By Stacey Patton Wallace
For the Opelika Observer
My husband Mike and I moved from LaGrange, Georgia, to Auburn in November 2015, and we absolutely love living in Lee County. There’s so much to see and do, and the people we’ve met are wonderful. However, our move required us to travel up and down I-85 to Long Cane Middle School, where we taught for the Troup County School System. This commute lasted for four years, three months and two weeks. Then on May 28, 2020, we both retired after teaching for 30 years. So yes, we are a little whack. However, it was an honor and a privilege to teach children; we really miss interacting with our kids and our school family.
People often ask me, “How’s retirement?”
I usually reply, “It’s 90% great and 10% boring.” Mike and I realized that we were too young to retire completely. Therefore, I was absolutely thrilled when Michelle Key, the owner and publisher of the Opelika Observer, gave me this opportunity to write a restaurant review for her paper. As fat people, Mike and I take food very seriously; we eat out often because we don’t like to cook. Getting paid to write about eating, one of my favorite activities, sounded like a dream part-time job for me; so here goes.
Last Thursday night, we decided to dine at El Patron, our favorite Mexican restaurant in the Auburn/Opelika area. On Feb. 1, El Patron moved into the building that formerly held Logan’s Roadhouse in Tiger Town. We had wanted to go early and beat the crowd, but at around 5 p.m., a monsoon hit the area, and rain was pouring off our roof, so we waited about 30 minutes for it to subside.
When we reached the parking lot of El Patron, we were a little worried because it was packed. Also, when I went in to get us a table, while Mike was searching for a parking space, I was concerned to see that there were no empty spaces between booths.
Since I am 58 and a diabetic and my husband is 61, safety protocols regarding COVID-19 are very important to us. In fact, we will leave a restaurant if we feel unsafe regarding COVID. Not to worry. When I voiced my concern to the hostess about the lack of social distancing, she pointed out the plexiglass that was between each booth. I wasn’t wearing my glasses, so I was a little embarrassed that I hadn’t seen it at first. Therefore, Mike and I felt very safe eating in El Patron. Later, I noticed after another couple had finished eating and had left their booth, an employee immediately came over and quickly sanitized the table. So, fellow rotund, slightly older folks with pre-existing health conditions, El Patron follows COVID-19 safety protocols extremely well. In addition, the restaurant has really attractive décor, an upbeat atmosphere and much more seating space than it did at its previous location.
Our waitress Jennifer was sweet and really fast; she brought our soft drinks to us in record time.
Also, she brought us extra napkins without being asked, which was very impressive. I think she could tell I’m the drippy type.
After mowing down a mountain of tortilla chips and the delicious, hot cheese dip (You can never have too much cheese; that’s why we’re built this way.), our food arrived very promptly. My chicken fajita quesadilla, which comes with guacamole, sour cream and bell peppers, was delicious, as always. I routinely order extra guacamole, and it was very fresh and flavorful. Mike had the Las Chivas combo platter, which includes beef burritos with rice and beans. He said they were great, as usual. In addition, El Patron has really big portions, so you will never leave hungry. Their dishes are also very reasonably priced.
El Patron certainly makes the grade with an A+ from this retired English teacher. Remember, fat people NEVER lie about food. Enjoy!
Stacey Wallace taught middle school English for 30 years before retiring to become a connoisseur of local food. Her food review column, Making the Grade, will appear in the Observer every week.