Today I had lunch with Kim and Naomi at the Mexican restaurant in front of the old Kroger. It’s the only eating establishment I know of that is referred to, not by its name, but by a nearby landmark that’s been gone for 10 years. In fact, I have to strain to try and even think of what it’s legitimately called.
El Amigo IV. (not quatro, as expected) That’s it. In English it means the fourth friend. I’m not sure where the first three friends are and who goes to the trouble of numbering their friends.
In Milledgeville, during college, we used to always drink margaritas at El Sombrero or “The Hat.” Words in Spanish sound so exotic until you discover their English translations. I mean who wants to eat at a place named “The Hat?” No one I know eats hats, even with salsa, rice and beans. Why didn’t they name it La Comida? That at least means “the food,” a more accurate restaurant moniker, in my opinion.
So, back to the place in front of the old Kroger. It’s not just the name that’s questionable, but some of their dish titles as well. For instance, I had “alambres” for lunch today.
ME: (picturing alambres to be the Spanish word for a succulent steak/chicken combo dish) What does alambres mean in English?
JULIO: (the waiter) It means “wire.”
ME: Wire? Like electric wiring?
JULIO: Exactamente. Wire you asking? HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA
ME: Good one. So I just ordered “wire,” for lunch. Is there wire in the dish? Is wire somehow used to make it?
JULIO: no ma’am.
ME: Then why’s it called wire?
JULIO: It just IS. Nobody’s ever asked me that before.
In addition to serving alambres, which I admit rhymes closely enough with tamales to make it sound appetizing…..El Amigo IV also has a dish called “Curtis’ Plate?” Just Curtis’ Plate.
ME: So, who is Curtis? Is he the owner? The manager? A famous patron?
JULIO: I don’t know. Come to think of it, I’ve never even thought about it.
ME: You have a menu item called Curtis’ plate and you have no idea who Curtis even IS?
JULIO: He doesn’t have to be a real person. It’s one of those things like “Greg’s Special.”
ME: Who’s Greg?
JULIO: Nobody. It’s just an example. Restaurants often have a dish named after someone.
ME: Well isn’t that someone usually a real person?
JULIO: Not necessarily.
So, did the owner go through a book of baby names and choose “Curtis” to name a dish after? The world may never know. Across town at Papi Locos or “Grandpa Crazy’s”, there’s a Sheriff’s Special. I once asked if it was only for county law enforcement and the waitress just shrugged.
Other “not quite right” menu items at The Friend IV include….
La Mojarra – translates as …The small knife. Yes, that’s the dish’s whole name. “I’d like to order the small knife, please…..to eat.”
Pollo Ahogado – means ….chicken stalemate. "Uhm, yeah. May I have the deadlock with a side of refried beans?"
Compuesto – means….build up. Perhaps this is the Mexican equivalent to the grill cleaner’s special.
And then there’s….
Quail – quail. No, not codorniz, the Spanish word for quail. Just…quail.
I was always baffled by the fact that the Spanish word “molestar” is a verb which means to molest (in the English sense, not a pleasant thing to think about). And it also means to bother. Boy, imagine getting those two confused. “MOMMMMMMMMM, Hugo’s molesting me!!!! Tell him to knock it off.” I think they could spring for one more verb so that bother can have its own literal translation.
What do you think? Maybe we should ask Curtis.