Monday, February 16, 2009


6601 Burnet Rd
Austin, TX 78757
(512) 454-0747

Oh first dates. The anticipation, the nerves, the awkwardness. Will he like me or won’t he, what if I wear the wrong clothes, or say something offensive! Oh god! The pressure! We’ve all felt it at one time or another. Some people thrive under the pressure, and others run screaming the other way. Being the serial dater that I am, I happen to thrive in them (or at least I think I do). I love meeting new people and I love the thrill of anticipation at the prospect that maybe this will be perfect. Maybe this will be the guy that makes my toes curl, my mind race, and my lips smile. Like a kid at Christmas opening a Red Rider BB gun, I love opening the door on a first date. Now, don’t get me wrong, I much prefer snuggling on the couch with a special someone enjoying a nice bottle of wine and a good conversation, but in the absence of that, why not enjoy the thrill of the hunt?

So after Christmas, I was feeling cookie bloated and a little hazy from all the spiked nog, but I vowed break away from the Post-Christmas blah’s and go on a few good dates. I returned to my usual haunts, singles websites, to find someone worth spending an evening with. Now, online dating is tricky for some, but once you get in the habit of it, it’s really a terrific way to meet people. I mean the world, or more specifically Austin, is teeming with single people you’d never meet if it weren’t for a service or website that introduced you. Dating becomes less about how hot you look in a bar and more about how cool of a person you are - you focus more on the whole package. And you can be more selective on which package you pick.. so to speak. You can choose to only look at profiles for people taller than 6’, or people who like kayaking, or people who like people who kayak.

Since we’re on the subject of online dating, I feel the need to wax poetic for a minute and impart a little hard earned wisdom I have on the subject. Some people might consider a good profile to be the most important asset in online dating, but they’d be wrong. Being upfront and outgoing about who you contact is actually more important. Most people approach online dating like they go approach traditional dating; if I wait for Mr Perfect, eventually he’ll see my inner beauty and seek me out. Wrong! You have to actively seek out the people you are attracted to, and hope one of them will be interested in you too. Everyone loves to think a perfect stranger finds them funny, attractive, or interesting and the more people you contact personally, the more likely you are to have a date every Friday (and Saturday) night. Having a profile that’s interesting, witty, and informative, with alluring and cute pictures of yourself (on a perfect hair day of course) is the hook that snares them, but only after they know to look at you.

It’s really a numbers game when it comes down to it. For every long term boyfriend I’ve had who was awesome and perfect for me, I’ve gone out with at least 3 guys who were almost awesome.. but not perfect. And for every guy who was awesome but not perfect, I’ve gone out with 4 who were just not awesome at all. And for every guy I’ve gone out with, I’ve sent out at least 7 queries to possible bachelors that fizzled for whatever reason. So let’s be little mathematicians and calculate those numbers. For every long term boyfriend, that’s 12 guys who don’t work out, and 84 queries to duds on dating sites. Yeesh, that’s kind of amazing now that I’ve calculated it. But never the less, its worth talking to 1000 duds and kissing 40 frogs to find a decent prince charming.

This most recent round of frog kissing has connected me with several eligible bachelors, but the one that’s worked out the best so far was one who contacted me. Surprisingly, that does happen from time to time. A lot of the times, guys who contact me are shockingly old, white trash, or just plain boring. There’s nothing worse than reading a profile where the guy says “I’m just an average guy.” BORING! I want a guy who has interesting hobbies, a funny style of writing, quirky pictures, not some guy who sits on his couch in sweats every night watching Sports Center.

The current front runner, we’ll call him Bachelor #7, contacted me a month or so ago. His profile was only ok (sorry if you read this but its true). He was cute, kind of geeky, he likes to cook and travel and he had a rather obscure taste in music, so I decided to give him a chance. We e-mailed back and forth and IMed a few times, and it became clear he was a pretty witty and interesting guy. So, after learning the sufficient amount of information to reduce the probability of his being an ax murderer, I agreed to meet him for lunch.

Which brings me to another tip for you folks who are clueless about online dating. When you online date, you usually don’t go on an actual “date” the first time you meet someone. You have a “meet-up” first; a time constrained, short, and casual encounter usually over coffee, drinks, or a quick low key meal. Bachelor #7 is quite the Latin food enthusiast and being somewhat undereducated in Latin cuisine, I agreed to have lunch at a restaurant he recommended, Elsi’s. And wow was I glad I did. Not only was the food amazing, but my date was too. Immediately upon meeting him, I felt that familiar crackle of electricity you get when you meet someone you have “chemistry” with. Be it pheromones, genetics, whatever, there are just some people you have it with and most people you don’t.

But onto Elsi’s, I know that’s what you really want to know about. It’s a Salvadoran style Latin restaurant in one of the redone strip malls on Burnet. I’ve driven past it a million times but never thought to stop because, really, the whole place is rather unassuming - there’s nothing that initially draws you in. The walls are painted brightly, there are a few pictures on the wall, and on a whole, it’s a rather average looking place. But once you eat the food, you’ll quickly understand why the place is hopping.

I ordered an appetizer of Yucca Frita, and a main dish my date recommended, the Papusas. Now, I have to admit, I’m not all that familiar with Central American cuisine. I wouldn’t call myself an expert, but I do know quality food, and Elsi’s delivered quality food. The Yucca was not even the least bit mealy, and was fresh with a starchy yet creamy texture, and was fried to golden perfection. Y’all have probably heard me discuss the merits of fried food, and how easy it is to mess up a good deep fry. The oil can be old, too hot, too cold, etc. But this Yucca was fried perfectly. The Papusas were equally amazing. Honestly, I’d never had a papusa before, but after Elsi’s I’m thoroughly hooked. What’s there not to like about a savory pancake filled with tender pulled pork?? Nothing - I’d like seconds please! My date ordered the Tacos Ahogados (pronounced ou-ga-dos not a-hoe-ga-dos, just FYI, gringo mistake) and while it was fresh and cooked well, I didn’t care for it as much; mostly because it was covered in a thick avocado cilantro sauce. As I’ve mentioned before I have an aversion to cilantro, so I’ll pass this one up next time, but it really was prepared well.

After finishing up our meal, my date and I parted ways, and agreed to meet up again soon. And we’ve been out several times since. Though he seems promising, I don’t know yet if he’ll last. But even if we don’t work out, he’s already left me a lasting present that I can enjoy for many years to come, Yucca Frita at Elsi’s.

Bottom Line: Fresh, quality Salvadoran cuisine

Mariah – 8.5