I had occasion to head in a northeasterly direction Friday, up to an appointment in Ormond Beach. I decided to wring as much benefit out of the 120-some mile round trip as possible by checking out a favorite restaurant of my work Overlord and his dear friend/former neighbor (and masterful brunch-maker) Sharan, then making a quick visit to the beach with whatever time remained before I was due to head back to Orlando.

Los Amigos is a cute little strip mall-situated restaurant serving both Mexican food (tacos, burritos, fajitas, enchiladas) and Cuban (ropa viejo, chicharrones de pollo, pork in various guises). While it was too pleasant and spacious to call it a hole in the wall, the food, I was told, was quite evocative of those holey hidden-gem places whose kitchens turn out surprisingly kick-ass food.

I’d just missed the end of the lunch rush and there was only one table seated when I arrived. I was immediately greeted by a friendly little girl of apparent high-school age who invited me to choose whatever seat I liked while she trailed me with the menu, returning shortly thereafter with a basket of house-fried tortilla chips and yummy fresh (though not at all hot, but one must appeal to the masses) salsa.

They had a set of extremely reasonably priced lunch specials, mostly in the $6 to $8 range, over which I debated long and hard to try to select an appealing item that also offered the ideal constellation of condiments (alas, it’s often SO hard to find a single dish that comes with guacamole and sour cream and cheese… all my fat-laden gringo favorites!)

Bill had assured me everything they made was good, but favored their chimichangas for himself; the wee waitress, when I inquired, said she ate the burrito every day on her break and loved it. Contemplating my imminent plans to stroll around the oceanside half-nekkid, I decided to forgo the fried chimi and ordered the beef burrito. The food arrived in short order – six minutes or so – which was good because I was ravenous.

The burrito was clearly going to be a knife and fork operation, covered as it was in oh-so-melty cheese and ranchero sauce. Generous helpings of yellow rice and refried beans came alongside, in addition to a small container of sour cream and a touch of cool lettuce and tomato.

Wuff – this thing was YUMMY! The chunks of beef were flavorful and beautifully tender: totally free of any of those mysterious chewy bits you end up resigning yourself to either (1) queasily swallowing or (2) sneakily extracting from your mouth when you hope no one’s looking. It’s something I appreciate hugely, since I don’t eat a whole lot of meat and am easily skeebed out by gristle or, worse, veins [I’m looking at you, chicken legs – shudder].

Some sort of saucy concoction graced the burrito interior and beef chunks, and the whole shebang was covered on top by both the ranchero and the remainder of my fresh salsa, which I’d taken the liberty of dumping over it. I ended up essentially frosting the burrito in layers of refried beans, rice, chopped lettuce, and the sour cream, and cutting myself little bite-size layers of this gooey and decadent burrito-cake (getting seriously hungry again just typing this).

My original waitress went on her break (I’d heard her ordering her daily burrito and laboriously trying to explain to the apparently not-entirely-English-speaking staff she’d marked it as ‘to go’ because it was just for her and didn’t need to be fancied up a lot) but service continued seamlessly nonetheless: even though the rest of the staff was doing their side work, another server came up to check on me at an appropriate interval after food delivery, and I was later promptly provided my check when I requested it, and wished a friendly goodbye and thanked for coming by a third staff member on my way out. True, I was the only person there by this time, but often that can in fact be the worst time to get attentive service while everyone is off marrying ketchup bottles, gossiping, and rolling silverware into dinner napkins, but that was far from the case here. Yummy, friendly, and reasonable, and definitely worth a return visit!

Full of burrito, I wedged myself into my car and headed out over the intracoastal waterway to the beach, which I visit on a shamefully rare basis considering I live in Florida, for heaven’s sake. This is one of our famous ‘drive-on’ beaches, but it was high tide with a pretty strong current and the beach was temporarily barred to cars. I guiltily parked in the TGIFriday’s parking lot which is plastered everywhere with dire warnings of towing for would-be beach goers: “Restaurant Patrons ONLY!” I wouldn’t be staying long enough for it to matter (I hoped).

I walked north, up to the nature preserve part, where cars are perpetually prohibited. The sun was dodging in and out of the clouds, the people were light on the ground, pelicans flying tight formations overhead, and little sandpipers dodging in and out of the surf edge – a lovely freakin’ day.

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