By: The Phantom Diners
Upon arrival in the splendid city of London this summer, I was quite astonished at the wide array of restaurants the city had to offer. Boasting types of food from Filipino to French and everything in between, London welcomed its tourists and townies alike with a superb selection of dining options. However, this kind of variety does not only extend to cosmopolitan cities of Europe, but also to our little town of Carlisle. With only about 19,000 residents in the surrounding region of the college, Carlisle holds its own in the culinary circuit. In this column, I and my group of five phantom dining friends will endeavor to taste and review as many dishes as possible at the various restaurants throughout Cumberland County in order to best direct your precious and ever-dwindling college student funds, which should only be spent on the crème dela crème brulée (or whatever it is you happen to eat).
Each restaurant will be judged based on four categories, in the order we tend to encounter them: atmosphere, service, food quality/taste, and price, and will receive an overall ranking at the end.
First up on the list: Chaparritas Mexican Restaurant.
It should be noted that the only reason our team selected this restaurant is that most restaurants in downtown Carlisle are closed on Mondays (such as the new Moroccan restaurant, whose review will follow in the next issue), which I suppose is meant to enhance Carlisle’s small town charm, but instead enhanced our small town indigestion, and our small town indignation with a certain phantom diner who gets cranky when hungry.
Atmosphere: When a restaurant is empty around mealtime, this is no good omen. The walls are relatively barren, boasting only a few dollar store wall hangings of maracas, vihuelas and sombreros, and the seats are entirely barren, boasting only our tiny team. It must be, I think, entirely heartwrenching as a Hispanic staff to perform this stereotypical American idea of Mexican heritage, and, as we’ll see, it seems no one (staff or otherwise) ever wanted to enter Chaparritas. 1/10
Service: The service was surprisingly slow for the lack of customers. An ambiguously-aged Hispanic woman in a green frock would enter occasionally to ask if we needed anything, only to exit into the back for an inexplicably lengthy amount of time. As someone who drinks a lot of water and likes their glass to be refilled in a somewhat timely manner, I was left thirsty, which at a Mexican restaurant is not a state one wants to be left in for long. This restaurant gave you the kind of a crappy, diner setting, waitress-who-doesn’t-care-about-you attitude, minus the delicious foods that are often served at your typical hole-in-the-wall joints. 2/10
Food Quality/Taste: The food, though some dishes like your basic quesadilla were quite tasty, was generally lackluster. The salsa needed more spice and the fish taco was distinctly disappointing. The menu seemingly boasted a wide variety of dishes, but most of them turned out to be variations of the same things in different shells or wraps, resulting in the traditional taco, tortilla, and burrito offerings. One diner was pleased with her meal of the beef quesadilla and the veggie burrito was not too shabby either, but as a whole, 2/3 of the diners rated their meals at a 3 out of 10 or lower. 4/10
Price: The average price of a meal (about six or seven dollars) was quite cheap, with the price ranging from a two-dollar taco to a twelve-dollar burrito, but the quality of the meals did not compensate for this fact. However, if you are craving some sort of Mexican wrap ending in –ito and the fine cuisine at our local Taco Bell doesn’t satisfy you, then this may be the place for you. 6/10
Overall Rating: 3.2/10
Endorsed Entrée: Beef Quesadilla
Dull Dish: Fish Taco
Fascinating Fare: Three-way tie between Cow Tongue, Intestine, or Pigs Feet
Also Boasts: A two-foot burrito challenge, in which the participant has around 45 minutes to complete in hopes of attaining a champions prize of a picture on the wall of fame and guess what…a FREE T-SHIRT! Not worth the money and the acid-reflux in my opinion.