Desperados in North Adams

Lunch with Los Amigos

By: - Jan 21, 2012

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23 Eagle Street
North Adams, Mass
413 458 2160

246 Main Street
Williamstown, Mass.
413 458 2160

In the dead of winter Cisco and Los Amigos met for lunch.

There proved to be seven of us. It was a chance to explore the diverse menu of the very popular Desperados on Eagle Street in North Adams. There is an older Desperados on the main drag in a mall in Williamstown.

Since it opened in North Adams the new restaurant has become a popular, often crowded, and noisy destination.

Although Cisco and Pancho had dined at the disappointing Panchos in Pittsfield, just a couple of days prior, an Amigo was insistent on Desperados as a cozy, affordable restaurant for ersatz Tex Mex. Twice in one week is pushing it.

We had been there once before when it first opened and found it too crowded and noisy for social interaction.

All of the Amigos had been to Desperados previously so on short notice we gathered for good cheer, Dos Equis with lime, salsa with chips, and lively conversation.

The waitress started us with complimentary fresh salsa and chips. Refilling them while we waited for food and enjoyed our cervesas Mexicanas. She was perky and attentive greatly contributing to the convivial atmosphere.

There were few other patrons so we could hear each other and did not bother other diners with our lively conversation. Much of the dialogue focused on the current political races and its fundamentalist overtones accented by a troubling economy.

The anecdotes flew back and forth. There were lots of laughs and great stories.

There was a large and enticing menu to select from.

Lunch platters ranged from $7.50 for the Taco Platter to $10.95 for Drunken Shrimp. In between were Burrito, Chimichanga, Enchilada, Redheaded Mexican and Fundido platters. The platters come with rice and beans, chips and salsa.

Other categories to order from include: Botanas (appetizers), Sopas, Ensaladas, Wraps, Ala Carta, and ‘Rados-Ritos.

To sample the greatest diversity Cisco opted for the Combo Platter ($11.95). There was one choice each from the categories: Main Course, Side, Soup or Salad. It comes with bottomless soda, juice, coffee or tea. Cisco chose chimichanga, rice and beans, and chili.

Looking about the other orders included: A humongous Desparito (steak, chicken, shrimp, mushrooms, grilled veggies, rice, beans, lettuce, tomato, black olives and cheese) more than a heaping mouthful for $11.95. The Fajita Wrap looked outstanding at $10.95. Looking across an Amigo commented that he always orders Enchiladas  Roja ($9.75) with a distinctive and satisfying  red chile sauce. Looking about we saw a Taco Platter ($7.50), and two Enchilada Platters ($8.95).

Overall the Amigos were happy with their food. Most significantly, when surveyed, they indicated that they would come back.

Cisco found the Combo Platter better than most Tex Mex but more generic than unique. As is so often the case the punch, flavor and spice seems to diminish the father north one travels. The food opts more toward Taco Bell than the rich dining we found closer to the Rio Grande. Too often chefs don’t trust diners who are not used to the real thing. Or that authentic presence is missing in the kitchen.

Decades ago Cisco was introduced to Tex Mex at The Phoenix Room in a bar along Comm. Ave in Brighton. The chef, a tough lady with a limp, was a character right out of film noir. She wandered out of the kitchen now and then with a cigarette and shot of tequila.

Her food was just awesome. It transformed a run of the mill bar into a hot spot and destination. When word spread it got tough to find a table and never disappointing. Starting a meal with chips the salsa brought tears to your eyes. She had a heavy hand with the chili peppers and spice. We loved her for it.

So we know what the real stuff tastes like.

In this case the side of black beans lacked sauce and was just too dry. There was little evidence of beans and flavor in the chili. It seemed old and the worse off from too much reheating and refrigeration.  It didn’t seem worth going up a notch for the Combo. The single chimichanga was small, flat, and lacked filling.

Looking about, based on visual evidence and the enthusiasm of the diners, the best choices appeared to be, hands down, the Desparito, Fajita Wrap, and Enchiladas Roja. Skip the chili or ask when it was made. Even so, the best chili in the Berkshires is served by the Freight Yard in North Adams. But the menu, other than the superb Fish and Chips, is limited and we got tired of going there.

Surveying the Amigos, Cisco asked how Desperados compared with other popular spots in North Adams, the enormously popular Hub, and the successful new hangout Public? The response was that the question asked them to compare apples and oranges. Each had its unique food and ambiance.

Since everyone seemed satisfied with the food Cisco was surprised when he asked for an overall rating from One to Ten?

There was an overwhelming response of 5 with one 8 and a low 3.

Or, as one Amigo put it succinctly, “Hands down, Desperados serves the best Mexican food in North Adams.”

Vamanos Amigos.