The Food King: Latin

From Oxford Town 213, September 11, 1997

Viva La Food King!

"Food is good" - The Food King

The FOOD KING manifesto: We're out to eat all the food that's fit to be et.

Howdy folks and welcome to the Food King, your handy dandy Oxford Town guide to eating, drinking, and culinary carousing. Those of you who are recent arrivals to our little burg may not realize it yet, but Oxford is home to some of the best vittles around, with more variety per capita than any comparable hamlet between Memphis and New Orleans. Folks here are also better about supporting local eateries than in some of our neighboring, sister communities (that just a nice way of saying we ALL eat out a lot here,) so let The Food King set you straight. He'll tell you what's up, what's not, and where you ought to be eating, if you don't know already. He'll try to point you in the right direction, and generally keep you up to snuff on local restauranteering and such. Just remember, we ain't out to be pernicious, we just out to eat. It ain't our fault if it ain't no good.

Since this week's OT is the "Arriba" issue, we thought we'd take a peek into two of Oxford's most welcome and outstanding Spanish/and/or/Caribbean eateries, El Charro and Don Pancho's.

What can you say about El Charro? Plenty that's good. Located on West Jackson Avenue between Wendy's and Rainbow Cleaners, they have been one of Oxford's top lunch and dinner spots for several years now, and offer consistently well-prepared Mexican food at very fair prices. The full menu with lots of variety can be daunting to neophytes, but just dive in; it's all bueno. Try an appetizer of queso fundido, (a cheese dip mixed with Mexican chorizo sausage, I know, your arteries might holler, but your taste buds will mambo), snag some gooey, cheesy shrimp quesadillas with onions and peppers, or go for the fried chimichanga, it's really hard to go wrong here. Personally, the Food King is so addicted to their excellent and sizable lunch fajitas, he won't order much else.

I must admit I liked their old location better, bad parking and all. The walls are a little too green for me, and the margaritas are just a little too pre-mixed for the Food King's palette, but that lunch is so great who cares. Bring me a Dos Equis with salt and lime and extra tortillas and we're rollin!

El Charro is perfect for a large group looking for a great meal, and as long as you're not in any rush, you should enjoy yourself immensely.

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If you haven't eaten at Don Pancho's yet, well, lets just say the Food King'll give you a few weeks before he actively seeks you out and beats you with his "What are you thinking?" stick. In other words, this place has fantastic food, some of the best in town and you really owe it to yourself to check it out. The menu changes frequently, but trust me, there are no bad choices, from golden, moist fried catfish (sooo good it made me wiggle my big ol' butt in my chair, certainly a rarity) to delicious seared pork chops (fantastic) to pollo a la creme (that's chicken in creme sauce to you & me.) The dinners are deceptively simple, served only with rice and either black or red beans but that's all they need. If possible, try to save room for their excellent flan, which is so creamy, smooth, and yummy, the Food King had to fight his dinner companion for the right to lick the plate. (I let her win; what can I say, I'm such a gentleman.) All of the food has a wonderful, savory, "Wow, this tastes like it came out of my grandmother's kitchen even though she wasn't Caribbean" quality that is distinctly Southern, yet still true to its own ethnic roots.

I only wish that there was a smaller, more affordable lunch menu, so I could eat there more often. But the bottom line is that Don Pancho's serves up one of the most satiating, satisfying meals in town, and has never failed to deliver when he Food King is around.

FK on the wall…

Rumor on the Square is that Café N'Orleans (which recently experienced a well-deserved and long-overdue mercy killing) will soon reopen under new management. Look for sizable improvements in food and (hopefully) decor. All the Food King hopes for is a killer bowl of etoufee. Go get 'em, John.

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P.S. -- Allright, let's get one thing straight; the Food King is a place of opinion about eating and drinking in restaurants, NOT a recipe column. But due to the nature of this week's Latino issue, as well as persistent, incessant and maddening whinings from certain O-Town editors, the Food King will crack open his own personal recipe vault and share one of his genre-blending, cross-regional creations with his readers. You'll thank me later.

The Food King's

Grilled Catfish Burrito

You need:

  • a pot of cooked black beans (use plenty of onion and garlic)
  • rice
  • flour tortillas
  • catfish fillets for grilling
  • marinade such as "Allegro's" (get the spicy one for this dish, you'll be glad you did)
  • fresh red pepper and scallions
  • fresh grated parmesan or romano cheese
Marinate catfish fillets and grill until done. Mix some rice and beans together and spread as a base on tortilla. Layer the burrito with catfish, then finely diced pepper and scallions, followed with a generous dusting of FRESH GRATED cheese (if you use that crap in the can, you might as well not bother). Wrap the tortilla, then place in a warm, lightly greased skillet over low heat and cover for 5 to 10 minutes until the smell drives you insane and you can't stand it anymore, then tear into it. The combination of the garlic from the beans, the spice of the fish, and the reaction of the cheese with the fresh vegetables creates a wonderful, exotic flavor that you can't get from Taco Bell, or anywhere else, for that matter. Enjoy.

Next week…

The Food King stops by Smitty's for babes, breakfast, biscuits, and the wonders of Red-Eye gravy.