If I were ever being tortured for information, all my captors would have to do is use loud music or bizarre noises, and I would sing like a little birdie. There’s not a secret in the world I wouldn’t have given up on my recent visit to Mi Charrito Ray (5693 Westcreek Dr., 817-294-0020). I hate to pick on the place, but I’m using the Southwest-side eatery as only a jumping off point for what I consider to be an important discussion: It’s as if half of the restaurants in town don’t care about one of the five senses.
Mi Charrito Ray sounded like the soundtrack to a bad dream. As a TV in the dusty-looking lounge blasted a tabloid talk show, some generic Tejano music barreled through the main speakers. Adding to the jumbled cacophony were two middle-aged women watching what I could only imagine was a dance recital by one of their kids to “Uptown Funk,” or they found a bootleg video of Bruno Mars performing in an elementary school cafeteria. Either way, I was tempted to stand up and scream, “The missile silo coordinates are hidden in a microchip in my back left molar.”
I could barely enjoy the place’s daily lunch special ($10.95): two deliciously cheesy enchiladas smothered with small chunks of ground beef, a single standard-issue crispy taco, rice, and beans.
The venerable Tex-Mex dining room has a rag-tag charisma, with well-worn pleather booths, hard plastic tabletops, and festive streamers shooting along the ceiling like someone decorated the tendrils of a long-dead jungle climbing plant. The service was prompt and professional, the salsa flavorful and plentiful, and the food well-portioned and reasonably priced. But I had to get out before I turned in my mother for a crime she didn’t commit.
My auditory experience at Tacos La Banqueta (2621 Hemphill St., 817-923-8846) wasn’t much better. The television hanging in the corner of the converted fast food joint was booming a Spanish-language soap opera so loudly the staff at the Whataburger across the street could have followed the plot.
Luckily for me, the crunch of the fried quesadilla ($5.50) filled with pastor, white cheese, and shredded lettuce drowned out the boob tube. The half-moon-shaped morsel was the perfect combination of crispy, greasy, cheesy, and spicy –– thanks especially to the tiny café’s superior green salsa. The huaraches ($5.50) with carnitas snapped my palate and my ears back to reality. I give the place points for adding the flatbread covered in cheese and tomato sauce to the menu, but it was a flavorless letdown after the quesadilla.
I don’t know why restaurants in general don’t take their atmospheres more seriously. But in the cases of both Mi Charrito Ray and La Banquetta, the staff seemed to be more interested in daytime TV then their guests’ experiences.
I humbly suggest that area eateries would be well served to pipe in some soft background music. Or if you have to play a television, keep the volume low enough so people can hear themselves think.
On my next visit to both places, I’m going to wear headphones. Or maybe I should don a tinfoil hat. All of this dining room noise is driving me crazy.
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