DINING OUT: Mexican grill offers all the classics

Since everyone has been asking me about President-elect Barack Obama’s favorite foods, I thought this might be the right time to mention a few favorites. In fact, this is the perfect occasion to discuss Mexican food since it seems to be the one cuisine (and subject) that both President Bush and Barack Obama agree on.

Of course, no one can start researching any topic, especially food, on an empty stomach. So I stopped by Alambres Fresh Mexican Grill in Burbank. And I brought along my favorite research assistant, my mom (she also works for free), to sample a few Mexican dishes and discuss the presidential palate. Alambres’ décor is so sophisticated that it seems a bit odd to order your food at the counter. The walls are covered in a deep wood paneling with a minimum of wall coverings. A handful of framed mosaics with muted tones dot the walls. The tile floor and comfortable booths create a café feel.

Mom and I ordered at the counter and sat down at one of the booths.

The menu offers all of the basic Mexican dishes common in most small restaurants, from the typical taco plates with rice and beans to burritos, quesadillas and nachos. The prices seemed a little high, but you have to remember you are also investing in quiet comfort while you eat.

Of course, as soon as we sat down, my mom asked me what the Obamas would have ordered. Well, the first thing to note is that unlike the current First Couple, the Obamas are not teetotalers. They reportedly start with margaritas and a double order of guacamole at their favorite Mexican restaurant in Chicago.

Since Alambres does not serve alcohol, we started our meal with sodas, fresh guacamole and homemade chips. There is always a difference in freshly made guacamole. Add those thick homemade tortilla chips and you have the perfect starters.

We also tried the nachos and found the cheese, beans, sour cream, guacamole and pico de gallo to be fresh and delicious. Obama, who reportedly has a weakness for chips and salsa, would have likely enjoyed these chips and all the fixings.

For the main courses, I found the carne asada with rice, beans and fresh tortillas a little pricey for what you get. The thick, homemade tortillas definitely made the meal something special, but the carne asada seemed a little bland. I was also not impressed with the chile relleno, which was soggy, and the cheese still unmelted in the middle. A fresh salsa bar is also needed.

Better choices are the basic entrees such as the carne asada taco or any of the burritos, the cheese quesadilla, or their specialties like La Ranchera, a large tortilla packed with cheese, chicken, carne asada, onions and tomatoes. The bean and cheese burrito on the kid’s plate tastes pretty good. They also make an excellent flan for dessert. And I liked that they serve a fresh fruit plate for dessert.

While Alambres in Burbank is probably not a place where you will find George and Laura or Barack and Michelle dining on their favorite Mexican cuisine, for those of us left to watch events unfolding in Washington, D.C., it is nice to know we can, at least, eat like a president and first lady.


 CHRISTINE PUTNAM’s book, “But the President Wants Meatloaf!” is about the favorite foods of the U.S. Presidents from George Washington to George W. Bush. It is available for purchase at buybooksontheweb.com or amazon.com. For more information, visit christineputnam.com or e-mail her at christine@ christineputnam.com.

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