Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Enchiladas in the Rain

It was a dark and stormy night. Two hungry, wet travellers sought refuge from the rain. A sign beckoned. The place was brightly lit, yet empty. “Do we dare go in?” “I don’t know—it’s kinda creepy.” They had travelled this far, too far to turn away now. They went in…

Or rather, slid in. The rain was coming down in sheets when LA and I pulled up in front of El Campeon, one of Kannapolis’s newest Mexican restaurants. We were both sporting flip-flops, which are not known for their traction. LA nearly took a digger. I nearly peed my pants from laughing at him.

The only signs of life were the two staff members looking out the front door when we arrived, but they scurried back to the kitchen as we entered.  The walls were bright yellow, made even brighter by the overhead fluorescent lighting. Metal wall art hung around the room, in an effort to make a strip mall restaurant feel more like a Mexican casa. The menu was small but had all of the heavy-hitters: tacos, burritos, enchiladas. According to the sign out front, El Campeon has all-you-can-eat tacos for $6.99 from 5-8pm. We studied the menu. The server asked if we were ready to order. Uhhhh, no. Give us a few minutes please. She made a circuit through the kitchen and back out. We still weren’t ready. LA was disappointed that there was no “cheese dip” on the menu. We were, however, both pleased with the salsa. Chunks of tomato and onion, plenty of cilantro.

LA, as usual, ordered a chicken quesadilla. I can always count on him for a thorough and eloquent description of the food. Is it good? Yes. Is it just chicken and cheese? Yes. I don’t suppose there is a lot more to be said about a chicken quesadilla. If there is, LA wasn’t saying it.

I, as usual, ordered the enchiladas rojas. The server asked if I wanted them “with everything”. I didn’t know what everything was, but I said yes anyway. A plate arrived with what I guessed contained my enchiladas. I was sure they were under there somewhere. The everything was lettuce, onion, sliced radish, Mexican crema, and queso fresco. I pushed all of that aside to get a look at the enchiladas themselves. I found four (!) enchiladas filled with chicken that had been simmered with onions. Rather than the typical enchilada sauce served by most Mexican restaurants, these were smothered in a spicy tomato gravy. Spicy may be an understatement. I actually noted “spicier than crap”. I forgot to mention that part when I told LA to try the sauce. I am a little bit of a spice wuss, so it may only be spicy to someone like me (or LA). Take a bite of enchiladas, take a drink of tea. That was my system. I went through a lot of tea. But the enchiladas were delicious. They came with the ubiquitous sides of beans and rice. The rice was fairly flavorless, or it may have been that my taste buds were seared off. The beans were from a can and very salty. I could do without the side dishes.

While we were eating, more patrons came in. One man ordered the all-you-can-eat tacos, and they definitely kept coming. No sides come with it, but I’d be happy with just the tacos and no salty beans or bland rice. For $6.99, it’s definitely a deal. When it was time to go, we asked the server for separate checks. She said “Of course” and walked away. Less than a minute later, she came back and asked if we wanted separate checks. We responded in the affirmative, and she said “Of course”. It was like déjà vu all over again.

I will definitely visit El Campeon again. The all-you-can-eat tacos are a great deal for dinner, as is the lunch buffet. I recommend it as a place to go with friends or family, but the ambience isn’t romantic, so it may not be the best option for a date. Unless that date loves tacos.

El Campeon is located at 900 Cloverleaf Plaza in Kannapolis.

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