A Highbrow Culinary Review of a Mexico City Hooters

Things loved worldwide: beer, wings, and tiny orange shorts.

Time To Read: 8 mins | November 15, 2016

2016 is a year of miracles, for I am in first place in my fantasy football league.

(If that first sentence bored you, skip the next two paragraphs; the rest of this story makes sense without them)

I am the king of drafting. Every year, twelve guys around a table drinking too much beer at our one successful friend’s house. We shout at our computers and one another – auction drafts are the only way to play – and get way too aggressive about something that means way too little. After two hours of this nonsense, we come up for air and half-drunkenly assess one another’s teams. And as much as they hate to admit it, I invariably have a great team. On paper, anyway.

But this year I appeared cursed. On week two, I lost four of my four total running backs to injuries, starters and backups alike, all within 3 hours of each other. Toby from The Office has better luck. I was forced to trade Antonio Brown for decent replacements, and have been living on the waiver wire weekly. Yet somehow, despite fate having a vendetta against me, I’ve squeaked out a few consecutive wins by 5 points or less and this week found myself alone at the top of the standings for the first time since 2013.

In my tiny Mexican apartment, celebrations were had. I finished a half-eaten bag of M&Ms from the night before, drank the last beer in the fridge at 10am, and did that double-fist pump move Will Ferrell does in Wedding Crashers.

But before I’d even finished my morning brew, an email came from my next opponent, already talking shit about our upcoming match-up. Which is fair – given his shockingly stacked team and my ragged band of backups and misfits, there’s no way I should be able to compete with him.

And yet, lo and behold, Sunday night arrived and I held a slim lead with only two NFL games left. The odds were still against me, but it was enough to put a smile on my face, and make me realize I hadn’t watched an NFL game since moving to Mexico.

I did some Googling. Initially, when searching the best bars for watching football in Mexico City, I was confused. Every website and forum I checked recommended the same place. Nothing uniquely Mexican, no great hidden dives that had fervent NFL fanbases.

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Instead, every single suggestion was the same well-known American restaurant: Hooters.

I’m not sure if this is surprising or not, but the chain is amongst the most successful international full-service restaurants in the world, with over 400 stores in nearly thirty countries worldwide. Apparently everybody loves… uh, wings.

Mexico opened its first Hooters in ’97. There was a fair amount of controversy and confusion at the time – the Chicago Tribune ran a piece where one local thought the name ‘Hooters’ was an American reference to ‘chicken wings’; a crueler yet better-informed citizen called the servers ‘decent prostitutes’.

I know this will make you feel old, but that was a different era. Twenty years ago, Mexico City wasn’t yet overrun with American fast food the way it is today. At the time, there was huge cultural resistance against allowing big chains to displace local vendors. And if this heavily Catholic nation was throwing a fit over McDonald’s, how do you think they felt about low-cut tank tops and push-up bras?

But that was then — in 2016, fast food can be found on most every corner, and CDMX has almost a dozen Hooters scattered across the city. And if that’s the only place that’s showing the Patriots v Seahawks game, well, I could use a night off from street tacos, anyway.

I decided to walk. If I was going to eat complete garbage and drink heavily discounted moon-sized beers, it made sense to burn a few calories in transit. But because I’m getting old and lazy and got distracted by a group of puppies for an embarrassing stretch of time, I only found the restaurant in the middle of the second quarter.

This delay meant I arrived just as Russell Wilson (hate) threw a touchdown pass to Doug Baldwin (meh), both of whom were on the opposing fantasy team, immediately ending my chances of winning the game. Thus I was free to take in my surroundings:

Your first thought is yes, this is definitely a Hooters. There are the same stupidly huge beers and massive baskets of wings, the same goofy-eyed owls hanging everywhere that give the owners plausible deniability, and the same outfits that no father wants to see his daughter in.

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There’s even the same contingent of girls sitting with their boyfriends, each of whom deserves an award for tolerating their date’s wandering eyes.

Watching a sport you understand in a foreign language is an odd experience. After 10 years of playing, I can follow along without the announcers, so I tended to zone out on the audio. But then the referee, who’s obviously American, would chime in: “Holding, defense number 25. Ten yard penalty, automatic first down.” And as satisfying as it is when Richard Sherman gets called on his bullshit, it’s exciting for another reason: after every penalty, for one glorious second, I think Spanish has finally clicked and my brain is auto-translating the language. “I’ve finally got it! I can speak the espanol!”

Only after a ‘one-one thousand’ do I remember that I’ve been drinking and am an idiot.

The game’s language mosh pit is the same in the restaurant. None of the jokey wall hangings have been translated into Spanish. On the menu, all the dish names are still in English, but the descriptions have been switched to espanol.

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It’s as if the owners blew all their money on TVs and deep fryers and short shorts, and could only afford a translator for half the words in the restaurant.

I shall now take a moment to bestow some life wisdom: never take a first date to a restaurant where you can’t pronounce the menu. Nothing will tank your chances of rounding second base faster than screwing up ‘bolognese’ or ‘coquelet’. If you’re fluent in French or Italian, good on you, but otherwise stick to an English menu, order nothing messy, and make sure they serve alcohol. You’re welcome.

I’ve worked in restaurants that have foreign language menu items, and when someone nails a pronunciation there’s always a moment of ‘oh la la, you suave devil’. Here, in the CDMX Hooters where the situation is reversed, I couldn’t help wondering if I’d woo’d the Mexican bartender with my spot-on annunciation of ‘Daytona Beach Wings’.

Really, the entire experience is just a mildly more confusing version of a stateside Hooters. You don’t fully understand what’s going on, but some things translate well enough anywhere: football, beer, and… uh, wings.

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photo: etsy-esque coat rack from a tulum apartment. not for feet

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Malcolm Freberg
Malcolm Freberg
American writer living permanently on the road. Believes rye whiskey is superior to bourbon, Belle is the best Disney princess, and that selfie sticks should be snapped in half on sight. Hosted a travel documentary for AOL & played Survivor a few times.

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