Los Tres Amigos: An in Depth Review
12 February 2017
(Here’s some traditional Mexican music to listen to while you read)
Stepping in the front door of this authentic Mexican eatery, you will experience genuine Mexican themes, service and aromas. Los Tres Amigos is a small chain restaurant with multiple locations across Jackson County and the surrounding area. I frequently visit the one off West Michigan Ave, but have been told the other locations have the same feel. In my opinion, Los Tres Amigos is the best “Mexican” themed restaurant in regards to not only the quality but also the authenticity in Jackson county. Other places like Chilango’s, and Qdoba just feel too much like a fast food joint with little to no “Mexican” feel.
When I walk into Los Tres I feel like I’m in Mexico. The servers, atmosphere and food all scream Mexican. I have visited Los Tres usually once every two or three weeks for the last year or so on Monday for their “dollar” tacos and the feel has always been the same. When you walk in, the first thing you see is server’s desk at the front followed by a wall of pictures of people on their birthdays with the famous sombrero on. If you look around further you will find tall artfully crafted booths with cactus and other well known Mexican designs on them. When you are shown to your table you will quickly be met with water and a bowl, well for my family usually two bowls, of chips and a couple containers of salsa. The chips are always fresh and hot and salsa thick with just the right amount of bite. After you’ve had time to settle in, the waiter or waitress, who is eight of ten times of Latino or Hispanic heritage will ask what you’d like to drink and then what to eat. While looking at the menu, it’s hard not to be overwhelmed by the vast amount of dishes and drinks to choose from.
They have everything from the classic burrito to many Especialidades (or as we know it Specialties), including the Steak A La Tampiquena which is a t-bone steak served with one cheese enchilada, one tostada, potatoes, mexican rice, refried beans and flour or corn tortillas and the Tacos De Carne Asada that are three flour or corn tortillas, stuffed with a slice of steak, pico de gallo and a special sauce, served with refried beans. These diverse food choices only add to the authentic feel. One of my favorite things however is to just sit and listen and be able hear the hustle of the kitchen and the workers speaking Spanish, which adds another layer to the experience. They will usually play long if you ask them things in Spanish too, but don’t be offensive.
So you’ve been seated and asked what you would like to eat then five to ten minutes later the food is coming out of the kitchen. Los Tres always gets their food out fast and hot as soon as possible. I’m not of age, but I’ve been told that Los Tres serves many “Mexican” alcoholic beverages, such as Mexican beer and yes of course tequila. Being 21 and dining at Los Tres is whole other thing in it’s own. You can kick back, relax, and sit at the Mexican themed bar while you indulge in alcoholic beverages. The bartender, of course being of “Mexican” heritage, will promptly ask what you would like and gladly listen to your sorrows if you’re so inclined to share. If you were to go to a place like Qdoba for example, you would find little to no signs of “mexican” themed drinks or even atmosphere. There’s no bar, the food is greasy, and the servers aren’t even servers. They sit behind the counter and wait for you to come to them. It just feels like any other fast food restaurant and that is not how “Mexican” restaurants are supposed to be. I have also never heard a lick of Spanish spoke in a place like Qdoba or Chilangos so why do they call themselves “Mexican” restaurants? Just adding some spice and making it a taco does make it an authentic “Mexican” dish. Since the food from places like Chilangos or Qdoba can be comparable to a place such as Los Tres I can’t completly bash them so keep that in mind.
Another thing you should also keep in mind is that you have to realize that the food we eat here and consider “Mexican” is drastically different from what people consider authentic and good in Mexico. A Quora Contributer from Slate.com made a good point about how “authentic” does not always mean “good” and says, “Don’t fall into the trap of thinking “authentic” is “good” — again, talk to any friend who’s been to China expecting a magical version of the Chinese food he or she gets in San Francisco then realizes the billion-person continent doesn’t have a single taste he or she recognizes. Ditto with Mexican: You may dig a good burrito, but that doesn’t mean you’re more lower class than someone who puts mole on his Wheaties. (And it sure doesn’t mean “they don’t have burritos in Mexico.”).” As you can tell from the above text, this person believes that we as Americans have no idea what real Mexican cuisine is like and that came as a shock to me. I was always under the impression that having a spicy a burrito with a fancy Mexican name pretty much deemed it Mexican, but as you have and will continue to read, Mexican food in one place isn’t necessarily considered Mexican in another. This person also states in the article that the food is as diverse in Mexico, style wise, as it is here minus the not caring and overly greasy fast food versions. In response to the Quora contributor, in your opinion, what makes Los Tres or Mexican food in general “authentic” Mexican?
So when trying to decide what makes a good Mexican restaurant consider the following criteria. It must, have a realistic Mexican atmosphere, Hispanic or Latino faculty, make at least some dishes that are from one of the following disciplines, Guanajuatan or Zacatecan, and at least have the servers speak a little Spanish. Guanajuato and Zacatecas are both states in Mexico and Guanajuato being a little southeast of Zacatecas.
According to Ricardo, an author for VisitMexico.com says, “Guanajuato has many different dishes, from Mexican classics to regional favorites — enchiladas mineras, cecina, stuffed chilies, flautas, tamales, buñuelos, gorditas, tlacoyos, pork trotters, pacholas guanajuatenses (fried mincemeat), empanadas de carnitas, pan de acámbaro, and fiambre estilo San Miguel de Allende (a mix of beef, chicken and pork) with fruits and vegetables in oil and vinegar.” Conversely in Zacatecas at the fondas and restaurants, visitors will find birria (a lamb-based soup with various kinds of chillies, tomato, onions and spices including pepper, garlic, marjoram and oregano); red pozole (a soup with corn, pork meat and chilli); adobada meat, gorditas (corn-based savoury cakes stuffed with different stews), and may other dishes prepared with meats, vegetables and chillies.
So if you have a restaurant in mind and are wondering if it is up for consideration to be called good, or “authentic” for that matter, first check the criteria listed above and then make the decision yourself. It is too hard to nail down what is truly authentic after you do some research into what makes authentic Mexican food authentic so it really comes down to a personal call since Mexico is so diverse much like the United States. In my opinion, Los Tres Amigos is a good place to base whether a restaurant should be considered a good “authentic Mexican” restaurant because of its diverse food, rich culture and “Mexican” atmosphere.
Espinosa, Ricardo. “Architecture.” Cuisine in Guanajuato VisitMexico. Terra, 2011. Web. 13 Feb. 2017.
Quora. “What Makes a Mexican Restaurant “Good”?” Slate Magazine. 12 Dec. 2015. Web. 13 Feb. 2017.