3395 Derek Drive, Lake Charles
Oh, it’s such a relief to be able to begin phasing into some sense of normality. Everybody talks about “the new normal,” but I don’t believe anybody has a clear definition of what this is yet, and we’re all trying to wing it.
I do know that everybody is excited to get back out there, to be able to get back to work, to serve and cook for those of us who have been waiting patiently. It’s crazy how our lives can be disrupted in a matter of weeks. If it wasn’t considered essential, it simply ceased. Receptions, parties, wakes, mass and graduations … suspended, delayed and ultimately modified.
Traditions and celebrations are important to all.
As a teenager, many of my family’s celebrations were held in a fantastic Mexican restaurant in town. This is where we went on what seemed like a regular basis. We didn’t need a reason, but we always found one. It was festive, and sipping a margarita during the nearly 2–hour wait for a table made the wait worth it.
The restaurant was housed in an old gas station, originally constructed in the 1930s, that had had hardly any structural renovations over the years. The floors were slanted and saggy. The chairs, which were on casters, would gradually roll you toward another table if you weren’t paying attention. This is where we were making memories.
I lost my dad in 2005, and I’ve always made it my yearly tradition to go to a Mexican restaurant, and toast his birthday over a margarita.
El Dorado has always been good to my wife and me, and has been part of making memories for us.
Before my wife and I headed out for this visit, I called El Dorado and asked if I could reserve two seats at the bar, not knowing how busy they were. I mean, it’s a Saturday night; it should be packed. The gentleman responded it was first come, first served, and they were not taking reservations, which is completely understandable.
When my wife and I arrived, we were greeted with friendly hellos from familiar faces. It felt as if it had been forever since we’d been able to just go out.
It still wasn’t normal, though. Not even close. All the employees had to wear a mask. The patrons were scattered throughout the restaurant. It was completely different from what we were used to seeing when most of the dining rooms were packed, especially during the dinner rush. As everybody is getting back on their feet, getting back into the swing of cooking and serving, I have no expectation that anyone is going to be 10/10.
Our server for the night was Morkeith, and within seconds of taking our spots, the chips and saucers of fresh salsa were placed before us almost ritualistically. It’s was at this point I really wanted to start munching on the chips. But Morkeith was poised, waiting to take our drink orders.
Given the meaning of the night, we were going to order two large house margaritas on the rocks. Yes, they are massive. But taking photos and toasting over a small margarita is counterproductive and quite boring. Most often, when we receive our drinks, we sip and continue to look over the menu. However, every year when these come out, we get somber for a moment. We look at them because we know why we’re here — for a simple “Happy birthday, Dad. Cheers,” followed with a clink of the glass, a prayer and a sip.
Morkeith checked on us often, making sure we weren’t overlooked. We had locked in our decisions and were ready to order. My wife loves their steak. So, for her it’s usually some version of a deconstructed chimichanga sans tortilla: basically, steak, cheese sauce and pico de gallo with guacamole on the side. This night, she was really going to jazz it up and go for a steak quesadilla. Myself, I have found great comfort in all of their foods. But I was really in the mood for carnitas tacos.
Now, I’m not one to be big on conspiracies and how Big Brother is watching every move you make and listening in on everything you say. But, I can tell you that within two minutes of ordering, our food was plated, hot and sitting before us. I’m pretty sure we both looked at each other with our jaws dropped and mumbled, “holy cow.” It was impressively fast, and I have to admit, maybe it was a little too fast. There was zero time to talk and just relax in between the time the order was placed and the food arrived. There’s definitely a time in dining when there’s a pristine moment when you don’t feel rushed and you’re not waiting too long between ordering and plating; it’s an an element of timing. El Dorado is one of our “go-to” restaurants. They never disappoint. Between the service, the food, and certainly the value, it’s consistent and flavorful every single time.
As most couples do, my wife and I share bites from each dish. The steak was tender, the bell peppers and onions were cooked down just right and worked well with the melted cheese.
My carnitas — seasoned slow- cooked pork, quickly crisped on the flat top alongside corn tortillas — were topped with cilantro and onion, and had a side of salsa verde, which definitely had a kick to it.
We were both very pleased, as we always are with El Dorado. I was not anticipating the 10/10 experience. Given the circumstances, we received exactly that.
Get back out there and make those memories, and be thankful for those who are there to share in making those memories and traditions.
Dedicated to my father
June 6, 1946-November 19, 2005
An Extra Dash: The Bekery
It was a beautiful, bright and sunny Saturday morning. It was the day after Phase 1 began for us here in Louisiana. After several weeks of working from home and being quarantined, it was time to move my wife out of the home office and back into her regular office downtown. As we were hooking up the computer and updating files, I was far too eager to go somewhere rather than just go back home.
I knew it was going to be busy, and with the uncertainty of re-opening, you just really never know what to expect. As we rounded the corner, there was a steady stream of vehicles coming and going. We parked across the street, and walked our way up the little ramp, peeking inside the venue to see the old farmhouse-style appeal. This is such a beautiful, inviting building. From the stamped tin ceiling tiles to the walls of white shiplap and quaint tables, it’s adorable.
Everyone who was there was there to make a purchase. They were doing everything they could to self-distance and be understanding of the situation. Several of us were outside waiting for our turn, and as people left, people entered. The staff at The Bekery were fulfilling the requests. They were, and always have been, pleasant. With some customers opting to bring their goods home, others were taking advantage of an open table in the courtyard.
From quiche, to OMG cinnamon rolls, craft sandwiches, scones, soups and breads, I can tell you this … the earlier you arrive, the better the chance you’re going to get what you want. My wife ordered a fresh tomato, mozzarella and pesto baguette, while I ordered one of my favorites, the ham and Brie baguette.
We were lucky to be able to score a table as so many people were coming out to support the reopening and get their fill of baked goods. While we would’ve loved to stay a bit longer, we knew there were others who would love to sit at the table just as we did.
I recommend you go to the Bekery and take the time to unwind and soak it all in.