SCRANTON, PA—Bob and Debra Mangurten expressed confusion and frustration Monday, when the restaurant Don Quixote turned out to be Spanish, not Mexican.
"Where are the tacos?" Bob, a 33-year-old Scranton telephone repairman, asked waiter Pedro Cruz while scanning the menu. "What kind of Mexican place doesn't have tacos?" Cruz politely explained to him that tacos were not on the menu because tacos are not indigenous to Spanish cuisine.
"Turns out, the place was Spanish, which, apparently, is different," Debra later recalled. "How the heck were we supposed to know that?"
After ordering two Mountain Dews and requesting more time to look over the menu, the couple debated whether to stay or just pay for the drinks and find a Mexican restaurant.
"I had my heart set on tacos," Bob said. "But we were too hungry to get back in the car and drive all the way across town to Chi-Chi's, so we decided to stay put and make the best of things. Besides, Deb and I had agreed to try new things together, so I guess that counts."
Upon returning with the Mangurtens' soft drinks, Cruz suggested they start off with some tapas, which he described to the bewildered pair as "Spanish-style appetizers."
"Why don't they just have chips and salsa for the appetizer?" Bob asked. "Instead, they have stuff like prosciutto and melon, and steamed mussels. That sounds like something you wouldn't eat on a dare."
"I'm scared I'm going to order the wrong thing, and these prices don't exactly encourage experimentation," Debra said. "The way the restaurant looks on the outside, you'd never know it was the kind of place where you'd feel nervous ordering."
After studying the menu for nearly 25 minutes, Bob ordered sea bass and Debra ordered Paella Valenciana, chosen because she recalled hearing the term paella on an episode of Seinfeld. Fifteen minutes later, her entree, a mixture of seafood, chicken, sausage, rice, saffron, and assorted vegetables and spices, was brought out and served tableside directly from a sizzling pan.
Reaction was lukewarm.
"It was fine, I suppose," Debra said. "It didn't hit the spot like some quesadillas would have, but we could have done worse."
"I guess it doesn't matter at this point," Debra continued. "They got our money either way."
Though the words "authentic Spanish cuisine" are printed on Don Quixote's door, Bob said the restaurant should make more of an effort to make its identity clear to patrons.
"When you walk into a place called Don Quixote and see all the crazy, colorful stuff on the wall, you figure it's a place to get normal Mexican food," he said. "Then, you open up the menu and you're like, what's with all this seafood? They should call it 'Don Quixote's Not-Mexican Restaurant,' so people will know exactly what they're getting. Or not getting."
Debra, who said she had been in the mood for a beef enchilada with molé sauce, agreed.
"I think it's just plain sneaky giving the place a Mexican name and making it look like a Mexican place. The least they could do is have a few things like chimichangas and burritos on the menu, for all the people who walk in here by accident. You shouldn't have to fool people to get them to eat at your restaurant. That's just bad business."
Ed Brulley, a longtime friend of the Mangurtens, said this is not the first time the pair has been duped by a restaurant.
"I took them to a great Szechuan place, and they were upset about it not having sweet-and-sour chicken or chow mein," Brulley said. "I told them that's Cantonese style, and that this was authentic Szechuan. They looked at me like I was from China. I don't think they realize different parts of a country have different styles of dishes. They certainly don't realize that countries that speak the same language don't always have the same food."
Added Brulley: "God help them if they ever accidentally stumble into a Cuban joint."