Atmosphere: What else? South of the border. Be casual, but you are requested to wear shoes and a shirt.
Hours: 11 a.m. to 11 p.m., Monday through Saturday. Closed Sunday.
Price Range: A la carte selections: $2.30 to $3.95; complete dinners, $5.50 to $7.25.
Reservations: None taken. Weekends tend to be busy.
Credit Cards: American Express, Visa, Diner's Club, Master Charge.
Special Facilities: Parking in lot in front of restaurant; accessible to handicapped; high chairs and boosters available.
Time was when we could take ourselves and our 3-year-old daughter off to the Alamo on a Saturday night. She would consume a big bowl of vegetable soup and a big bowl of tostadas while we indulged in chalupas and enchiladas and refritos. The Alamo had good food, strolling guitarists and the tab was always low. We would all go home happy.
That was 10 years ago, and the 3-year-old now consumes tacos and tamales herself. We thought it would be fun to return with her 9-year-old sisters to see how well we remembered the Alamo.
Probably few things have changed so little in 10 years as the Alamo. The restaurant has expanded into three dining rooms, but it still tends to be crowded on Friday and Saturday nights. The knotty pine and stucco walls are hung with the same corrida posters, serapes and sombreros.
Although the faces are different, the waitresses, dressed in Mexican peasant blouses and skirts, are as cheerful and efficient as the ones we remembered, and should you have to wait in line, the strains of guitar music floating out the door will soothe your beastly soul, and maybe even those of the little beasties with you.
Likewise, the menu and the prices essentially are unchanged. The Alamo offers nine complete Mexican dinners, each of which begins with the big bowl of tostadas, a good salsa piquante and a salad. It continues through various combinations of tacos, enchiladas and chilis, and ends with coffee. Beans and rice are served with all dinners. Or if you're a real gringo, you can order a steak or fried chicken dinner, salad and coffee included. All this will set you back anywhere from $5.50 to $7.25; the Alamo is still a good buy, we found.
For chidren under 12, the menu offers either a chopped steak and french fries platter or a children's plate of enchiladas, rice and beans, each $3.50. But the kids will find a larger selection under the a la carte section, where they can choose any dish served on the combination dinners.
Our girls decided to share a plate of three tacos, $3.85, and two orders of enchiladas at $3.50 each and made up their own combination plates. The enchiladas were an experiment for them and they didn't really like them, but the tacos were very good: fresh and filled to overflowing with meat and properly topped with veggies.
The platters my husband and I ordered were much what we remembered. The food is abundant, hearty and good, if unsophisticated. The Alamo's traditional Mexican dishes are the Tex-Mex versions of the bordertowns, and therefore more highly seasoned (although not so hot that most children can't enjoy it) than the authentic cooking of Mexico.
The Alamo offers mole de pavo and asado de puerco, two meat and sauce dishes meant to be wrapped in warm tortillas before eating, but you will not find chimichanga or even burritos here, much less an unusual or innovative dish -- as you well might at any one of several Mexican restaurants established in the Washington area in recent years.
Dessert at the Alamo, as at similar restaurants, is a limited affair. You can have flan, or you can have flan, or you can have guava paste and cream cheese. This did not go over well with the younger members of our clan, but we decided to have flan and guava paste with cream cheese. The flan was fair to middlin'. The cream cheese was fine, but the guava paste had been sitting out and was too dry to be enjoyed.
For $38.34, taxes and tip included, the five of us satisfied our curiosity about what had happened to the Alamo. It is still a good neighborhood place to go.