Culinary Dispatch – Richland, Washington: It’s our last night in the Tri-Cities. Splint McCullough and I have wrapped up our Pacific Northwest assignment, and we’re in search of nourishment. We leave the hotel with a copy of the Tri-Cities answer to Michelin in hand, “Your Guide to Local Dining,” a 17-page stapled Xerox copy of every conceivable eatery within a six minute radius.
In the spirit of Lewis and Clark, Splint and I head east on the recommendation of the hotel desk manager. She’s added a star, in pen, next to the listing for T.S. Cattle Co. noting that the last time she ate there – twenty years ago – it was a pretty good meal. But since Splint is a true carnivore, he assumes we’ll be treated to excellent aged beef.
One quick detour later (getting lost seems to be a way of life in the Tri-Cities) we arrive at the parking lot of T.S. Cattle Co. It looks a bit like an abandoned road house, with a couple of decrepit pickup trucks outside. The Co. has clearly lost some of its 1986 appeal. Splint says, “I think not,” and we make a quick left out of the parking lot.
Our next stop is Cavanaugh’s Landing. It has a bright, appealing multi-colored sign, the parking lot is clean, and the shrubbery well manicured. But, the lobby has that strange hotel smell, and there is absolutely no one in the restaurant. “Not a good endorsement for the menu,” Splint notes, and we return to the rental to continue our culinary expedition. We decide to skip the Old Country Buffet, which looks like a renovated supermarket, and Splint refuses to get within a quarter mile of Roy’s Western Smorgy.
We decide to explore west of the hotel. Finding the right restaurant has become a mission. Splint nixes Sterling’s Famous Steak, Seafood and Salad Bar (“Too much like a diner.”) and Casa Mia (“Not in the mood for Italian.”). After a brief pass by Dax’s Bar and Grill, a dangerous looking powder blue cinder block structure, we are desperate, and decide that Mexican cuisine is our safest choice.
We park the rental and enter 3 Margaritas – Family Mexican Restaurant. It is fiesta time! We are seated at a window booth. There are bright colors everywhere and the ambient noise is deafening. There is a lariat and saddle on one wall and a large mural of three parrots behind Splint’s head. For some reason I’m inspired to order a Blueberry Margarita which resembles a frozen dessert on steroids. Splint orders a Cuervo Gold Margarita. He glances toward the floor and says, “I’m curious the last time this rug was cleaned?”
There is much activity. Every few minutes, a large group of wait staff carry a birthday cake and a giant sombrero out to some lucky diner on the floor and sing "Happy Birthday" both in Spanish and English. Splint calls his wife, Blanche on the cell phone. She suggests we should pretend it’s my birthday and take plenty of photographs.
Our entrees arrive and there is ample food. Splint has chosen the house specialty, Carnitas Fahita Style with sirloin beef. I’ve chosen the chicken version. Splint rolls a fahita the size of a Cuban cigar. He takes a bite and announces, “I’m very happy.”
Ditto for me. The chicken is succulent, the rice nicely seasoned, and the guacamole incredibly fresh. It meets with Splint’s approval as well. “I’m very picky about my guac,” he says.
Splint has clearly entered the fiesta zone. He orders a second Cuervo Gold Margarita, which means that collectively, we have ordered 3 Margaritas and must be considered charter members of the club.
“Who ever thought we’d find authentic Mexican in one of the states that’s furthest from?” Splint asks rhetorically.
As we leave the restaurant lobby, I look for a card, but oddly enough, all I can find is a stack for “Lightning’s Carpet Cleaning.” Splint expresses hope that the rug at 3 Margaritas will soon get a makeover.
© 2006 T.W. Barritt All Rights Reserved
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