June 11, 2010 by Ashlee Clark Thompson
I love a success story.
But for this week’s $10 Challenge, I was determined to fail.
I have operated under the notion that $10 should be enough to receive a decent meal at a local restaurant. But what if you throw in a couple of extra bucks? Will the more-expensive meal be worth blowing off the $10 budget I have imposed upon myself for the last few weeks?
I decided to test this theory at Los Aztecas Mexican Restaurant, a local chain with three locations in Louisville and the surrounding area.
Los Aztecas has been the go-to Mexican place for my buddies and I for years. In high school, I visited the restaurant’s Main Street location about once a week because it was the only eatery open for lunch during my Sunday afternoon shift at the Louisville Science Center. I didn’t fully appreciate the variety Los Aztecas offered back then. Instead, I ordered a chicken quesadilla (the starter entree for anyone new to Mexican food) each time I brought something back to the museum for lunch.
A few years have passed, and I have since been fortunate enough to further explore Los Aztecas’s extensive food and tequila selection. But I’ve gotten into a rut during my last few visits. I have been ordering the quesadilla fajita grande with chicken or the burrito fajita grande with chicken with the reassurance that each of the similar dishes will always come out tasting great.
On my most recent dinner visit, I wanted to flip to a new page in the Los Aztecas menu and try a different entree.
I considered one of the more than 20 combination dinners the restaurant offers, all priced at $8.49. Most of the selections offer rice and beans along with some combination of taco, burrito, enchilada, chile relleno, tamale, chalupa or tostada. This is one of the best deals I’ve seen in a while.
I debated turning to my old favorites. The quesadilla fajita grande and the burrito fajita grande, like most of the dinner entrees, hovered just over $10. The seafood entrees, however, were slightly more expensive, averaging about 12 bucks.
I decided to go with something new to my palate — and slightly above my price range. If my usual dishes are above my $10 budget, I figured that I might as well use the extra bucks to try something I’ve never had before.
I ordered the three fish tacos, an entree that included three tenders of Corona batter-dipped cod atop flour tortillas. Before I confirmed my order, I asked the waiter, Victor, if the tacos were any good. His eyes widened. “Oh, yes,” he said. What a way to sell a meal.
For those seeking a light dinner, this selection was perfect. The veggies were fresh and a bit chilly, as if they just came out of the refrigerator. The fish tacos were loaded with tomatoes and avocado slices. The dish came with a spicy salsa and pineapple-mango pico de gallo, both on the side.
The fish was tender, but it was hard to taste the Corona-flavored batter advertised in the menu (maybe the result of batter that’s been sitting out too long?). The so-so fish was easily overshadowed by a supporting player, the tropical pico de gallo. The pineapple and mango were incredibly fresh and sweet, acting as the perfect foil for the bitter red onion. It was like having a fruit salad atop a taco. The little cup they provided of this wonderful topping was not enough for me — I ordered a second, larger cup (which came at no extra charge).
I was barely into my first taco when trouble came my way. The delicate flour tortillas began to tear under the weight of all the filling. By the last taco, I decided that eating the fish and its accompaniments with a fork and tearing pieces off the tortilla was the best way to eat the dish.
By the time my plate was clear, my belly was full and my appetite for something new was satisfied. But I almost immediately went into buyer’s remorse. Yes, the fish tacos were delicious, but the just-average fish meat paled in comparison to the reliably tasty shredded chicken or ground beef that is found in cheaper dishes. And if the best thing about the fish tacos was the pico de gallo, couldn’t I just buy a cheaper combination platter and ask for some pico on the side? That reasoning was enough for me to happily return to just spending $10 on a local meal.
It’s easy to spend just $10 at Los Aztecas, and you’ll leave satisfied. If you have a little more dough in your pocket, buy a combination dinner and use the money you’ll save toward a margarita instead of a more expensive dish. If you’re going to fail, you might as well do it with tequila.
- Los Aztecas Mexican Restaurant, 530 West Main Street, Louisville, Ky.
- Two other locations (see map below)
- Three Corona-batter dipped fish tacos (with tax and tip): $13.00
Mission: Failed (willingly; it’s easy to succeed)
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