Yesterday I went to my latest favorite newest lunch place. Coincidentally it is two blocks over and one block down. And I just discovered the place maybe 3 months ago; hidden in plain.
It’s street food. More than a food cart but much less than a restaurant. While there might be tons of these places all around town serving anywhere from 2-6 entrees with fresh salsas and handmade tortillas, none I’ve ever seen are anywhere near good as this one.
The differentiator are the sauces – not the condiment style salsas (which can be a differentiator too) – but the sauces the meat dishes are cooked in.
Yesterday I had the chicken in green sauce. And it was there I had a near out of body religious experience. The first bite and the sauce exhibited a rich deep aura of flavors that by rights should not be present in a mere tomatillo based salsa. There was a smoky char flavor. A tequila pepperiness. The savory flavor of chicken fat. The lime, the hot chilies and then of course there was the requisite sourness of the green tomatillos.
And it all added up to be much more than just the sum of its parts. Truly, divinely delicious. All served on a styrofoam plate with some hot beans and a side of tortillas.
Yesterday, I pulled up a stool and sat at the last remaining spot at a table occupied by a middle aged mom and dad and their two grown sons. Dad was a rough looking son-of-a-bitch who as such is the perfect stereotype of a tough hombre from the mountains of Michoacán. He seemed to all but growl on the two occasions when he addressed his family.
Big fat fingers grabbed the bowl of hot dried chilies which after taking a couple he passed the dish to me.
I took one and crumbled the long dark chili onto my food.
We ate. Mom and sons finished up and left dad to go shopping. Dad and I sat there and kept eating.
I began to notice that dad was taking his time with his meal. He split his rice from the mole chicken and was sparingly adding bits of each to a tortilla and was eating it a small bite at a time.
I noticed that our plates in their partitions looked very similar. Now keep in mind that we are both ignoring each other and concentrating on our respective lunches.
Finally the big gruff looking son-of-a-bitch finishes. He summoned over the young lad to pay his bill, then gets up from the table, looked at me with almost tears in his eyes and wished me a good lunch.
We shared a moment him and me. His family looked at their lunch like it was just another lunch. Their father and me knew we were participating in la grande cuisine.
He loved me at that particular moment in time because I too understood that it wasn’t just lunch but magic.