NOTE: For an updated review of Café Mexicho, click here.
Joe and I had planned a pasta dinner last night, but wound up working late and didn’t feel like cooking. We walked up to 7th Street in search of food.
We were on the threshold of Joe’s favorite Chinese restaurant, Yasuqui, when we suddenly looked across the street at Cafe Mexicho. (It’s not a typo — there really is an h before the o. Don’t know why.) Joe had never eaten there; I was skeptical. In all my travels through Africa I have never met a single Mexican.
But Cafe Mexicho was inviting. It’s built on the site of an old meat market and the orginal sign is still up. Soft light spilled out above and below the wooden saloon doors. Latin music played and it looked warm and lively. Why not? We made our fateful decision and stepped inside.
We seated ourselves near the bar, which was strung with red beaded lamps shaped like chili peppers. I learned later that the lamps were handmade by Simon, the guy on the street who sells beaded animals to tourists.
Joe and I drank Coke Light and Grapetiser, but the beverages of choice around us were Corona and Cuervo. There was a frozen margarita machine but I never saw it used.
Unlike Mexican restaurants in America, chips and salsa are not free at Cafe Mexicho. You pay R12 ($1.50) for a small “nacho chip bowl” and R7 for a teacup of salsa. The chips were a little too thick and the salsa runny, but the flavor was decent. We chomped away.
I ordered a veggie burrito and Joe ordered something called Bisteka Alamexicana. My burrito was about a foot long and filled mostly with refried beans, pinto beans, cheese, and tomato sauce. Served with rice, sour cream sauce, and a pale green scoop of guac. I was underwhelmed, but hungry. As I ate, I stumbled upon an occasional vegetable — a green bean, a slice of carrot, a tiny piece of cauliflower. It was like a treasure hunt.
I decided to spice things up with one of the hot sauces the waitress brought — Banditos Guadala Gunpowder. “Seriously hot chilli sauce made south of Mexico in Africa,” the label proclaimed. No kidding. South Africans knows how to make spicy sauce. I ordered more water.
Bisteka Alamexicana was beef cubes and chilies in a spicy brown sauce, with sides of pinto beans and rice. Joe thought it was too salty but he cleaned his plate anyway. He also polished off the rest of my burrito.
We realized our lapse in judgement as soon as we got home. Mexican food in South Africa is not for the faint of heart. Even my iron stomach was no match for the might of Cafe Mexicho.
It was a long night.