A blog about movies and the Sturbridge area, including The Brookfields, Brimfield, Charlton, Holland, Wales, and Spencer as well as adjacent towns.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Playa del Carmen, RIP-Mexican dies in Sturbridge


Playa del Carmen, RIP

De gustibus non disputandum est is a Latin phrase that means there is no disputing taste. My alternative translation used when discussing what I disagree with is there is no accounting for taste.

I had heard that Playa del Carmen had closed and thought that they just couldn't make a go of it in the current business environment. After all, Romauldo's is gone and 420 Main as well. On Thinking out loud in Sturbridge, there is a post about the demise of Playa del Carmen. It appears there is a tenant-landlord disagreement. One hopes that it is a resolvable misunderstanding, but that usually is not the case in my experience.

I was there at the birth of PdC. Bob Datz arranged a press luncheon. The owners were hospitable. The food was good enough for the shakedown cruise. I did not find it exciting, but the staff was just getting going and one had no reason to quibble as they did more right than wrong.

So after some time, I went back with my family. It was a disappointment. Be assured, no one wants to see Mexican food succeed in our region more than moi. Unfortunately, the verdict of the fam was bland. Also, the service was poor that night. I can overlook that as not all systems run smoothly all the time. I just never went back because of the food.

After that, when the subject of PdC came up, the sentiment was near unanimous, bland. One person called it the Rom's of Mexican food. I liked Rom's, as did a lot of people. We were under no illusions that we were in La Toscania, but value for the money, it was okay. PdC was not going to get that pass. Everyone always expects more of the new guy in town. More so as everyone had been waiting so long for Mexican to arrive.

Now, I did hear from some locals who liked Playa, so it was not without its fans. Nevertheless, I just finished processing the habaneros I grew, so you know what I'm voting for.

Mexican food and I go back a long time. In the early 70s, enjoying an all expenses paid government vacation down south, I discovered the cuisine at the Cafe Puerto Rico. I know what you're thinking, but it served only Mexican food made by a Mexican American family. I never thought to ask about the origin of the name.

Upon separation from the service and returning to Nova Anglia, I sought out Mexican food in Massachusetts. Chain Mexican may be abundant in urban areas now, but there was almost nothing back then. There was a joint in the Brighton area of Boston. Actually, it was a kind of Tale of Two Joints. On one side was Concannon & Sennet's, a working class Irish bar. Not that it had a bad rep, but I'd heard that the bars on the windows were not to stop break-ins. Rather, they were to prevent patrons being thrown out the window due to the occasional altercation. El Phoenix Room, Boston’s only Mexican Restaurant at the time, occupied the other side.

The style of the food was probably not the Mexican you find south of the Rio Grande. It would be called Tex Mex. Still, it was pretty good. In the new millennium, Concannon & Sennet's and El Phoenix have given way to yuppification and the location is now Harry's Upscale Whatever.

Despite the drought of Mexican here, Southbridge had The Flatiron Cafe, located, oddly enough, in the Flatiron Building. It was a great place, a cut above my beloved Brighton dive. Alas, even in the relatively halcyon late 80s, early 90s, it could not make a go of it. The hinterlands were not ready.

The original Playa del Carmen is still open in Holden. With a successful operation up there, they had every right to think the formula would work here. Hey, Holden is a suburb. We here in the exurbs are a little more discerning than our more domesticated brethren.

It was with no little pleasure that I heard that Playa del Carmen would be taking up the space that was Rom's. True, in the end the fare did not excite me. That does not mean it gladdened my heart to see it close. I wish no one who will take a risk and open a restaurant to fail. I do want something with a bit more bite. So Carmen, if you resolve your landlord problemos and make it back, I have only one suggestion, turn up the heat.

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