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When I first became a vegan, I read I would find Asian and Mexican restaurants to be the most vegan friendly places to eat.  I’ve been a vegan four years now and that has proved to be true.  Not that I can’t put something together at Village Inn or Texas Roadhouse, but Asian and Mexican restaurants usually offer the most variety.  Since my non-vegan family likes tacos and burritos as much as I, Mexican restaurants were a no-brainer choice for us as we embarked on our Utah trip.

We stopped for lunch in Parachute, Colorado.  Parachute was a fun place to stop.  It’s quite the American History hotspot: Kid Curry, one of Butch Cassidy’s Hole in the Wall gang, attempted a train robbery there.  I entertained myself reading all about it on the historical marker while my step-father filled our van with gas and I dropped by the visitor center to pick up a pamphlet, visit their take-a-book/leave-a-book center, and ask the curator where he’d recommend eating.  A sign for an Asian restaurant had pulled us off the highway but the curator suggested El Tapatio.  As my step-father isn’t the hugest fan of Asian food, off we went.

El Tapatio is located in a tiny strip-mall just off the interstate but it’s much bigger inside than it appears from outside.  There’s a large bar in the back where I’m sure Parachute natives have some rollicking times but we were there for lunch so no tequila sampling happened.  Instead, I perused the menu looking for veggie options.  I found bean tacos, burritos, and enchiladas but it was the avocado salsa that caught my eye.  I ordered a side of beans and the avocado salsa, then turned my attention to the complimentary chips and salsa.

One bowl of salsa was typical of Mexican restaurants; tomato based, hint of cilantro, spicy: but the other was unique to El Tapatio.  It was cabbage based and slightly sweet with touches of black pepper and cumin.  My family was hesitant to try it but, once we did, we dug in.  My mother and I would hold mouthfuls on our tongues, attempting to reverse-engineer the salsa by taste.  It was so good.  I’ve got to find an El Tapatio closer to home and have some again.

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The Cabbage Salsa, one of the best I’ve tasted

A side note: despite years of veganism under my belt, I still make mistakes.  When I read “beans” on the side dish menu, I assumed I’d be getting whole beans, most likely black beans.  I didn’t.  I got refried beans covered with melted cheese.  I’ve never been good at sending things back and, fortunately, I was at a table with a non-vegan.  I scraped the cheese to the side and my mother ate it with chips while I finished off the beans.  The problem?  More than likely, the refried beans were made with lard.  So, I re-learned it’s important to ask.  Never assume.  I have yet to meet waitstaff that aren’t willing to answer my questions and help me keep my meals as vegan as possible; I just have to ask.

I had no troubles with the avocado salsa.  It was wonderful: chunks of fresh avocado, tart lime, cilantro, tomato and onion.  The dish came adorned with spears of bright green pepper which were both eye-catching and mouth-watering.  Let me warn you: the pepper spears are NOT sweet pepper: they’re jalapeños and El Tapatio means it with their jalapeños.  I took a bite of a pepper spear and my mouth ignited.  I even like spicy food and these peppers were too much for me.  My family got the biggest kick out of my weeping and gasping for water.  I live to entertain.

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Careful: those peppers are hot!

Despite my attempts to burn my lips and tongue off, I was satisfied with El Tapatio; so much so I’ll look for a location close to where I live.  My family and I usually go to Tres Margaritas when we have a hankering for Mexican food but El Tapatio was excellent.  I highly recommend stopping if you get a chance.

After Parachute, I was consigned to veggie burgers, which I’ve already written about so won’t bother you again here.  My family and I didn’t stop at another Mexican restaurant until we had lunch at Casa de Amigo’s in Hurricane, Utah.  Casa de Amigo’s was a perfect stop for a late lunch/early supper (lupper?) after hiking in Zion.  I’d taken snacks with me (some vegan jerky-it sounds oxymoronic, I know but don’t knock it until you’ve tried it) but was starving when we left the park.  Casa de Amigo’s didn’t look too busy so we found a parking spot and headed inside.

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I found Casa de Amigo’s such a fun place to eat.  The dining room is filled with dark wood paneled walls, plank floors, and the same dark wood is used to fashion the tables and chairs.  All that wood sets off framed photos of Zion and the bright blues, yellows, and reds of Mexican art.  The dining room was cool when we stepped inside and our shoes echoed on the floor.  It’s that sound that speaks of age and history: I love it.  The decor spoke of high standards and I had high expectations of the food.  It didn’t disappoint.

I ordered a grilled veggie burrito and taco.  Both came with pinto and black beans so I figured all of my nutritional needs would be met.  My lunch was perfect.  The veggies weren’t grilled to limp nothings: they were still crisp and sweet.  And, I had plenty of food.  I almost couldn’t eat it all but, somehow, I managed.

I’ve found I can’t go wrong with Mexican restaurants.  Of course, I love the flavor palate of Mexican food: cumin, cilantro, chiles, beans, fresh vegetables…what’s not to love?  Our stops at Mexican restaurants livened up a rather veggie burger heavy trip and my non-vegan family never quibbles if I suggest a Mexican Restaurant.

Do you have a favorite Mexican Restaurant?  Let me know!  I’m always looking for a good taco.