A fish story

Photo by David Robert

Dan Ruby hates the informal less-about-the-food, more-about-the-experience style of food “reviewing” we have here at the RN&R. He thinks the person who writes the food stuff should be a real critic, a “400-pound guy who loves food, all kinds of food … an expert.” Dan later concedes that this person could be a woman and that weight isn’t as much a factor as the joy of eating, but he seems pretty attached to his theory of food critiquing.

So I’m taking Dan out to lunch, ostensibly, to thank him for his contribution to a recent non-RN&R project, in reality, to mock his anti-narrative stance by doing the very thing he hates. Irony is funny, right?

Our assignment is Baja Fresh, the latest addition to the SUV-riddled, mall-shopper populated, franchise-food-hype-Californication-fungus at Kietzke Lane and McCarran Boulevard. My distaste for this corner of town knows no bounds and reaches all the way back to the mid ‘90s when they first started developing there. Do we really need all these chain stores and eateries? Can’t we be content with local merchants and restaurateurs? How many Wal-Marts does one town really need?

My moral outrage suffered a serious blow when Krispy Kreme came to town, damned best doughnuts in the world. And now this—which I think puts me in the same category as the handsomely-coifed, luxury car drivers with whom I’m about to share lunch.

My assumption turns out to be mostly false as, once inside Baja Fresh, we run into a rocker friend who’s waiting for his take-out. Dan’s excited because I tell him he can order whatever he wants. He orders three steak tacos ($5.75) and a bean and cheese burrito ($3.65). Following his gluttonous lead, I choose the enchiladas verdes (cheese, $5.65 for two) and a mahi mahi taco ($2.95). We have to wait a bit for our food (there’s a big sign pointing out that fresh food can’t be made at microwave speeds), which gives us plenty of time to ponder the absence of Dr. Pepper.

Everything comes with chips and extras, like rice and beans. The salsa bar has the standard assortment of sauces and other appropriate condiments. It’s all delicious. My favorite is Dan’s guacamole, which I steal.

I decide I should have worn looser pants, as the food is so good that I eat all of mine and some of Dan’s. When I get to my taco, Dan tells me he always thought the term fish taco was a joke, and I tell him that I still can’t order them without laughing. Two hip-looking girls are at the counter ordering, and although that would make a great segue to a discussion about atmosphere and clientele, we instead wonder why we never see these mystery hipsters anywhere but random places like Baja Fresh.

Dan is onto my whole ironic meal concept, which, due to our casual conversation and the yummy food, didn’t work out like I’d planned. He isn’t surprised and, in fact, thinks it’s pretty funny. He finally cops to the fact that he thinks he should do the food reviews. Anti-narrative or not, considering the number of times he’s joined the food writers here at the RN&R, Dan should be on the payroll anyway.