Sunday, October 18, 2009

"Well do ya, punk?"

Yes! I do feel lucky! My friend Cat Bastet--not her real name--gave me a hot tip this week: Senor Lucky’s in Davison. Yup, back to back Davison excursions, but this time, I feel lucky. And for good reason. Senor Lucky’s has a Keno machine!

If you’ve never played keno or if you've never been to a keno lounge, you have no idea what you’re missing. Servers bring you drinks, you scratch some numbers, pay some money, and then you watch for your numbers on a big flashy screen. It’s the bourgeois version of a bingo hall.

The problem with Keno, though, is that it’s a stepping stone to the harder stuff. When I lived in Reno I didn’t know anyone, so I’d spend Friday nights in the keno lounge chatting it up with tourists and plopping down my numbers. After a while, the thrill wore off and I graduated to the roulette table. The conversation was better, and the drinks were still free, but I wasn’t winning much (Roulette has the worst odds of any game in the casino, a fact I did not know until it was too late). Then my dissertation director taught me how to play the grand daddy of all casino games, Craps. I won at first, but the more I understood the game, the more I lost my ass.

I didn’t even have to go to the casinos to feed my addiction. Gambling in Nevada is also legal in bars, party stores, supermarkets, even laundromats. I knew I hit rock bottom when I found myself going to the grocery store just to play my favorite slot machine.

I’ve since gotten most of my gambling addiction under control, so a few games of keno over a Mexican lunch seems harmless. Senor Lucky’s is actually a pretty nice place. The dining room is far bigger than it probably needs to be, but it’s well lit and lined with lots of windows. I’m a little surprised at how few people are here, considering last week’s massive crowd down the street at El Charrito.

Stephanie and I smile at each other when a server approaches our table within seconds, toting menus and a big basket of chips and salsa. The chips are still warm and the corn flour smell is heavenly. The chips are made fresh in-house and served gratis. SWEET! The house salsa is fresh and tasty as well, and a hot salsa is available upon request. The hot salsa is just OK, but I certainly appreciate that it’s an available option. Maybe our luck is beginning to change.
Even before I open my menu, I head straight for the bar and return to the table with a blank keno ticket. After agreeing to play no kicker, no jack, five numbers, $1 per game, and 10 games, we alternate picking numbers: 57. 50.75. 17. 12. OK. Now I can look at the menu.

The description of the chimichanga is almost too good to be true: A whopper 12 inch tortilla stuffed with ground beef and beans, deep fried, and topped with cheese. Served with beans and rice on the side. I pretend to show interest in one of the combination lunch specials, but Stephanie and I both know what I’m getting. And of course, she goes straight for the enchilada platter. This time, its ground beef.

We decide to roll the dice on the queso dip, and while we’re waiting, I notice that we didn’t win either of the first two keno games. Is our luck about to run out? Well, in terms of the cheese dip, yes. The server sets down a soufflé dish (is this a Davison thing?) filled to the rim with what looks like Cheese Wiz. I can tell by its glowing sheen that I’m going to be let down. The taste is part processed and part fresh. In one of my cooking stints, we used to add water and instant mashed potatoes to the pot of real potatoes so they would last longer and cost less to make. That’s what our queso dip tastes like. Yuk!

The entrees, however, are a very different story. Senor Lucky’s scores big in this department. Like most of the other Mexican restaurants in Flint, Lucky’s food is really a Midwesternized Tex-Mex, but that said, I love my food. The meat and beans are well suited to be served together, and both are worthy of being dunked in hot grease wrapped in their big 12 inch blanket of yumminess. The sour cream/shredded cheese/guacamole topping is nice, but I I’m a little disappointed that my monster chimi wasn’t slathered in a good peppery gravy. It’s the only flaw in an otherwise excellent dish.

Stephanie’s dish is quite acceptable as well. The enchilada shells are flavorful and not sogged down by the wetness of their innards. The meat is well seasoned and plays well with the melted cheese that oozes out the opened ends of the corn tortillas. They aren’t topped, though, with a tomato based enchilada sauce, but garnished, rather, with the peppery gravy sauce that I long for on my own dish. Either way, our food is very good.

Next to El Potrero, Senor Lucky's is about the best Mexican food we've had so far. Their chips are so good, in fact, that I'm putting them on the list of contenders for the coveted TTC Award of Excellence. How could I not? Even as the Cheese Wiz queso began to harden and form a leathery skin on top, my trusty chips broke through without falling apart. That in itself is reason enough to honor them.

My luck continues as I sidle up to the bar and turn in my keno ticket. Stephanie and I got so lost in conversation, I forgot to watch my numbers for the last eight games, so I have no idea whether or not I've won anything. As it turns out, I have. Two dollars. This really is my lucky day!

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