408 N. Bishop
Expectations are a bitch.
When me and my date talked about going to Veracruz Cafe in Bishop Arts, somehow my mind conjured images of Spanish wine and olives, chorizo and Manchego cheese...Which is weird since I've traveled in both Spain and Mexico and scoff when people use the word "Spanish" to describe all things Mexican and Latin American--or "Mexican" to describe Tex-Mex, for that matter.
Nonetheless, when I arrived at the restaurant to discover tortilla chips and enchiladas instead of gambas al ajillo and paella, I was supremely disappointed. Worse, the margaritas all had sweet and sour in them.
So I eyed the menu like a petulant 5-year-old who wanted ice cream for dinner but got spinach instead. And then I saw it: Chicken Mole Xiqueno.
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When I go to Mexico I eat as much of it as I can, because I know myself well enough to accept that I'll never go to the market and buy the bazillion different kinds of chili and other ingredients required to cook the sauce at home. Suddenly, all was right in the world. We ordered a couple of Tecates, the jarochitas or Mexican egg rolls appetizer, fish tacos and mole, and I looked around and noticed the décor for the first time.
The atmosphere is warm and cozy, with dark mauve textured walls, bright festive paintings and tasteful candelabras that shed a dim glow and bring to mind a colonial Mexican villa. Anticipating my mole and finally enjoying the place, the moment and the company, I was even able to overlook the fact that my date and I had inadvertently dressed in the same exact outfit (brown shirt, jeans, brown boots) and looked like an only slightly cooler version--maybe--of one of those couples who wear matching Disneyland t-shirts.
Veracruz Cafe does things right. The music--mostly Mexican pop--culminated with a cheesy-in-a-pleasant-sort-of-way Spanish version of "I Just Called to Say I Love You," and the server, pleasant without being too chatty or intrusive, graciously tolerated our staying until closing.
By then, I'd forgotten all about the Manchego and Spanish wine.