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Thursday, April 14, 2011

A meal so good, it licks it's own plate...

A couple of years ago, I had the pleasure of going to Cabo San Lucas on the Baja Peninsula in Mexico.  The one thing that I wanted to do while was eat in an authentic cantina or from one of those taco trucks that you see on the side of the road.  Unfortunately that didn't happen, but we did get to eat at one place that was less touristy.  I just remember how fresh everything was and how simple it was compared to the Americanized version of Mexican food that we eat all the time.  I always wished that there was a place that I could get that same simple, traditional food.  Turns out after two years of living in Huntsville, that place existed less that two miles away from my house and I have passed it every day on the way to work.  Go figure.

Taqueria El Cazador is a hole in the wall that I wasn't even sure was open.  It's nestled in a three shop building that looked closed and worn down.  Turns out they are open and turning out classics like menudo and hand made tamales.  I stopped by today and as soon as I walked in, I had that feeling like I was back in Mexico.  One reason was because everything was in Spanish, from the menu on the wall to the Telemundo on the television.  Another was because of the 20+ people inside of the restaurant, I was the only one of Caucasian ethnicity.  How many Mexicans have you ever seen in the Mexican restaurants you go to actually sitting down and eating?  That's what I thought.  But the lady who took my order was very nice and very helpful and did, indeed, speak English.

I decided to get my order to go because I was, again, eating alone and saw no reason to sit there and soak up the ambiance.  The main reason for my visit was because outside of this place sits a van with the words "beef tongue" printed on the side.  Now, for most of us, that's the end.  I texted my wife a picture and told her what it was and her response was the same as almost anyone I know would be: "gross".  I was concerned on how to order this beef tongue because I knew I didn't want just a big hunk of tongue to chow down on, so I went with the Tortas filled with beef tongue.  A torta (for those (like myself) who don't know what it is) is a kind of sandwich served on an oblong 6-8 inch firm, crusty white sandwich roll, called a bolillo, telera or birote. "Telera" is soft, round bread; also commonly used is the bolillo, a torpedo-shaped French roll with a thick and crunchy crust. Tortas can be served hot, typically toasted in a press in the same manner as a cuban sandwichpanini, or cold. (Wikipedia)  These tortas are served with your choice of meat, lettuce, pico de gallo, mayonaise, and guacamole.

I have to admit I was scared of the tongue.  So in addition to the tortas, I order two Al Pastor Tacos, which were spicy pork tacos that came with this beautiful, spicy pickled array of onions, jalapenos, and carrots.

On the way home, I was paranoid.  I was riding with the windows down and every strange smell that my nose would pick up, my brain would think it was the beef tongue.  But when I finally got home and cracked open my goodies, I was very happy.  I ate the tacos first which were fantastic.  They weren't as spicy as I would have hoped but the pickled condiments helped with that.  It was kind of like eating a sandwich with a pickle, except the sandwich was a taco and the pickle was a jalapeno.  After scarfing these down in a couple of bites (no lie) I cut my tortas in half.  A piece of beef tongue fell on to my plate.  I stared.  I picked it up.  I put it in my mouth.  And it tasted... like beef.  Really good beef!  It had the same taste as your general steak, but the texture was of course different.  It was diced and had the texture of pot roast but not and stringy, more like a solid mass of squishy beef flavor, and I tried to stay away from the word "squishy" but that really is the best way to describe it.  The mixture of all the flavors with the crusty bread was fantastic.  I am glad I saved it for last because it really was delicious.  It wasn't spicy.  Again, kind of disappointed from the lack of spice, but it is my fault.  They had a sauce bar but I didn't know what anything was and again, it was very daunting to be there out of my element so I passed.

So there it is, my first beef tongue dish!  I was really happy with the whole experience and will be eating at this place exclusively from here on out (when I'm on my lonesome of course).  Also, I now have a place that I can stop and get a sandwich on the way to work and not get the same old drive-thru crap.  All in all, I'm happy.  Happy with myself most of all.  I overcame that feeling that most people have, the hang up with the unknown, the fear of not trying something new.  Who knew that a beef tongue sandwich could make a person feel alive??  As for the tripe?  One step at a time and maybe with someone else's dollar...

On a side note, I have been doing so many restaurant reviews lately because I don't have time to cook right now!  With work, school, an 11 month old, and a wife who travels for work five out of seven days a week, it's hard to get in the kitchen and whip something up besides mac and cheese or hot dogs.  I'll get back to it soon though, promise!

In the area?  Check 'em out!

Taqueria El Cazador
10099 Memorial Pkwy S
Huntsville, AL 35803

Taqueria El Cazador on Urbanspoon

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