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NORTH BEND — With one Cuisine section to go after this one this calendar year, sports editor John Gunther and I will have eaten at 35 restaurants and 12 food carts.

Not a bad year.

When I first showed the list to John, his eyes got huge.

"We've been to that many places," he said.

Toss in a few holidays, a vacation or two and my spring trip to Ireland and you push your year out to 52 weeks pretty quickly.

"I can't believe it's been a whole year," John said. "This (series) is still the thing I get the most comments on.

"It has been incredibly popular. I had no idea."

We're going to finish the year strong. Monday we went to El Guadalajara at 3491 Broadway Ave. The restaurant is just south of the KCBY studios near the corner of Broadway and Newmark.

The restaurant is open 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily, 10 p.m. on Saturday.

They have a full regular menu, plus an extended set of lunch specials. I really didn't get past the first item on the first side of the specials ... machaca.

I've told you before that I'm a sucker for a good machaca (shedded beef, scrambled egg, bell peppers, onion and tortillas served with rice and beans).

John literally had to tell me that the specials menu had two sides.

He was right. There were another 11 items on the back. In all there were 20 items and eight combos all ranging from $7.25 to $10.99.

John decided on the steak fajitas.

After we ordered, John was wondering how many of the restaurants this year were new to me.

Down the list I went. Sea Basket, Vinny's, Tony's Crab Shack, Tokyo Bistro ... 13. Six of them, like Flappers and Sea Level Coffee Co., were in their first few weeks or months of operation.

John said he's been having fun getting out of his comfort zone.

"Trying things I normally wouldn't try," he said. "That's been the fun of this."

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He did it again on Monday.

"I don't do fajitas very often, but that was good."

It was fun watching the fajitas come through the restaurant. First you could hear it. Then the waiter broke into song as he weaved his way through the tables, as the aroma of fajitas wafted everywhere.

We got the same experience at the end of our meal when someone a few tables down ordered the fajitas.

Even as full as we were, it still smelled wonderful.

John told me that the salsa had a pretty good kick to it on Monday. I had to take his word for it. I'm less that a week out from having a wisdom tooth removed, so I'm still not doing the sharp, crunchy or spicy stuff yet (see Dr. Fisher, I did read the handout).

I made soft tacos out of the machaca. The three flour tortillas was just enough to handle the amount on the lunch special. 

When I go back, I'm still not sure if I'll get any further down the menu than I did Monday.

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News Editor