Lunch with Louie at Los Arroyos
Santa Barbara food reviews with Louie the pessimist food critic
Jul 21, 10:44 PM (PT)
This urge for chicken soup began last Thursday, and increased in intensity until this Tuesday, when it went beyond the point of just feeling like eating something, to an outright obsession. After making a bunch of 15 unsuccessful calls to local restaurants, I hit the jackpot. Out of all the places in town, it was Los Arroyos, a Mexican Restaurant located at 14 West Figueroa Street. I was a little skeptical to say the least, about finding a good chicken soup in a Mexican restaurant, but with a little encouragement from Ed, we were quickly on our way.
Before I left, I packed a couple of Kreplach that my son had purchased at Juniors Deli on his last trip to L.A. A Kreplach, by the way, is the Jewish version of a Chinese wonton, an argentine empanada, or a Russian piracy. Just stuff it, then boil it or fry it (or in some cases, both), and you’re in business. I placed them in a cute little Nordstrom bag, and away we went. Neurotic? Maybe, but I wasn’t really hurting anybody. So, maybe my sanity comes into question, but so what? There is a certain element of excitement and danger that comes with the act of sneaking two Kreplachs into a Mexican enclave like Los Arroyos.
The restaurant is quite attractive for a semi fast food establishment. There is lots of tile work everywhere, nice, authentic furniture and so on. You order at the counter and the food is made fresh and brought to you by one of the many waitresses. We ordered, of course, a large bowl of chicken soup, a single enchilada to avoid having Ed go into extreme depression, one order of chicken tacos with a side of Caesar salad, and one order of fish tacos with all the trimmings.
It didn’t take long before an angelical apparition came with our food. She had skin like satin dipped in cocoa, contrasting with the silver of newly installed teeth braces, which were partially covering the pearly whiteness of a genuine and authentic smile. She was a symphony of colors and sparkles made in Aztec heaven. I asked her if the soup was fresh and homemade, to which she answered by pointing to one of the cooks behind the line looking at us, and acknowledging the fact the he was the one who actually cooked the soup. He smiled broadly, no braces in this case, but with a lot of kindness and sincerity. Boy, what a crew this place has! I raised a spoonful of broth in his honor, he bowed and so did I. I waited for our waitress to leave and after looking alternately to my left and right, I felt as if my crime was just about to be successful.
I slowly transferred the Kreplach from my Nordstrom bag into the soup. I stirred carefully not to damage my precious cargo, and to my delight, beheld the realization of my highly anticipated craving. My soup was brimming with at least half a pound of white chicken meat. It was not overcooked or mushy little cubes, but huge pieces with their full texture and flavor, totally asymmetrical and exploding with freshness. The chicken was surrounded by a torrent of vegetables - potatoes, carrots, celery, onions, and zucchini of every color. The tiny little circles of fat in the broth resembled millions of petite rainbows. Right then and there, I could hear the constant and familiar bickering that goes on between my arteries, my pleasure senses, and my taste buds. Oh, just go away you guys. I am eating my chicken soup. Do not disturb. I devoured the entire bowl - except for the spoonful I reluctantly shared with Ed.
The enchilada was wonderful. It was covered with a mildly spicy green sauce, instead of the usual tomato gook. The chicken tacos were made from the same chicken that inhabited my soup, but the salad that came with them was just another salad. On the other hand, the fish tacos were stunningly beautiful and delicious; each one with a plump and juicy piece of halibut nestled inside two tortillas and covered by some lettuce and a sauce that closely resembled Thousand Island. I pushed that aside and replaced it with some of their great radish and cabbage salsa. I believe that I had what can be called some of the best fish tacos in town.
We were sorry that our lunch had come to an end. We enjoyed every tidbit of food that was served to us. And when our waitress came by to pick up our empty dishes and ask us how we enjoyed it, I playfully said to her in Spanish that the food was almost as exquisite as our waitress. I wasn’t sure if she blushed, but I am sure that she tilted the plate of fish tacos, and I ended up going home with my cream colored slacks splattered with thousand island pink dressing. Oh well, it was all worth it. My chicken soup caper came to an end and it was a wonderful day. The sun was shining off her skin and braces and giving new color to my life.
Next week I’ll be in Las Vegas to see Elton John. Let's see if they have some good chicken soup there. One thing for sure, we will be coming back to Los Arroyos. Call before you go, the soup changes daily.