Javier Ayola strums a guitar. Perhaps he’s singing the praises of El Adobe Café's chili rellenos
Javier Ayola strums a guitar. Perhaps he’s singing the praises of El Adobe Café's chili rellenos

I haven’t yet figured out what “authentic” means in the restaurant industry. You could tell me that a café served authentic French food, and, as long as there were berets on the walls and baguettes on the tables, I probably wouldn’t question it.

I think the authenticity line is hardest to draw with Mexican food. Seasoned rice and refried beans are pretty basic. So, what classifies as the real deal? Does it depend wholly on following a genuine Mexican recipe? Does the chef have to be from Mexico? Do the ingredients have to come from Mexico?

Whatever authentic entails, El Adobe Café seems to have a lot of it going on. When my sister, Amber, and I walked in, the smell of fish overwhelmed us. You would never get that seafood fresh smell at a place like Taco Bell.

We both instantly noticed the incredible Ballet Folklórico-style dresses all over the walls, along with sombreros, sculptures and paintings. There was a lot of art to look at, and it was all so agreeable on the eyes that I was looking forward to how the foodstuffs would suit my mouth.

My horchata ($1.50) was very cinnamony and not overly sweet, just the way I like it. The appetizer tortilla chips were thick, and the salsa was piquant with a bit of a tomato-paste flavor.

Amber was impressed with her first chile relleno experience, which she was initially hesitant to order, despite my encouragements. I love egg by itself, and it’s good as an ingredient in other recipes, so long as it’s not the overwhelming flavor. I’ve had many a chile relleno where the egg was more potent than the pepper and cheese combined, but, in El Adobe’s version, the three flavors were equally modest and perfectly balanced. Amber’s Las Cruces plate ($9.95) also came with an enchilada. It was decent but indistinguishable from many other enchiladas I’ve had—somewhat bland.

My Las Jaras plate ($10.50) consisted of four chicken taquitos slathered in guacamole and sour cream. Crispy, basic and tasty. Amber and I both noticed that the rice and refried beans were more flavorful and more worthy of meal-in-their-own-right status than what we were used to at other Mexican restaurants.

The waiters and staff were authentically handsome, all aged about 25 to 35 years with tan, sun-kissed skin and shiny, wavy black hair. Their matching Hawaiian-print shirts were charming and fun.

Dessert was what we were really in the mood for, and we weren’t let down. Every bite of sopapilla ($3.50) forced a little burst of warm steam from the hollow center of the sugared bread, so that it felt like I was being repeatedly kissed by some invisible honey-breathed man. The apple jelly, which I’d never before had with a sopapilla, turned the bread into a hot apple turnover. It was delectable. Equally as satisfying was the flan ($2.75). Again, overly eggy flan, which I’ve often had, is a turnoff. El Adobe’s version, served with chocolate sauce rather than the traditional caramel, made me melt.

Amber and I were stuffed but we still had one sopapilla left.

“What do we do with that?” I asked.

“Well, we have a couple options,” Amber said. “We could stuff it in our bellies, or—”

“Here, here,” I said.

Thus we left with distended tummies and sugar-highs; we were happy.

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