by Terrance Mc Arthur
‘Tis November, and the Great Food Search’s heart (and stomach) turns to Pumpkin Smash Smoothies, but the local Jamba Juice branches are out of them, so I’m out of luck. Where to go? Well, there was one place in Sanger, and I went there…and I went there…and WOW!
Long ago, it was a Taco Bell, and it’s been a burger joint, and probably more things, but now it’s Arsenio’s, at 1005 Academy Avenue in Sanger, and there is Mexican food I’ve never seen from a fast food joint!
I admit, whenever I hear the name of the place, I think of a tall, thin, talk-show host with weird-looking fingers. However, there are twenty branches in the Arsenio’s chain that has been growing since 2003. Most of the branches are in the Central Valley, and the drive-up service in Sanger was prompt and cheerful.
My first taste in our dive into their menu: Fish Tacos. Flaky, with a citrusy tang to it, these double-tortilla-ed, surprising taste treats set the tone for much of our munching. Next, a chimichanga, the deep-fried member of the burrito family, presented itself with a shredded-beef filling filled out with rice and onions. Over here—shredded lettuce. Over there—a colorful salsa. All over the place—guacamole that was as fluorescently-bright as a black-light poster from the 60s. The heat, the slowly-creeping time, wakes up the mouth but doesn’t hit hard. The lemonade may come out of a bank of dispensers, but it is nicely blended.
Our first visit went well, so I drove back for another load the next evening. An al pastor quesadilla mixed porkish goodness with the cheese, and the blanket of guacamole nestled the tortilla on a pillow of sour cream. The flavors sparkled, the tortilla held up, and Guy Fieri would say it was Flavortown. I’ve had bean burritos, chicken burritos, but…Shrimp burritos? Never had them before. My, oh my! Jumbo shrimp starred in this show, and the size of that puppy guaranteed leftovers for the rest of the weekend.
You don’t think of taquitos as a meal, but give a trio of them a blanket of guacamole and a comforter of cheese, and that’s all you need. To wrap up everything, we ordered a churro. This was not the typical rod of dough with sprinkled sugar; this one carried a load of caramel, and it packed a punch!
Of course, we’re dealing with pandemic, and the interior was clean, clean, clean, if you go inside, with clearly-marked social distancing, and the staff is patient and kind.
So, that’s Arsenio’s Mexican Food in November. No turkey. No pumpkin. Instead, some of the best Mexican cooking I’ve ever had. Good stuff.