As I wrote in this recent article here, I left my apartment recently at about 11 PM to get some food in Mexico City.
At that hour, the food options were not very plentiful due to the late hour obviously.
The main options being a torta, French fries, tamales, gringas or tacos.
Well, I had tacos recently so I didn’t feel like eating tacos then.
I don’t like tamales very much.
French fries? They could but not alone obviously.
And, personally, I didn’t really feel like eating French fries anyhow.
So a torta it was!
And, for those who don’t know, a torta is basically a sandwich.
Anyhow, I walk up to this torta place on the street that is some common brand torta place you can find around Mexico City.
If I remember right, I think they call themselves “Tortas de Alex?”
I’m pretty sure “Alex” is in the name.
So something like that.
Anyhow, I’ve seen them close to Garibaldi Plaza and also in Roma Norte at the very least.
Now by Copilco Metro!
So they are seemingly everywhere.
Anyhow, this place (and a few others in the area) are usually open most nights until 2 AM except Sunday.
At these hours, it doesn’t make as much sense to me why they choose to stay open until 2 AM on non-weekend nights.
On a Friday or Saturday? Makes sense.
But unless we’re in El Centro or some other place with a lot more foot traffic even at late hours, it doesn’t make much sense to me.
By the time 12 AM has passed, most of the foot traffic outside of weekend nights is done because the metro has closed by that point.
So, like the French fries guy does in the area, it makes more sense to close at 12 AM in my opinion.
You’ll get some people passing by at later hours like 1 or 2 AM…
Someone like me who maybe just feels hungry at that hour and has no problem leaving the house that late.
Though not every Mexican is brave enough to do that because of obvious risks and all.
Either way, their later hours don’t make sense to me but I appreciate them.
Still, I walk up to the “Tortas de Alex” and check out the menu.
The day before this, I went up to the same place and tried a “Hawiana” torta.
Which is basically a sandwich of ham, cheese and pineapple.
Unfortunately, the young guy didn’t have any ham left.
So I asked for a “Copilco” torta that has chorizo.
They don’t have any chorizo left either!
Then the guy checks what he does have and says that he only has “milanesa y nada mas!”
Alright, that’s fine.
So I ordered a “Argentina” torta that happens to have milanesa.
And that was it.
I paid him the 42 pesos or roughly 2 bucks for it…
And walked back to my apartment with the torta in hand.
Once inside, I enjoyed my meal and the rest is history.
Now, truth be told, it’s not much of a story, is it?
But it does touch a slight detail on life down here that you’ll eventually notice…
A detail that, in some regards, I sometimes feel other gringos overemphasize or make out to be some bigger issue that happens more commonly than it really does…
But, to be fair, it is a slight issue that does happen a little more frequently down here than in the US.
What’s the issue?
“WE’RE. OUT. OF. EVERYTHING!”
Now, to be fair, American restaurants are not perfect either for always having everything on the menu like you can see int his dramatic video of Chef Ramsey here.
But, equally in the spirit of being fair, his show focused on visiting restaurants that had a reputation for being shitty.
Regardless, that’s the issue – places seemingly running out of so many things on the menu during open hours.
In Latin America, you might notice this happening a little more often than back home.
Back in Iowa or Ohio, I never noticed this happening while as a customer.
Not once can I remember ever going to a restaurant and being told that anything on the menu was unavailable.
Now, to be fair, I have served in restaurants where this has happened.
In fact, when I was living in the US, most of my jobs were in food service.
Specifically Subway, Jimmy Johns and some pizza buffet place for college students.
I did other work also outside of food service but I have done food service.
For both Subway and Jimmy Johns, I never remember them running out of food for anything on the menu ever.
Unless it happened to be a very specific type of bread that we are out of right near closing hours.
For the pizza buffet place for college students?
It was a tiny bit more common to run out of something on the buffet that wasn’t pizza very near closing hours.
Given we served college students, we also had to be extra careful on the portion sizes because, in my experience, college students tend to be more greedy than others when it comes to how much they want on the plate
But, either way, despite serving hundreds of people during a small shift, we wouldn’t run out of anything until usually close to closing hours.
And, even then, I don’t remember it being common that anything ever was run out.
In contrast, even if you visit a place several hours or more before closing hours, it’s not uncommon to find whatever food to be gone from the menu.
And not just that…
But, similar to the torta guy, just literally having 90% of the menu gone even though he had another 3 hours of shift left.
He literally said that he didn’t have anything left except milanesa.
So that literally was 90% of his menu gone with 3 hours left to serve food.
Makes me wonder also if some of the milanesa torta options were not available if he happened to not have certain other ingredients needed…
Regardless, I’ve heard stories from other gringos also when it comes to this topic.
For example, a guy I know named Blayde told me before about a time he went to a restaurant in Condesa of Mexico City fairly recently…
He showed up during normal hours at around afternoon…
And, keep in mind, Condesa is a more popular neighborhood of Mexico City with plenty of tourists.
Anyway, he sits down at a restaurant with a girl he is dating.
And he found himself in a situation where he asked, and he counted afterwards, for 7 different food items off the menu before they had something.
The first 6 items were simply things they didn’t have!
Thankfully, they did have empanadas available as an appetizer.
It’s good we got some tasty empanadas!
Anyway, the food was good from what he told me and that was that.
But there is a question I have asked myself once in a blue moon when something like this happens where they seemingly don’t have anything you want on the menu….
Gringo Pricing at Work?
There have been times where I’ve asked myself if the restaurant is purposefully telling me that they don’t have something on the menu because they secretly want me to order the more expensive item!
Truthfully, that’s most likely just paranoid bullshit.
After all, the waiter is just a waiter.
In theory, he shouldn’t be getting any extra dough for if I order something more expensive or not, no?
Granted, I did have one experience where it became clear to me that I was being fucked with by the worker.
As you can read in this article I wrote here, it’s come to my attention that Little Caesars in Mexico does lie about “not having that on the menu.”
To summarize the article, I’ve found it common enough, especially at the Little Caesars in front of Metro Insurgentes, to have the worker tell me that they “don’t have the pepperoni pizza for 79 pesos.”
Now 79 pesos is roughly 4 bucks.
To which they then tell me that “it’ll take a LOOOOOONG time for us to cook the pepperoni! 30 minutes…but we have other options, amigo!!!!”
And then I respond “OK, I’ll wait.”
Then they go “HUH HUH HUH HUH HUH?!?!?”
“Puedo esperar” I respond.
Then the worker looks at me, looks the machine and goes “OK, 79 pesos.”
I pay the 79 pesos…
Then, literally in the second right after I pay, he turns around and pulls out a pepperoni pizza.
Makes no fucking sense.
A second ago, I was told that he has no pepperoni pizza and I’ll have to wait 30 minutes.
Then 30 minutes becomes literally 1 second as a pepperoni pizza magically appears.
My theory is that they advertise the very low price of 79 pesos to get customers into the door…
Because, generally speaking, that is a dope ass price and the pizza isn’t bad at all.
Then, when you walk in, given the low profit margins on such a cheap pizza, they tell you that they don’t have it and give you the selling pitch for why these “more expensive pizzas” are good enough.
And there’s always a selling pitch for the “full meat pizza” or whatever else along those lines.
Still, that’s my theory was to what is going on when they claim that there is no pepperoni pizza but one magically appears.
And, on top of my head, there’s another example I can think of in which I am told “WE’RE. OUT. OF. EVERYTHING!!!”
The Full Meat Bolivian Pizza
Speaking of pizza, there was another case of this that I remember back when I was visiting a Bolivian city called Potosi.
More on my experience in Potosi in this article I wrote here.
Anyhow, the basic story was that I got stuck in the city because there was a massive blockade by protesters.
On one night, I decided to leave my hotel room and check out this small pizza place that I saw in the city previously.
Once inside, I look at the menu posted on the wall behind the cash register to decide what I want.
And picked, if I remember right, some pizza that was Hawiana.
Ham and pineapple basically.
I do remember asking for that at least once but not sure if that was the first pizza I requested given that it’s been some years…
To which, unfortunately, they didn’t have any pineapple.
“What about this other pizza?”
They said no that one also.
“This other one?”
And that other one, if I remember right, was some combination of multiple cheeses?
No way, Jose.
So, finally, I get the order right – a full meat pizza.
Now, similar to Little Caesars, were they rejecting everything to get me to order the more expensive pizza?
I doubt it.
Honestly, I think, in most of these cases where the restaurant doesn’t have half the menu, that isn’t happening.
Either way, the full meat pizza was good.
And that was it.
But there is another example I can think of in Colombia this time….
“Only Chicken & Rice!”
Finally, there was a time in which I was living in a Colombian city called Barranquilla.
During this time, I was dating a Colombian chick named Marcela who was from the same city.
We left Barranquilla to take some bus that dropped us off at some spot that was an entrance to some private beach club area.
It wasn’t fancy but it had some facilities and her dad was the one with membership to the place.
Anyway, we show up a little early as there was basically nobody there.
In my mind, I really wanted to fuck Marcela at the beach.
Get that whole “sex on the beach” thing crossed off my list of sex stuff to do.
Which, in the moment, turned out to be difficult to do multiple times over.
We did, at first, find some wooden structure that you can walk up on and of which gives you a little view from a little bit above ground of the beach around you.
And, though she was worried someone would see us, we finally got to “fuck on the beach.”
Though I guess it doesn’t count because it was technically on a wooden thing and not the actual sand?
Well, thankfully, we got to fuck on the sand also – though the second time took forever because, at a later hour, some jackass was doing maintenance work on the beach within sight of us.
Either way, is sex on the beach good?
Well, it somehow got sand in my dick and the sex really wasn’t as enjoyable in the moment as sex anywhere else, I found.
It was fine though.
Regardless, that’s a bit off topic, isn’t it?
Between us fucking twice, we managed to find some small restaurant place along somewhere on the beach.
It was basically, from my memory, a wooden shack place that looked very rustic.
And, inside, there was a little kitchen area in the back and some tables scattered about.
In this case, through asking for “this and that” items, we found that they literally had nothing on the menu except chicken and rice.
That was it.
Not even drinks except some milk in a bag or some weird ass shit.
I forgot what it was but it was some liquid in a bag – I think milk?
It’s been some years so I don’t remember perfectly what it was.
Anyhow, all the other drinks on the menu were unavailable also.
So, with a shit ton of flies all around us, we ate the food.
Had to switch tables actually because the flies were very annoying on one side of the shack.
Ate the food.
That was it.
Hopefully we didn’t take the last of their chicken and rice, you know?
All around, I do think that this issue is a little bit overblown by some gringos.
Not commonly but there is the occasional gringo that phrases this issue like it happens ALL THE TIME!
When, in reality, it doesn’t.
In my 6 years so far living in Latin America, I might be able to count with just two hands the amount of times this has happened to me.
But I might need three hands…
Something like that.
It doesn’t happen an insane amount of times but it’s not entirely a rare occurrence either.
And, in my experience, it definitely happens more times than back home….
While in more extreme ways (like a larger chunk of the menu gone than just a type of bread at Subway).
Having said all that, it doesn’t happen to most meals when I’m out and about and I do eat out often.
On top of that, it’s always been my opinion that this happens a little more frequently in areas that, as you can guess, are lesser developed.
Not to say that it can’t happen in a place like Condesa of Mexico City like brought up before….
But, if someone were to do a study on this, it wouldn’t surprise me if it happens more in Santa Marta of Colombia than Condesa of Mexico City.
The nicer a place is, the more professional the service is.
So, with that said, your mileage will vary as to how commonly this happens to you depending on where in Latin America you are at in my opinion.
And that’s all.
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