Friday, July 25, 2008

Local Assets - The Little Cactus

God comes to the hungry in the form of food. – Mahatma Ghandi

When one is looking for really good ethnic food, one sure way to know how good a place will be is to notice how many people of that ethnicity are actually eating there. If you walk in to a Mexican restaurant and there are no Mexicans in sight, leave immediately. Another major “tell” is whether or not they make their own tortillas in house. A really good authentic Mexican place will both be full of Mexicans and will roll their own homemade tortillas. If you find a place that meets these two criteria, you are in the right place. Take a seat, order your preferred beverage and now proceed to enjoy the chips. If the place is truly great, the salsa will also be made in house and never store bought. The salsa should be somewhat hot and spicy, but not too watery, with a hint of cilantro flavor. If your chosen spot also passes this last test, you are ready to review the menu because you are definitely going to enjoy your meal. One of my favorite places is this little hole in the wall, sole proprietorship, single business location, local Mexican restaurant called “El Nopalito” which means “the little cactus”. This wonderful place is only open during the early morning for breakfast and afternoon for lunch because it is in such a bad part of town that they cannot safely stay open after dark. The food and service are consistently excellent which is why we locals keep coming back. The tourists can’t find this place so their clientele is entirely local folks that go out of their way to enjoy the best our little island has to offer. Every entrée comes with perfectly prepared beans (either charro or refried) and rice - which may seem run of the mill but isn’t. Why? Because even though beans and rice is a staple of Mexican cuisine, most places don’t take the time or effort to make the beans and rice worth mentioning. To be really good, the rice cannot be clumped together or lumpy. When you stick your fork in the rice, each grain should be individual and separate. Then, when you taste it, the rice should be well balanced with hints of flavor from minced vegetables cooked in it but not be overwhelmed by their presence. The charro beans are brown pinto beans cooked with bacon, onion, and cilantro. When cooked right, these are incredibly delicious. The refried beans are the charro beans mashed together with rendered bacon fat. Either smear these beans on your tortilla or use your chips to dip them with. Yum! And, I haven’t even described any of the entrées themselves yet. Suffice to say, this is a terrific local asset that one should not miss if ever on beautiful Galveston Island.

1 comment:

HighOnPoker said...

My mouth is watering...