Mexican Restaurant Etiquette


Budge and I love to eat at Mexican restaurants. She had never tried Mexican until we married and I showed her the joys of pollo fundido and arroz con pollo. I still can’t get her interested in flan, but she does like fried ice cream.

In our visits to Mexican eateries, I’ve noticed a few things that disturb me . . . of course, many things disturb me so this should not be seen as unusual. We ate at a local cantina last night called Papa’s and Beer and I watched several people do boorish and ill-advised things, so I figured I’d put out this post as a public service bulletin. Pay attention now, folks, and y’all might learn something.

Rules of Behavior in the Local Cantina

1) Do not try to carry on a conversation or even try to speak with the “chip boy / girl.” Any attempt at conversation will likely be met with a beautiful but tense smile. That smile is a coping mechanism because the vast majority of “chippers” know only very limited amount of English. Mostly their vocabulary is limited to “Chips?”, “more chips?”, and “Hot or mild?” Maybe, just MAYBE — if they sometimes run food — they will know “hot plate,” but that’s pretty much it. This isn’t being racist or mean. Fact is, these folks are usually the youngest employees and have been in the US the shortest amount of time so their English isn’t up to conversational levels yet. Now don’t ignore them entirely, but a smile and nod will suffice to make them happy and let them know you are not a complete jackass.

ABIERTO? CERRADO!! That's right! You watched it back in the day and you know you did!

2) If all the Spanish you know comes from Sesame Street skits don’t try to order in “authentic Spanish.”  Most of us, if we are exceptional, could say one or two things if someone dropped us in the middle of Mexico, Spain, or Argentina before we had to resort to pidgin and pointing at stuff. Personally, I learned all the non-food Spanish I know BEFORE I started to walk the Jericho Road so for me those two things are get a beer and find the bathroom. If you are from the South, you cannot roll your Rs and our precious accent does not lend itself  easily to other tongues. Do you REALLY want to say “please” in Spanish? If you’re Southern, I can almost guarantee it will come out “pair fay vor” instead of “por favor” and your wait person will go back to the kitchen and laugh at the yanqui‘ with the rest of the kitchen staff. Remember you failed Spanish in high school for a REASON.

The white boy sliding as the other guy kicks the ball away? Yeah, that's you.

3) If a soccer game is on, DO NOT try to impress the cute waiter or waitress by asking “do you watch futebol?” No matter how adorable her big brown eyes are, you will only look like a fool to her because of one of two things: A) she played on a B-league team in her home country and has forgotten more about futebol than you and your table full of friends will ever know OR B) her boyfriend, father, husband, brother etc played on a B-league team back home and she has to hear their boring, repetitious war stories over and over and she’s sick of it. Either way, you won’t score any goals with her.

Speaking of home,  4) DO NOT assume your wait person is MEXICAN because you hear him/her speaking Spanish. This is going to blow some minds, I know, but Spanish IS SPOKEN outside of Mexico, Texas, and Berea.  For example, out in the Pacific Ocean, there’s a big group of islands called “The Philippines.” Their native language is Tagalog but guess what? Many, many of them ALSO SPEAK SPANISH! Ever heard of Europe? Well there’s a country in Europe called “Spain”, and THEY speak Spanish too!!You know that big pizza-slice-shaped “continent thing” below the United States on a map? That’s called SOUTH AMERICA and the entire continent — except Brazil — speaks some form or dialect of SPANISH! Brazilians speak Portuguese, but I’m willing to bet the farm you can’t tell the difference.  Anyway, your wait staff could be Colombian, Honduran, Chilean, Cuban, or South Floridian and NOT necessarily MEXICAN!

Which one of this bunch is Hispanic? Um, try ALL of them.

Furthermore on the subject of ASSUMPTIONS, 5) DO NOT assume your light complected, blue-eyed waitress is ANGLO. She may look like a true Southern belle straight out of a Junior League Cotillion yet not speak one word of English. That’s because once the South ran out of food and had to stop fighting The War of Northern Aggression, a good many BLONDE, BLUE-EYED Southern plantation owners packed up and sailed to that big pizza-slice shaped continent called what? That’s right, South America! Some of them carved out plantations where sugar and rubber replaced cotton and, unfortunately, they bought themselves new slaves because many South American countries, especially Brazil, didn’t end slavery until the 1880s. All those Confederate expatriates intermarried with the locals and over time their offspring forgot English, but kept the hair and eyes.

6) DO NOT assume every employee in the restaurant is an illegal alien. I don’t care what anyone says, Rush is NOT right, Hannity needs to shut up or be shot, and Glenn Beck needs Kleenex, some Valium, and a tour of duty in Afghanistan or Iraq so he’ll have something to CRY ABOUT. Not every Hispanic you see is here in the country illegally. Maybe they are but even if they are, you don’t have the right to look down on them and you DAMN SURE don’t have the right to give them a $1 tip after they’ve spent all evening running back and forth to keep your fat butt full of tea and salsa. They — like ALL OTHER WAITSTAFF IN THE WORLD — are HUMAN and make $2.50 per hour without tips so get off the hip and put 15% at least on that ticket and if you can’t afford to tip your hard-working waiter or waitress, EAT A PBJ AT HOME!

I bet he won't send the pollo fundido back NEXT time!

Finally, and to me most importantly, 7) These people prepare your food and you never want to piss off someone who has access to your food out of your sight. Some of these men and women have Aztec warriors’ blood running through their veins. Know what the Aztecs did to people who pissed them off? They drug them up about a gazillion narrow little steps to the top of a humongous pyramid, threw them down on a flat rock, then CUT OUT THEIR HEART AND BIT A CHUNK OFF OF IT BEFORE THEIR DYING EYES. Hispanics of all ages and occupations are very often an extremely passionate people and if you piss an extremely passionate person off, your ranchero sauce might be diluted with something you DON’T want, like Habanero pepper juice. Oh, yeah, and when you take a big bite and start gagging and eye-watering and wanting to scream at them, they’ll stand there sweetly and demurely and say, with great sorrow, “perdone, no speak anglais, senor!”

Don’t mess with the Aztecs!

Love y’all and keep those feet clean!

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