I don’t write restaurant reviews. That’s not a thing I do. This is not a restaurant review.
I moved to New York City nearly a year ago. I love it here. But, as time goes by I find I miss my native Texas that much more.
To say it’s tough to find a reasonable facsimile of the things I treasured most about my home state is a gross understatement. The barbecue tastes wrong, the Mexican food is unfamiliar, lacking the requisite amount of lard, and is at times entirely foreign (You do NOT put peas and fucking carrots in Spanish Rice. THERE ARE RULES). The skies aren’t as open, the drawl isn’t as southern. But, goddammit, I love it here. So much, that missing all of those things is worth it.
Today, I asked my friend, Buzz, as I often do, “Where should I eat tonight?”. He cycled through the options as I tried to not be such a helpless dick and at least limit my query to a particular neighborhood. “Oh, there’s this place Goat Town that I’ve really been wanting to try”. As he explained the restaurant’s admittedly odd name’s connection to NYC’s “Gotham” moniker, I located the restaurant on my phone and perused its menu. It looked charmingly southern, but not abnormally so. Anyhow, it seemed like a more-than-adequate dinner option, Goat Town it was.
When I walked in off 5th St., I was greeted by a warmly lit, busy-but-not-crowded, place. I took a seat at the bar, noticing that the bartender appeared to be making a michelada, a comfort drink of mine. Assuming my eyes werent lying to me, I tentavely asked the bartender if he could make me one as well. To my surprise, he obliged.
As I sipped my drink, I realized they were playing Tejano music, a type of music I only ever hear in South Texas, save for the odd car passing in Brooklyn. Strange.
Looking around, I saw that the sound was originating from a turntable behind the bar. Very cool.
Minutes later the bartender arrived with a dinner menu splashed with shades of red and green on an off-white background. At the top I read “Mexican Monday” and my eyes widened. I flipped over the menu and began to read the story of how one of the establishment’s owners was from San Antonio, TX, where her parents ran a Mexican Butcher shop. Apparently “Mexican Monday” was her way of honoring her parents by bringing some authentic dishes to New York City.
I quickly flipped the menu over and saw exactly what I wanted to see. “Breakfast Tacos for Dinner”.
I didn’t even bother reading the rest of the menu. I caught the bartender’s eye as he passed by and ordered them. I spent maybe 20 anxious mintues waiting for those damn tacos, and in that time I noticed the black and silver Luchador mask hanging above the bar, as well as the waiter dressed conspicuously like a caballero.
Finally, that plate of tacos arrived, three large flour tortillas filled with goodness, garnished with some lettuce and freshly sliced tomatoes on the side.
I devoured the chorizo and potato taco, then immediately dug into the egg and potato one. I couldn’t believe how good the tortillas were. And, to the uninitiated, the tortilla is the most important part of the taco. It’s the foundation, and I had yet to find a decent flour tortilla in the five boroughs until this moment. These tortillas were like a unicorn. A delcious, fluffy, fucking unicorn.
I was so full I could only muster a couple bites of the carne guisada taco.
I came to find out, thanks to a patron next to me, that the tortillas were shipped straight from San Antonio, TX. (Incidentally, where he was from as well. We had a nice long chat about South Texas that did not pass without a mention of the singer, Selena, from my hometown of Corpus Christi. It’s an Immutable Law Of The Universe that the longer a conversation about Corpus Christi goes on, the probability of mentioning Selena approaches one.)
The thing is, they weren’t the best breakfast tacos I’ve ever had. Not by a longshot. But, they were good enough. The effort felt authentic, just like the decor, the drinks, the music, and the story on the back of that off-white menu.
Authentic enough to make a homesick Texan not so homesick, at least for a little while.