BARSTOW • It's been about two months since I began working here in Barstow at the Desert Dispatch, and one thing is clear — I'm not going to go hungry working in this city.
My co-worker Jose Quintero and I try to get around to all of the dining options in town during the week, and the quality of food around here has me looking forward to lunch hour every day.
My first week on the job, I told Jose that I wanted to try Plata's, a Mexican food restaurant that has four locations in Barstow. Jose informed me that he's very picky about Mexican food, as he grew up eating his mom's homemade cuisine, and take-out Mexican food just doesn't compare.
I convinced him that we should give it a try, however, because I still remembered a chicken quesadilla I had at Plata's nearly 15 years ago.
In 1999, some friends and I drove out from Apple Valley to what was then known as Lake Dolores, the abandoned water park off Interstate 15 between Barstow and Baker. Lake Dolores was closed on that day, so on the way back my old buddy Adam Davis suggested we stop in Barstow and try out a Mexican food place he really liked.
I ordered a chicken quesadilla that day, and it was the best quesadilla I've ever had. I liked it so much that I knew exactly what I was ordering at Plata's when I recently convinced Jose we should try it.
Nearly 15 years later, the Plata's chicken quesadilla is still the best I've ever enjoyed. It was so good that Jose vowed to try one the next time we went to Plata's, and as of this writing we've both put away at least four or five quesadillas apiece in the past few weeks.
"I grew up eating my mom's authentic Mexican food, so it hasn't been easy to find any restaurants that make food that reminds me of her cooking," Jose said. "Well, the recipes here aren't quite like my mom's, but the flavor is as authentic as it gets. I can't get enough of the chicken quesadilla. But my favorite Plata's item is the potato and cheese burrito. It is such a unique taste and it reminds me of various dishes my mom makes with Mexican-style mashed potatoes."
The quesadilla, just $4.99 by itself, is a huge portion, loaded with cheese and chicken that overflows out of the edges of the tortilla. You get the option of mild, medium or hot sauce, and so far medium has been plenty spicy enough for me.
There appears to be a number of other tasty options on the menu, but I can't get past this quesadilla.
Perhaps the most telling thing about Plata's is what happens on the days it's closed.
I was working here on a day in late December, between Christmas and New Year's Eve. Plata's, as I discovered on my lunch hour, was closed for the final week of 2013, so I went to another nearby eatery.
As I ate, I looked out the window, and over a 30-minute span I saw no less than five different people pull up to Plata's, try the door and go back to the car with a disappointed look. Just like me.