Most often we feel that latino and mexican food find their origins in common flavours. But after having visited Mex as a mexican restaurant, I was eager to find out any difference. We had a couple of friends visiting from Germany who happened to stay the weekend at Ann Arbor, Michigan. Isalita, a small and meek looking part of the building that housed two other bigger restaurants, was selected for our rendezvous. It appeared to me like it would have been a small cafe but as we walked in that chilling night almost frozen from the long walk from the parking to there, had us usher to a bigger hangout place. Parking is quite the problem on weekends, especially, downtown Ann Arbor.
There was a scented gush of spices in the breeze that warmed us after entering. The restaurant had made smart use of all the area they had, it almost looked like walking into a duplex. Towards our right, there were a few tables, and not those small cozy ones, but the welcome to the party ones with long tables and luxurious seating. But our friends were waiting upstairs so we climbed the flight and looked around to find them. Introduction and small talk ended up in a rather long conversation about absolutely random things. Maybe that is the fun when people talk about parties.
As I sat at the corner of the table I had enough opportunity to be quiet and look around. I saw that every single table was occupied and bustling with activity and that people were enjoying themselves with laughter, exciting conversations, and happiness adorning their tables. The walls had a touch of ancient texture which was decorated with hand-painted art, lanterns, bottles of colours, some European style artificial wood and flowers, it all just looked unusually attractive. Instead of having a particular colour combination and theme, they dared to be different with their choice of decorative articles which successfully stood out. There was a beautiful old couple sitting next to us. Quietly enjoying their meal, silently exchanging blushes and smiles and sipping their margaritas and whisky. Their age knew no answers but their love. I am glad that places like Isalita provide that level of ambience and comfort suitable for everyone who basically wants to have a good time. We took some time to place our orders. Their service was active even in full hours of business when I saw that our waitress visited us almost thrice to ask for each one’s order. Since we were seven of us, it took irregular intervals to decide the menu. The menu was a double-sided card that listed familiar food names like fajita, tacos, guacamole, steak, burgers, burritos but the key difference was the type of ingredients selected for these items. I realized this only after we ordered Fajita chicken for us to see how different it was from Mex, while others had their portions of what looked like fajitas served with small tortilla breads. I also had a mojito and the three guys at the table were contented with Budweisers.
The dinner arrived within a decent span of time. Smelling like a barbecue, that plate settled before our eyes with three types of dips – guacamole, hot sauce and hummus, shredded grilled chicken and peppers layered out half the plate with a lemon sliced in half. Another bowl contained steamed tortillas to be prepared on the plate by placing chicken, peppers and choice of dip, rolled up and to bite into. I remembered my bowl at Mex which had a similar fragrance. But this one had new flavours which made it distinguished. The chicken was succulent and tender with a peppery flavour coated in fajita seasoning. I just had one tortilla bread and decided to concentrate on the chicken while he finished all of it.
It was a good evening to meet these new folks and vowing to stay in touch. We were the last ones to leave at 11pm when I observed that they had begun cleaning up and arranging the tables. We stepped outside, it had become even colder. Still managing to resist the wind, we took a picture and bade adieu looking forward to the long night drive to our house. It was peaceful as the moon shone full and bright in the starry sky that night.