The Worst Mexican Restaurant on Earth
I do need to make known the identity and location of the worst Mexican restaurant on earth. Yes, I am sure that there are worse places, in health terms, and maybe even quality of food (since some of the food we had there was, in fact, very tasty).
No, the reason that Chilli's (UPDATE NOTE, SINCE 10 COMMENTERS MISSED THIS: IT HAS TWO LL's; It is not the American restaurant chain. And just try to pronounce Chilli's, in Spanish; you will pull a muscle in your throat) on Spardoferstrasse in Erlangen is the worst Mexican restaurant in the world is that it claims to be a Mexican restaurant. It is not. I don't mean on the scale of Taco Bell in the U.S., where it is just Americanized Mexican food. Someone from Mexico might still recognize some of the things served at the Taco Bell (rice and bean, for example, some of the spices).
The EYM and I were pretty excited about going to Chilli's, since I speak Spanish a little, at least for ordering in a restaurant, and he speaks Spanish better than I do. So, no confusion over what is going on with the menu, for once. And, we will be able to talk to the wait staff, all of whom presumably are Latino, right. (I may have been fooled by the fact that in the U.S., even the Japanese people at Benihana are actually Latino. My bad.)
We go in, and are told (in good English, btw) that there aren't many tables open, and that we should sit by the bar at one of those tall tables. Fair enough. The waitress comes, and I say, "Querríamos nachos, numero once, and para bebir, un botello de agua con gas." (If you don't know what that means, then okay, because you are not a waiter in a Mexican restaurant. And if you know that I used the wrong form of the verb querer, then you DO speak Spanish, but still my order was pretty simple and clearly understandable by the standards of ordering in Spanish. The point is that nachos were #11 on the menu, and we wanted some, and some water.)
She stares at me as if I suggested something quite deviant. I try English, and that works better. The "nachos" come. They are chips two steps down from Doritos, with nasty nacho cheese powder (Mungowitz family joke: "That's MY cheese; that's notchyo cheese!"). Flat, really bad, nearly inedible. At least the dips are....awful. One cup of sour cream, and one cup of ketchup, with stewed tomatoes added. No cheese, no toppings...incredible.
Waitress comes back, and I try again. "Es verdad que estan abierto in las dias laborables? Para almuerzo? " We had come by for lunch, the previous day, and the place had been closed. Waitress says, "I'm sorry, I don't understand." I realized she really, really didn't speak Spanish. Asked again, and she said (a) they don't open until 17:30, and (b) the day we came, there must have been a really big party, so they were closed. Since we had come at 12:30, which is before 17:30, that didn't make much sense to me. But, okay, fair enough.
We ordered. I ordered camarones al chipotle. The EYM didn't really look at the menu. He just wanted quesadillas, and assumed. Mistake. When he said, "quesadillas," waitress frowned, looked at menu, and said "where is it?" He looks, takes a while to find it, a little flustered. To be fair, it is SUBSTANTIALLY misspelled in the menu. Waitress says, "Oh, you mean [strange word nothing at all like quesadillas]. What do you want on them?"
The EYM's eyes are starting to bug out a little. "Um...just pollo is fine." Waitress turns, goes back, asks guy behind the bar. They talk for a second. She comes back, a little testy: "Pollo is the Spanish word for CHICKEN!" Her tone implies that this is about the stupidest thing she has heard: chicken quesadillas? Unheard of. As Vizzini kept saying on "Princess Bride": Inconceivable!
The EYM and I are both amazed. I ask, "What DO you have for meat for the quesadillas?" As if speaking to a child, waitress says, "TURKEY!" (Okay, so there are quite a few recipes for turkey quesadillas; 7k+ mentions on Google. But... chicken quesadillas gets nearly 250k Google hits. I'm just saying that pollo was not an absurd answer.) (UPDATE: And, no it is not ridiculous for the wait staff to speak no Spanish. It just says that I had ridiculous expectations of feeling at home, instead of my usual total ignorance of the menu. A typically Americentric response, I think. I should get out more....)
The EYM is just trying to make this stop, at this point. He says, reading from the menu, "Just the chili, then." I order the shrimp, and the agony is over. (They did, I should note, and like pretty much every restaurant in Germany, have a very nice weissbier on tap, and so that helped us over the pain.)
The waitress brings the food. The "quesadillas" were rock hard, and filled with chili the clearly came from Chef Hormel-ito. Appalling. This was served with rice and beans and quacamole. NOT. It was served with some purple lettuce and cabbage, with a big dollop of mayo, and then some canned corn and canned navy beans. More of the sour cream, and more of the ketchup salsa.
On the other hand, my shrimp curry was quite good. The sauce had a very nice Asian tang, and the shrimp were crisp and seemed quite fresh. How "camarones al chipotle" became a shrimp curry dish, I'm not sure, but I have to give the chef credit there. Still, though, no rice, no beans, no cilantro, no trace of anything that I would call Mexican.
For the next two days, either the EYM or I could make the other laugh by yelling, "Pollo? POLLO?"
Here is the menu. Note that quesadillas is first spelled "quasadas" as an appetizer. (There is no known food called "quasadas," I want to point out). Then it is spelled with an "e", "quesedillas," as an entree. Note then the use of English all over the menu, in strange places.
Clearly, this is not a Mexican restaurant. It is a German restaurant trying to be like an American restaurant that serves food with Mexican names. Sort of.
(CLOSING UPDATE: As a commenter notes, "It sounds like you made an ass of yourself in public, and now you are bragging about it." Well, I don't mean to brag. But it is true that almost NO ONE is better at making an ass of themselves in public than I am. It's a special talent. Not just anyone can do it....More specifically, though, of COURSE it was dumb, and unreasonable, to expect the waitstaff to speak Spanish. Especially when my own Spanish is so awful (though better than my German). That's part of what I thought was funny about the incident. It says more about my narrow and parochial mind than it does the restaurant. But isn't it a little surprising that CHICKEN quesadillas was such an outrageoous suggestion?)