Chema’s Tamales – A Diamond In the Dirt
The death of OBL marks the real beginning of the 2012 US presidential campaign season, a beginning that has been thankfully delayed. If it could be crammed into the last week of October 2012 I think the nation would be better for it, but I’ll take one year of lying, self-aggrandizing, slander and manipulation over two. My Fridays invariably start with a listen to the week’s Slate Political Gabfest while I drive into town, and then the blessed relief from the horror of politics as I pull my truck into the lot of a comforting and friendly taqueria.
I got an email from a taco enthusiast who works for Landlord Resources, who said I should check out Chema’s. A few days later I was at House of Rock, and David Loeb mentioned this spot to me. It’s in a place that has been occupied by a number or restaurants, none of which have I ever tried, but with all the recommendation I had to give it a go. It’s difficult to even see the front door from the street, so I had no idea what to expect. It is on old Staples, and so it could be made of cardboard and adobe with no roof if it’s like some of the nearby buildings, but once I walked in the door I was surprised to see a neat, spacious, and comfortable dining area. Over the next few weeks I went back twice – due diligence, and I can report with some confidence on the quality of the food.
The chorizo & egg was not bad. Not the best I’ve had, but serviceable. The carne guisada was dense and meaty, breaking off into little flakes of chewy beef. The tortillas were fresh, though not made to order, with a nice tooth to’em.
The tacos themselves are not in contention for the best traditional breakfast tacos in the best town for breakfast tacos in the world, but there are things make Chema’s stand out. If you notice in the photo, the breakfast tacos are served with lettuce and tomato on the side. This is the first for me, and I’ve eaten at a truckload of places in town. All the plates match each other, and match the pottery coffee cups, that have ‘chema’s’ hand-painted on the sides. The place is clean and the service is impeccable. Chema’s been there every time I have, and he likes to talk with the customers. You can tell before you even talk to him that he’s a man who takes pride: in the food, the restaurant, the presentation, and in himself. A transplant from San Antonio, he will tell you he’s trying to bring something different to the table. You’re likely to see him in white linen pressed pants, with a little gold on his fingers and in his mouth, standing with his chin up but smiling at everyone, and quick with banter. I went twice during lunch and the place was packed. You could hear people talking amongst themselves about how good the food was. Chema would bring out complementary tamales for people to sample. This is a nice restaurant – a good experience all around. It’s not fine dining, but it’s about as fine as you’re going to get for Mexican food done right – with pride and without pretense. Keep it up, Chema!
Our Taco Award Winner for this week is:
HBO‘s Big Love ended last month, with a finale that was a high water mark for the series, unlike many finales HBO has generated. It was a series my wife and I liked, but there was something about it that alway bothered me. Chloe Sevigny is beguiling, and yet played an evil shrew so well that it was difficult to see her for the rare beauty she is. Big Love was her return to the screen after she was blackballed for a controversial sex scene in Vincent Gallo‘s the Brown Bunny, a movie that started a feud between Roger Ebert and Gallo where the latter put a hex on the former, and considering – it may have worked, though Gallo cursed Ebert with colon cancer instead of cancer of thyroid.
Chloe was a bad girl, sneaking out, hanging out with skaters, smoking, going to all night parties and selling acid as a teenager. You may remember her as the accidental lesbian girlfriend in Boys Don’t Cry, or as the naive but willing secretary in American Psycho, or as the hottest girl in just about any Harmony Korine movie. She values acting enough to refuse to move to Los Angeles, staying instead in the East Village. When she’s not smouldering in front of a camera she dabbles in fashion design.
Offer includes 2 tacos, an audience with the ‘tacoteurs,’ and a free tacotopia t-shirt. Please redeem this offer at Whetstone Graphics on a Friday morning of your choice. Offer subject to cancellation by order of the wives of the tacoteurs. Enter to win by emailing your name on the back of the original theatrical cut of the Brown Bunny to firstname.lastname@example.org.