In Owego, Mexican Cuisine Heats Up

Let the joyous news be spread…I am finally done with all my ear-related treatments! This has nothing to do with food, restaurants, or fun spots for mini-breaks in New York, but it’s pretty big news in my life. As the bills from all this fun and folly roll in, my dining budget may constrict a bit, but I promise not to let it affect BHS.
A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of dinner in Owego (not OSwego) with Sherry and Lisa, with whom I used to work at Lockheed Martin. I had taken Sherry out to lunch at Las Chicas Taqueria a couple months prior, so they were eager to test out Owego’s other new Mexican addition, Los Tapatios. Of course, LT and I go way back, due to their other locations in Endicott and Vestal. I’ve long been a fan of its low prices, hearty portions and delicious complimentary salsa. But would the Owego iteration prove comparable?

This is what greets you when you are seated at Los Tapatios:

My salsa makes all the pretty girls dance

The chips are thinner and crispier than store-bought tortilla chips, and the salsa is light, liquidy and bright, with cilantro and lime dancing on your tongue. I think they used to give you a hotter option as well, but nothing was mentioned on this trip about another salsa alternative. We scarfed down more than one basket of chips, anyway, so I guess salsa substitutes were not necessary. I also enjoyed a pretty damn fabulous lime soda. Move over Sprite – I don’t know what brand this was, but I loved it.

Once difference from former trips to TL that I noticed was the trimming down of the formerly extensive combo plate list to a mere shadow of its previous self. The combinations now consist of a choice of two or three items, and the list from which to choose is rather limited. I used to get a platter with one crispy beef taco, one chicken enchilada and a chile relleno (roasted poblano pepper stuffed with cheese, batter-dipped and fried, then covered in enchilada sauce), served with beans and rice. This delightful amalgamation exists no more, or simply hasn’t made an appearance on the Owego menu, so I went with the beef chimichangas. Chimis are basically burritos that have been deep fried. These were delicious, though a bit smaller and less crunchy than I expected. The filling was delicious, but I wonder if the recent ascent of food prices hasn’t constricted the portions Los Tapatios is able to put out. I certainly wasn’t hungry when I left, but there certainly was less on my plate than previous visits. That said, I would order the chimichangas again – they were yummy, and the avocado on top made the dish.

It would be fun to have a Chihuahua named Chimichanga

Sherry ordered chicken enchiladas, which are my old standby for any Mexican joint I’m trying out for the first time. Los Tapatios’ aren’t spectacular, but they are solid on the enchilada scale. I grew up on casseroles, being from an Episcopalian household, so I think the sauciness and cheesiness of enchiladas appeals to me. Sherry enjoyed them, too. Los Tapatios serves them with a red ranchero sauce that’s mild but pungent with chilis. Here’s what they look like:

Red rover, come over!

Lisa, my love, went for the gusto and got a combo plate. A quesadilla (not my personal fav of the Mexican classics, but simple and approachable if you’re relatively new to the cuisine) and beef burrito made friends on this particular platter. Lisa was pleased.

I am not an inordinate fan of the beans and rice at LT, but again, they’re not bad either. I’ve had better refried beans with more flavor, and I truly prefer black beans, while the rice could really use a punch from some additional tomato paste, a hint of cayenne and some cilantro. The rice here tastes very faintly seasoned with tomato and maybe, maybe a scant amount of cumin. It’s fine, but a bit boring. Like, it would be one thing if these we de riguer and came with every meal – you could understand that not a lot of time was put into them. But I actually paid extra to add them to my chimi plate, and it’s a little annoying when sides are an afterthought, you know?

Anyhoodle, we had dessert, too. WHY? Not because we were still hungry after all that tortilla-wrapped goodness, but because fried ice cream was on the menu, and I have a hard time ignoring such a fetching offer. I’m glad I didn’t ignore this, because it was totally kick-butt. Make sure to order this conflake-crusted, crunchy, cold, creamy delight, served in a crunchy tortilla shell, when you hit up the Tapatios.

Get some!

We awarded Los Tapatios a 7.5 on the Big Hungry. What I like about this locale is the outdoor, riverfront seating, as well as the comparatively light and airy dining space (as compared to the Endicott location). This is a great addition to the Owego dining scene, which can get old really fast if you don’t love the River Row Café. Mostly, though, when I want Mexican food, I want laid-back casual dining and filling, hearty plates of meats and cheese and sauce, which is what they’re serving here. I just wish they would add some shredded pork/carnitas. That would boost LT up to a 9 for sure! My personality is big, my hunger is bigger!

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