Twas the night before, the night before Christmas and all through the house, people were a bit antsy for some Mexican food! A couple of hours earlier we had completed the pilgrimage from Arizona to Texas for the holiday. Not just any place in Texas, mind you, but the heart of savory and spicy cuisine. Damn straight. I’m talking about the Las Cruces, El Paso and Juarez metro-taco triangle.
This area stakes claim to the first thanksgiving feast held on the North American continent. Right there on the banks of the mighty Rio Grande, Don Juan de Oñate’s Spanish conquistadores gave thanks and served up green chile and turkey tacos, bean burritos with salsa and cerveza fria on April 30, 1598, a full 23 years before anyone landed at Plymouth Rock and popped open a cold one!
So where does one go to treat one’s palate in the metro-taco triangle? That place near the cemetery, si señor! You know, Concordia Cemetery, where more than 60,000 are buried. Folks like gunfighter John Wesley Hardin, Buffalo Soldiers, Texas Rangers, Civil War Veterans, and a bunch of Mormons, just to mention a few.
Right there next to this dusty old cemetery is an old house with a sign out front that reads “L&J Inc. Cafe Beer & Wine – Specializing in Mexican Food”. This place has been here for a while, 1927 or so they claim. You could tell by all the 1930s era electrical wiring going to and from the establishment’s sign, which did not work. It was cold so we scurried inside.
The decor did not improve appreciably indoors but then we realized we were actually in the bar. So we made our way through a horde of hombres that were standing around ignoring the ballgame but keeping two bar maids moving with drink orders. When we found the “restaurant”, we waited a minute or two for a table. While waiting, we treated ourselves to an automatic sanitary solution dispenser conveniently located on the wall by the entrance. I must confess that this was the first time I was escorted to a table with a frothy foamy splash of hand sanitizer in the palm of my hand. I can only hope that there was another dispenser available to the staff, probably near the employee exit.
Menus in our sanitized hands, we found a surprising array of specialties; Fajitas, Esteak, Pollo, Tacos, Enchiladas, Burritos, Tostadas (not taco chips), etc. Everything comes with rice and beans, as it should. I had the “Chile Con Queso Steak” (sirloin, cooked medium) that had more chile verde than queso! My wife had the “Pollo en Mole”. Mole is a spicy chocolate sauce that tastes better than it sounds.
The feasting was intense. We splashed salsa all over each other, licked it off and washed it down with ice cold Bohemia beer. No wonder you need clean hands. I consider Bohemia to be one of the better beers imported from Mexico past the drug cartels. A class above the mass market beers like Corona, Pacifico or Tecate.
We waddled out of there quickly, as it was still cold, and looked forward to the pounds the holiday would bring.