When Bill and I lived in Germany the first time, from 2007-09, we were aware of a little hole in the wall Mexican place by the Esso gas station in Vaihingen. It was called La Cocina Mexicana. We never ate there for several reasons. The location wasn't that appealing to us. After we found our first German house and moved out of the Vaihinger Hof, we were never in Vaihingen when the place was open (and that's also true this time; we usually go to Vaihingen on Sundays, when the restaurant is closed). And we had also had plenty of bad German style Mexican food. While that's not so much an issue for me, since I'm not a Mexican food aficionado, Bill is from Texas and likes good Mexican food. So we gave it a pass.
When we moved back to Stuttgart in 2014, I kept hearing and reading horror stories about La Cocina Mexicana. I heard the food sucked. I heard the chef/owner was rude or crazy. I heard that he hated kids. I had a high time reading the reviews on TripAdvisor written by people who were obviously displeased by the food and service at this place. While I don't like to pay for bad food and service, I have to admit I was intrigued by all the horror stories. Bill and I finally made it there tonight for dinner. It was supposed to be a double date, but the other couple had to back out on us. So we braved La Cocina Mexicana alone. And now some people probably wonder what we thought of it... So here's my blow by blow account.
Bill peruses the menu while I notice the piped in music. It sounded more Brazilian than Mexican, but it wasn't unpleasant.
After we circled around looking for parking, we finally found a spot on the street a couple of blocks away. We did not know that the restaurant has its own little lot behind the building until after we'd already parked. That's good to know for next time. When we arrived for our reservation, a very cute and friendly waitress with a clipped South African accent greeted us enthusiastically. She invited us to sit in the corner, which we did.
Bill ordered a hefeweizen, which came in the above glass... After I finished my cocktail, I also had a hefeweizen. We noticed South African wines were on the menu, which is a good thing.
I ordered a glass of sparkling water, which Bill says cost 3,50 euros... the same as his beer. I was thirsty, though.
And I had a margarita, which the chef prepared personally. It was 7 euros and not bad at all, though Bill makes better ones. I will admit to being biased, though.
We had chips, salsa and guacamole for 6 euros...
I thought both were unusual. The guacamole tasted like it had been tempered with sour cream or something. It was very tart and not like what I would expect in the USA. The salsa had a kick, but wasn't like the salsa we get at home... It took some getting used to.
We both decided on fajitas, so they were brought out for both of us on a sizzling platter. Only chicken fajitas were offered, which was fine with me. They came with salsa, sour cream, and guacamole. The rest of the "fixings" were mixed together and topped with cheese. I actually like the melted cheese on top instead of the usual bowl of shredded cheese, but then I like melted cheese over cold cheese. The chicken itself tasted almost a bit vinegary. It wasn't unpleasant, but it wasn't like Mexican food at home. The tortillas were pretty good. They were easy to fill and not too heavy. The chef later told us he doesn't make the tortillas; everything else is from scratch. Bill and I thought the tortillas might have been housemade. The dish also came with beans and rice topped with cheese.
Beans and rice... they were a little bland, but not too bad.
Loved the holly leaf on the tortilla keeper. ETA: My friend Donna, who teaches Spanish, says that that leaf that looks like holly is actually a nopal cactus, which is apparently a very popular snack in Mexico. Funny that I've been to Spain, but I've never been to Mexico. I'll have to rectify that someday.
Chicken, peppers, onions, cheese, and spices... came to us sizzling hot. We each managed two tortillas full and took the rest home. When the waitress cleared our table, she expressed concern that the food was too spicy. Bill had to laugh... he loves really hot food and what we had tonight was well below his threshold. Clearly, my tastes are more German.
While I still miss American style Mexican food, I will go on record as saying that the food at La Cocina Mexicana isn't as bad as I was led to believe. The guacamole is definitely more processed than I was expecting it and the salsa could have used more chunky tomatoes and peppers. But I liked it better than what we had at El Chico in Tubingen and another Mexican place we visited near Hohenzollern. We also went to a Mexican place in Garmisch, but to be honest, I drank a huge and very potent 12 euro Margarita there and I'm not sure if we actually ate. A good Margarita can bring on amnesia and the one I had there wasn't that good, but it was definitely loaded with tequila.
A shot of the bar area.
During our visit, there was a large group of what appeared to be young American servicemembers. I heard them ask for separate checks and the waitress kindly turned them down. I also noticed a couple with a well-behaved child, but they got polite service and no one chased them out of the restaurant. The two young ladies waiting tables tonight were unfailingly nice and offered good service.
Total damage was 55 euros and 30 cents. The fajitas were a bit pricey, though they are less expensive if you order them for two or three people. A single serving is 19 euros. Our order for two was 28 euros. I have heard that this is a cash only establishment, so if this review prompts you to visit, come prepared with euros!
While we were finishing up, the chef came out and spoke to a group of appreciative Germans. He drank a house shot of tequila with them and they seemed happy to chat with him.
We also enjoyed a house shot of tequila, which we appreciated.
As we were about to leave, Chris, the chef spoke to us. And, to be honest, while I found him outspoken and very blunt about his opinions of Americans, he didn't treat us with disdain. In fact, as someone who used to work in restaurants, I could understand as he explained his rather checkered reputation. I did not mention his reputation to him, by the way. Clearly, he reads the reviews on TripAdvisor and feels compelled to pre-emptively defend himself. Under the circumstances, I guess I can see why he'd feel that way.
Chris was telling us about a new business venture he's planning; it will be one that doesn't involve as much direct customer interaction. Given what I've heard and what he himself told us, I think that may work out better for him. I will admit that he made me laugh, though; and I wasn't offended by him. He seems interested in developing a certain clientele, which he's obviously made clear to a number of patrons. While as an American, that attitude seems odd to me, as someone who's worked in restaurants and can be a bit high strung, I can see why he has the attitude he does. I'm not saying it's right, per se... only that I sort of understand it. I hope his new business venture works out for him, for everyone's sake. I got a kick out of his story about how the gas station restaurant was for him. Apparently, it was not a good place for the business and attracted a lot of people he seemed to think were low lifes, while where he is now is working out much better.
A shot of the menu posted outside. The biergarten looks nice, especially for when the weather is better.
We actually enjoyed La Cocina Mexicana, even if we've had Mexican food we've liked better back in the States. It was a nice change of pace over Greek, Italian, and German restaurants. I don't know how often we'll get there, since we are rarely in Vaihingen together when the restaurant is open, but I will go on record as saying that it wasn't nearly as awful as people made it out to be. Though I was braced for anything, I have to admit that part of me figured I wasn't going to see any crazy meltdowns or bad behavior tonight. I am honestly glad I didn't, even though I will admit to joking about it among certain people. Despite popular opinion, I really don't live for making trouble or annoying people.
We stopped by Patch to gas up my car and pick up some wine for tomorrow. While we were there, I decided to make a pit stop, mainly because it's a long way to Jettingen from Vaihingen. While I was in there, I noticed that the sign promising clean restrooms had been taken down. I also noticed that the restroom was in roughly the same condition it was in last time I visited... perhaps even slightly cleaner because it didn't look like there was a piece of crap stuck in the bottom of the commode. I guess that's progress.
I guess the promise of a clean bathroom has been permanently broken. At least there's no more false advertising, right?
Sadly, as we were leaving Patch, I realized I lost one of my favorite earrings and that bummed me out a bit. I really need to get out of town. Well, God willing, my next post will be about Scotland, unless we go somewhere else tomorrow. Stay tuned.