Armando's has long been a family favourite for Mexican food. Just off the main "Mexicantown" strip, or at the part most Canadians head to, it offers up tasty versions of the standards. The tables are topped with ceramics, the entrance covered in signed photos of the 1984 World Champion Detroit Tigers. Canadian at-par coupons first lured us over, which Dad clipped out of the newspaper by the fistful.
Armando's one of the few places I've ever seen my family wash down large amounts of booze, thanks to cheap pitchers of margaritas. It's also the first place Amy drove to after passing her drivers test, just beating out the graduated license system.
We often go for the lunch buffet. Mexican food in Detroit tends to be heavy, so it's best to pick any restaurant for lunch and spend the rest of your day burning off the meal. Armando's buffet generally includes tacos, beef burritos (with chunks of beef, not ground), nachos, boiled potatoes, rice, ultra-cheesy enchiladas, marinated chicken, stewed beef, stewed pork, etc.
An infrequent visitor to the spread over the years is an item that doesn't appear to be on the regular menu that we've always referred to as "fish soup". It's a simple dish - chunks of shellfish simmered with tomato, zucchini and various veggies. The composition nevers seems the same, but its mellow taste is consistent.
Whenever the fish soup made an appearance, Dad was excited. It wasn't unusual for him to down a couple of bowls before touching anything else. He would go on about the soup for weeks afterwards. If memory serves, at least one uncle is also a fan.
If you ever happen to go to Armando's, I strongly recommend a trip to the Mexicantown Bakery across the street. Under the same ownership, its variations on sugar cookies are hard to resist, as are their fruit turnovers and pig-shaped molasses cookies.
Armando's 4242 W. Vernor Hwy at Clarkdale, Detroit.
The soup wasn't the only culinary reminder of the old man that day. Later on, we hit a Whole Foods-style grocery store in Novi. Among the items on special was four-packs of China Cola. You see the odd bottle in Toronto (the Big Carrot carries it) of this mix of herb extracts and sugar. Tastewise, it's halfway between cola and root beer. Dad and I used to buy it by the bottle whenever it showed up at Remark Farms in Windsor.
Fish soup. China Cola. The roadtrip down Grand River that took up the rest of the day. All things Dad and I loved. Almost makes one wonder if these were birthday gifts from beyond... - JB