a couple's adventures in eating
Restaurant: Zapata’s Cantina
Location: Ballantyne Commons East 15105 John J. Delaney Drive, Charlotte, NC 28277
WHAT SHE ATE: Spinach Enchiladas (comes with white rice, black beans, & slaw)
The Critique: Interesting tidbit about me: I have a condition, somewhat Pavlovian in nature, wherein: should my ears be met with the sounds of a Mariachi band of any sort, be they live or recorded, good or bad, near or far, I immediately need a taco. And this is not a need that dissipates over the course of a waning afternoon, my friends. Once those sombreros sing to me, I am fixated on the single wonder that is Mexican food. And what’s not to love? Bottomless chips and salsa, brilliant queso fresco cheeses collapsing effortlessly onto shreds of chicken on a cool bed of lettuce, topped with an even cooler dollop of sour cream.
If there are two words that make me go “ooh” at the table they are, “Hot plate!”
Zapata’s is a slightly more upscale Mexican restaurant than I’m used to. But, my parents and sister have fallen in love with this place and I would never complain about Mexican food meeting subtle opulence. The interior decor is akin to that of a small scale version of Epcot’s Mexico. You know, where you’re inside but “you’re on the outside looking in” (oddly enough, a 1975 stoner once said the same thing about the meaning of life). Dim lighting glows softly upon beautifully painted walls with fully constructed balcony façades protruding from them.
I’ve been here only once before and felt pretty good about the food. But, I ordered soup so it serves me right. In an attempt to stray from my usual order of “generic taco salad,” I opted for the spinach enchiladas. I know the spinach-filled Mexican dish is fairly common but I’ve somehow managed to go all these years without touching it despite my love for spinach. Sorry, Popeye.
I’ll cut to the chase. The whole experience was excellent: presentation, quality, taste, ambiance, service, all of it. The spinach took on the flavor of your average American creamed spinach. But, when mixed with the creamy melted cheese and green salsa atop it, it took on a greater existence than I ever thought possible. Salt meets tang. My one complaint would be the impossible-to-ignore onions. They were chopped into Godzilla-sized chunks and seemed nearly raw. Short would disagree with me on this one as raw onions are his snack of choice. I, on the other hand, run the other way at the mere thought of crunching down upon this tear-gas experience. I expected the white rice to take on some new and inventive type of exotic Latin flavor. In the end, it tasted like Mexican rice with a surprise pea and corn kernel here and there. I’m not sure if they’re using Perfect Tortilla Bowl makers back in the kitchen but I just couldn’t get over how cute my mini-bowl of black beans was. I am a sucker for cute. Even in cooking.
The Verdict: With a few slight tweaks, this place is golden. The menu is extensive and worth studying. They’ve got everything from standard Mexican cuisine to exciting new dishes (their Carne Asada Philly Rolls & Street Tacos are just a couple of the dishes I wanna get my hands/mouth on). Thanks to my lovely family for providing such a lovely meal. If someone else ain’t buyin’, get out your checkbooks, kids- Zapata’s runs on the more expensive side or if you’re an artist of humble means like Short and myself. All in all, a delicious experience.
NOTE: First time reading this blog? Well, you should probably know that this entry isn’t how things always run here at The Short And Tall of Food. We, Candace & Timothy, are Orlando-based food bloggers scouring Central Florida for the best eats we can find. But, right now, we’re out of town on account of (drum roll please) our wedding! So, stay tuned with us in North Carolina from Oct. 1-Oct. 12, 2012 as we say, “I Do” to not only each other, but delicious cuisine!