Due to the nature of my regular nine to
five six seven whenever-I’m-done job, I am what you may call a Road Warrior. I spend 80% of my time traveling throughout the wonderful state of Pennsylvania. As an added bonus, this has led to some really great food finds that I would not otherwise have known about.
I found myself last week without a lunch and only about 15 minutes away from a small Mexican restaurant a friend of mine had recommended. This friend grew up in southern Texas and is pretty stringent in his standards for Mexican food. He will rail against the evils of pre-packaged taco shells and refuses to even say the words “taco” and “bell” in the same sentence, so I felt that I could trust his opinion. Pulling up to the restaurant, I was a little unsure. The GPS told me I had arrived but the fact that I had pulled up to a small storefront with no signage was a little concerning. Once I stepped out of the car though, I was comforted by the fantastic smells of coastal Mexico.
As soon as I walked in, I knew I had come to a seriously tasty place.
The kitchen was humming, the 10 or 11 tables were full and there was a line of people picking up takeout bags. I grabbed a bottle of Jarritos tamarind soda from the cooler and sat at the small counter where I was quickly brought a menu, homemade tortilla chips and 2 homemade salsas: pico de gallo and pasilla chile. The menu was all in Spanish and was 2 simple pages of all the Mexican food that is incredibly hard to find at most “Mexican” restaurants and any chain; I was in heaven.
I decided to go with a very traditional lunch item and flipped to the torta section. It was hard to decide between the 8 or 9 types, but I ultimately went with a choriqueso torta: lettuce, queso fresco, crumbled chorizo and thick slices of fresh avocado stuffed into a thick, crusty torpedo-shaped french roll before being quickly grilled in a press. As I ate, I spoke with the woman behind the counter and she shared how 3 generations had scraped together the money to open the restaurant and how happy they were that they had been welcomed into the community.
Now I could have made the torta at home. But, there is no way to duplicate the buzz of people talking, the smells of limitless dishes being prepared and meals lovingly cooked by people who have passion and stake in the result.
Too often food on the road is a matter of convenience. But whenever possible, I make stops such as this because the food always tastes just a little bit better.