A sad decline
I’m in Sacramento this weekend, because the Chris’ Birthday Regional, which was in Santa Rosa when I started playing, moved to Palo Alto, then Santa Clara, and this year is in Sacramento. Next year, maybe Fresno, maybe Oakland. The Doubletree here is like an old girlfriend you can always call on when you can’t get a date anywhere else.
Dinner tonight was at El Torito, which is just a short walk from the hotel. We got there super-early, of course, and were seated immediately because there was nobody else there. People in Sacramento don’t eat dinner at 5 pm, either.
I’ve eaten here quite a few times over the 40 or more tournaments we’ve had in Sacto, and always thought it was pretty decent for a cheap chain eatery. I don’t think that anymore.
As usual, I looked at everything on the menu then ordered the fajitas. I asked for the fruit salad, and go heavy on the sweet corn pudding, the best thing about El Torito.
My iced tea arrived, and the first thing I noticed is that the orange slice they used to top the drink with is gone. There is no sugar/sweetener on the table, so I asked for some.
They promise that the fajitas arrive sizzling or they are free, and sizzling they indeed were. Unfortunately, the tortillas did not arrive for quite some time, and there was no sizzling happening when it finally became possible to enjoy the meal.
In years past, the plate of accompaniments included a good portion of guacamole, some sour cream, some salsa fresca, your rice and your beans. Today, there is no sour cream, no salsa fresca and damn little guacamole. The fruit salad I chose instead of beans was dreadful.
The good part was the two extra bowls of sweet corn pudding the waiter brought.
The fajitas themselves weren’t very good. The tortillas were thin, packaged junk, not the rich, thick, fresh, housemade type you would hope for. The meat was dry, the rice was tasteless. In an orgy of cost cutting, El Torito has downsized portions, eliminated niceties and decreased quality.
My sweetener finally arrived–after the third time I asked. Fortunately, Linda Gross was with us and she had some in her purse.
Linda G. had an enchilada, and commented that it needed some sauce, since it had essentially none.
The bill came, and my estimation of the waiter went down when I noticed that the extra corn he brought us cost $2.50 a bowl.That isn’t an unreasonable price for the best part of the meal, I was just surprised.
So what was once a pretty good place to get a plate of semi-real Mexican food is now serving the low-cost alternative, with mediocre service to match the food. It makes me sad, and I can’t say I understand it–no business ever succeeded by lowering standards, the winners always reach for the highest quality they can provide.