A Taste of Mexico in the North Country

Weather: Sunny and Mild

It was Monday night in Fergus Falls, and I was hungry. I had asked Connie, our receptionist at the plant, for dining recommendations. Connie had discussed the virtues of the infamous habanero pepper with me, earlier in the day. So when it came time to make dinner plans, I knew she was the one to ask.

I must apologize here, because when I left my hotel to go and eat, I forgot that my camera was still in my flight bag, which was sitting on the luggage caddy in my room. This was unfortunate for a number of reasons:

1) The old Fergus Falls Theater is a stunning example of Art Deco Design circa 1930-something.

2) The rest of downtown is comprised of well-kept red brick buildings dating back to the turn of the century. Main street is simply fascinating.

3) The Ultimate Fajita Burrito at Don Pablo’s was a thing of beauty.

This is not one of the Don Pablo’s chain of restaurants. It is family-owned, and staffed by recent immigrants who have a limited command of the English language.

This failure to communicate resulted in a chicken fajita burrito being delivered to my table after I had ordered steak. But the thing looked so appetizing that I didn’t even complain. I just dug-in and enjoyed my “chef’s surprise”.

Let’s talk about salsa for a moment. I think a Mexican restaurant lives and dies by it’s salsa. However, the house salsa at Don Pablo’s is geared towards the predominantly Scandi-wegian palate, here in Fergus Falls.

It is made with fresh ingredients, and has a nice flavor, but is way too mild for my jaded tastebuds. When I asked my waiter for a hotter salsa, he played the “no habla” card. So, drawing from my old Tijuanese vocabulary, I asked him for “mas picante”. This, he apparently comprende’d.

He came back in five minutes with a bowl of crushed red chili peppers, fresh, not dried. He must have run them through the food processor. Then he gestured between that bowl and the salsa, as if to say, “Mix your own, fussy gringo.” But of course, he was smiling the whole time.

The burrito really was wonderful, with grilled chicken, peppers and onions, and lots of melted cheese. After some experimentation, the salsa was just right as well. I recommend the Don Pablo’s in Fergus Falls to anyone who enjoys good Mexican food. It was a real surprise to find this place so far north.

On Tuesday, after my business was done, Frogwing and I set off across the high plains of North Dakota, on our way to Aberdeen. But that’s a story for next time. Adios!

9 Responses to “A Taste of Mexico in the North Country”

  1. Tinker Says:

    When I worked for Texas Instruments in Austin, Texas, they sent me to a class. As it was taught at a TI facility, and would have many customers taking the course with employees, TI “encouraged” us to take non-employees out to lunch at company expense.

    It was universally agreed that we needed to go to a Mexican food place. Now Austin has some WONDERFUL Mexican food restaurants, so I was interested in the people’s choice. They quickly named two or three of the most famous, when another guy broke in to the conversation.

    “Hey”, he said, I found a GREAT place, the best I’ve ever had! Del Taco!”

    The instructor said, “You’re not from around here, are you?”

    “No,” he replied, “I’m from Ontario. Why?”

  2. irondad Says:

    Es mucho trabajar que apprendar espanol. Tengo muchos estudiandos en mi esquela de motocicletas que no hablan ingles. Es muy benificio quando hablo espanol con ellos. Soy mucho mejor cuando hablo que quando escribo.

    Sorry, I couldn’t resist. My spelling is a little off. I have opportunity to speak it way more than I write it. At least I can get what I want in a Mexican restaurant and the wait people are really friendly to me when I order in Spanish!

  3. Buster Brown Says:

    Un jarra de michelada, por favor.

  4. seagullplayer Says:

    Downtown sounds cool.
    I’m waiting for lunch, the food sounds even better…
    Be safe out in them badlands.

    Rubber Down

  5. jim Says:

    No mexican for me thank you. My wife craves that stuff, but give me chicken, fish, fruit, vegetables, pork tenderloins, you know, american food.
    Oh, I don’t mind a taco from taco bell once in awhile.
    later
    jim

  6. Gary Charpentier Says:

    Alright, I’m back now. So, what have you hooligans been up to while I was away?

    Tinker: Dell Taco? Man, I haven’t been to one of those in sixteen years! I always preferred Naugle’s, myself. Are they still in business? Make mine a Macho Combo Burrito!

    irondad: Yet another hidden talent in your endless repertoire? As an old friend once said to me; “Man, you’re just like an onion. Peel off one layer, and there’s always another underneath.”

    Buster: Er… no habla?

    SGP: I’ve got to remember that camera next time I visit downtown FF. You will be impressed.

    jim: Taco Hell? Shirley, you can’t be serious! All that stuff you mentioned can be found on a quality Mexican restaurant’s menu. These are common staples across North America. But in my opinion, the Mexicans do a better job with seasoning. You must be Norwegian…

    Ride well,
    =gc=

  7. irondad Says:

    Gary,

    Glad you got home safely, bro’!

    The Spanish came because of my desire to improve as an instructor. ( go figure ) We have many Spanish speaking folks in our area. Quite a number come through our classes. I firmly believe that if people come to our country they need to learn English. Nonetheless, if they’re going to ride I want to give them the best start I can. Passion for riding and teaching over-ride my politics. I’ve seen many try to just get by as they copy other students. In the classroom they bring an intrepreter. If they fail they just go out and ride, anyway. Sometimes taking with them pretty poor skills because they couldn’t understand the coaching. It was a new challenge for me so I went for it.

    A few weeks ago I got the highest compliment from a student. He spoke very little English so my Spanish ( such as it is ) helped a lot. Turns out he is a minister in a Spanish speaking church. He invited me to dinner at his house to meet his family and some close friends.

    I love the way riding is a universal language!!

    Dan

  8. Sidewalk Dan Says:

    Just back from Labor Day weekend away in SD (no Sweat Together BS for me!!!).

    Gary, you ever eat @ Alberto’s while you were in SoCal? They had a few in downtown O’side and one close to us near the back gate of the 13/14 area.

    The kind where you always go through the drive-thru, never look at the kitchen, and always take a buddy who can habla Espanol. I had a roomie who was from El Salvador originally before his folks moved to the states and he joined the suck. He would talk the talk – and sure as #*&% we’d come back with all kinds of off-the-menu goodies. Ahh, those were the days (damn, Archie Bunker found his way into this one…).

    One Carne Asada Burritto – extra cheese and meat please. Best bar food – no doubt about it. Sure, you had to go and stir those memories…

    Hope you had a safe and fun trip. We hit quite a bit of rain in SD – but we were in southeastern (Yankton). Though I did see a swatch of radar and it looked liked Huron/Brookings/Aberdeen got nailed pretty good all day Fri/Sat.

    Sidewalk Dan out.

  9. irondad Says:

    Sidewalk Dan,

    methinks Archie Bunker would be the last one to go into a Mexican restaurant and try to fit in!