their slogan? “Our main ingredient is love!” funny, I thought that was what made a Subaru a Subaru.
So if there is a point to all this, it is somewhere in the “money talks” area. There seems to be a bottomless supply of people who want this level of food, and I’m sure they enjoy it, so it just keeps coming. I only hope that maybe someday they will move past black bean burritos and discover that there are wonderful things out there waiting to be tasted and experienced.