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She sang high praise for the carnitas, however, so I ordered the dish, described on the menu as simmered "pork tips." I was relieved to see something much more in keeping with traditional carnitas: pieces from a deliciously tender pork shoulder that tasted as if it had been simmered all day — slightly browned, fragrant with garlic and absolutely succulent. I couldn't finish the meal because there was so much meat.
"Would you like dessert?" the server asked, bringing me a Styrofoam box.
That night, I didn't. But on a previous visit, I had tasted the pretty little flan and taken a bite of the softball-sized fried ice cream, which was as pointless and tasteless as any other fried ice cream in the city.
"It tastes like it's coated with oatmeal," said Dan, who had never seen fried ice cream before. No, it wasn't oatmeal — that might at least have been healthy — but crushed cereal or tortilla shells or God knows what. It's an American innovation, and some people do love it. The other dessert option here is the cheesecake chimichanga: a little piece of New York-deli-style cheesecake, wrapped in a flour tortilla, fried and served pure Texas-style, dusted in cinnamon sugar and smothered in lots of chocolate sauce, caramel and crushed Oreos. After that kind of finale, I'd be in the Valley of the Dolls, all right — a sugar coma.
Even with its miscalculations, though, Mazatlan is a tasteful, attractive place to eat unchallenging, sometimes very satisfying Mexican food. Sit on the patio before the cold really hits. On a clear day, you can see ... well, not forever, but maybe Parkville.