I was able to contain myself until my phone reached 60% charged, and I decided that was sufficient. Even if it wasn’t, I was getting restless. It’s hard to stay quiet and still when you’re in a dark room full of sleeping people in the middle of the day when there’s an amazing city waiting to be explored. I crept out of the room in search of lunch. What I had in mind was a cluster of food trucks that we had passed earlier on our way to the hotel…
Alas, it wasn’t to be. Allow me to take a deep breath and warn you that there might be some profanity coming. Which is my way of saying there definitely will be some profanity coming, so I’m warning you now: if you want to bypass the vitriolic rant that is about to begin, just skip to the next picture.
I never made it back to the corner with all the food trucks because I was pissed off. I was pissed off because, and there’s no gentle way to say this, I was a fucking idiot. One of the reasons I’ve taken so long to post about this trip is because I debated sharing this anecdote, but what the hell. Might as well keep it real, yeah? So, I was walking towards the food trucks. I’d made it about two blocks from the hotel when I was approached by a tall, well-dressed, extremely polite black man. He struck up a conversation, told me he was a music producer, asked my name and where I was from, and quickly segued into a pitch about how he was trying to raise money for an educational music program for disadvantaged youth. Now I love the arts, and I love helping kids. Hell, I love musicians, even if I don’t like their music. I’m that guy who will throw some cash at the man on the street corner playing drums on plastic buckets, as long as he’s good at it. Anyway, at this point he pulls out a couple of CDs to prove he’s not just begging for money, he’s selling these to raise said funds. He asks for ten bucks for the pair. I whip out my wallet and find that there’s only twenties inside. I swap him one for the CDs and he thanks me effusively, but doesn’t offer to make change. Suddenly I realize that I wouldn’t get any change out of this guy even if I asked for it, and I would get the spiel of a lifetime if I told him to take his CDs back and return my twenty. At this point I was feeling really stupid. I lived in New York for two years after all, I’d seen plenty of hustlers in my time. Have my senses really dulled that much in the twelve years I’ve been back? I sighed, resigned to chalk it up as a mildly expensive learning experience, and walked away.
I’d probably made it about ten steps when two new guys approached. Not as sharply dressed, but well enough for the “urban” style they were rocking. From what I gathered, they were musicians who worked on the CDs I was white-knuckling. They fawned about what a cool, generous guy I was, asked my name, and immediately took to reworking it into some “street” nickname I can’t remember but didn’t like. I think it was “P Money” or some such shit. These guys pulled out two DIFFERENT CDs, autographed the damned things, and handed them to me. For a second, just a second, the self-reproach receded. Maybe they were serious, if a little shady. Either way, four CDs for twenty bucks is better than two. I accepted their thanks and their handshakes, and turned to leave. That’s when these pricks had the nerve to ask for MORE money for the additional discs. I politely informed them through clenched teeth that I had already paid double the asked amount for the first two CDs, so we should be able to just call it even. I don’t remember exactly what they said after that, excuses, entreaties, whatever. I told them there was no way in hell I was ponying up more money. That’s when they started guilt-tripping, but I cut them short and held out the autographed CDs. I told them in no uncertain terms, becoming less polite by the second, that they could let me walk away or take their fucking basement burned discs back, those were the only two options on the table. We must have made quite a sight to anyone who bothered to notice: the short, stocky, bearded white guy wandering the city in a hoodie and jeans staring down two six foot plus, snazzy gangsta types over a couple of CD-Rs. All smiles and chatter cast aside now, one of them took the discs from my hand, while I shoved the original two in my pocket and stomped off, resolved that if I felt so much as a tap on my shoulder I was going to turn around swinging.
Continuing forward for another couple of blocks mostly populated by very similar types (it always amazes me how rigidly culturally defined certain areas of downtown are), I could swear that one guy on his phone looked up at me as I passed, hung up, and started following me. Was I being paranoid? It’s possible, I was feeling really stupid and very pissed off, so my thoughts probably weren’t at their clearest. That having been said, I couldn’t help but remember the look on that first guy’s face when I pulled out my wallet and thoughtlessly opened it in front of him, revealing about four hundred dollars in cash. And how quickly and enthusiastically his partners had pounced on me! Was I to transition from sucker to flat-out victim? I’ll never know if I was being paranoid or not because I picked up my pace, transitioning my wallet from back pocket to front, taking a left at the next corner to a more densely populated, better-lit street. I’m not going to tell you the names of the people or the CDs involved, I don’t want to give them any inadvertent publicity; this is simply a cautionary tale. Plus, I wouldn’t be able to resist the temptation to offer to reimburse anyone willing to buy the CDs, break them in half, and tell the guys to shove them up their asses. That’s what I wanted to do every time I saw them (about three other times) during the rest of our stay in town, but the roommate held me in check. I will tell you that the CDs suck. There’s a pretty talented woman singing on one of them, but her vocals are surrounded by uninspired rapping, shitty sound mixing, and lousy production work. Here’s a picture of something slightly less appalling to transition back to talking about food.
|No. Just no.|
Long story short, my appetite had been eradicated by anger. I gave up on the idea of lunch, headed back to the hotel, and asked the valet where the nearest market was. By the time I returned with bottled water and energy drinks, my traveling companions were stirring. I regaled them with the adventures I had endured since we parted ways, and was nicely reassured that I’m not generally that idiotic and that while I may be out twenty bucks, I probably saved myself a couple thousand calories. After a couple of hours though, I was starting to feel peckish. The little ones were hungry but their mother wasn’t, so I volunteered to take the kids out for a bite. The tween immediately voiced her desire to return to Los Agaves. I wanted to hit another new place, but that didn’t mean we couldn’t stop in there as well, so off we went. Unfortunately Los Agaves was closed for the day, and I was stuck with two children primed for Mexican fare. Urbanspoon’s mobile app came to my rescue. A little trip up and over, we found ourselves at El Borracho.
We arrived during happy hour. I verified that children were allowed (they are until a certain time of the evening, I forget when that is), and we were shown to a table. You have to have a drink if you want to order off the happy hour menu, so I decided to quench the last of my burning anger with an El Cheapo Margarita, which is pretty much exactly what it sounds like. The tween played it safe with soda, while the wee one ordered a lemonade, which looked an awful lot like the margarita. The garnishes made it easy to tell them apart though.
|El Cheapo Margarita|
We started off with a $1 worth of chips and salsa, and ordered a couple of tacos each.
|Chips and salsa|
I don’t remember the salsa being particularly remarkable, but then I sucked down that margarita awfully quick. And ordered another. This helped my overall outlook on the day considerably. I did like the chips though. Crunchy, oily, salty, they were the perfect accompaniment to a cheap margarita.
|Al Pastor and Carnitas tacos|
The little ladies allowed me to order for them, and since we’re all pork fans I played it safe by getting both of them one carnitas taco and one al pastor taco. The carnitas is, interestingly, braised in Coca Cola and went over well enough, and the al pastor at El Borracho has pineapple as well.
|Cochinitas Pibil and Pescado tacos|
Yours truly ended up with a Cochinitas Pibil taco (since I liked that dish so much the last time I had it) and a pescado (fish) one. The former, much like the children’s tacos, seemed to rely more on sauces and marinades than just letting the meat shine, but it was still decent. The pescado (which along with the vegan and carne asada varieties costs $2, as opposed to the six $1 options available) was blackened cod with cabbage, diced tomato, and cream sauce, it was pretty good as well. The general impression on all of the tacos was that they were decent, not as good or as filling as actual street tacos but hey, at these prices you can order a lot of them. Plus, there’s a serious lack of booze at taco trucks.
After El Borracho, we hit up Target for a few necessities and some snacks to keep in the room. It was dark out by the time we emerged. A couple of three-bite tacos hadn’t satisfied me or the wee one (she hadn’t eaten as well as her sister earlier in the day), but I was willing to tough it out till morning and the younger child could have one of the snacks we’d just purchased if she wanted. As we trekked back to the hotel, we came upon the lot the food trucks had been at earlier. One of them was still there, and they were open for business!
|Beko Gourmet Dog Japon|
Beko Gourmet Dog Japon is exactly what it sounds like: hot dogs and sausages with a decidedly Japanese spin. They’re most famous for their Matsuri Dog, a kielbasa topped with teriyaki-glazed onions, Japanese mayo, and nori (seaweed). That’s not what I was craving, though. After ordering a plain dog for the wee one and and order of chili cheese fries for the tween and the roommate to pick at back at the hotel, I chose the Yakisoba Dog: an all-beef sausage topped with stir fried noodles and yakisoba sauce, pickled red ginger, and Japanese mayo. Because I like nori atop my yakisoba, I asked if I could add some. I didn’t get a picture of the kid’s dog because, well, it’s a hot dog. I think she might have had a squirt of ketchup and a spoonful of relish. Exciting, right?
|Chili Cheese Fries|
I didn’t try the fries, but I wouldn’t have liked them. I’m a firm believer that chili used to top other things (including hot dogs and fries) should never have beans in it. The tween did snack on them during the walk back to the hotel, and the roommate worked them a little despite saying she still wasn’t terribly hungry, so they must have been decent.
My dog was a little challenging to eat while walking, what with the noodles and strips of seaweed, but it was well worth it. The Yakisoba wasn’t quite as good as what you’d get if you ordered it as an entree from a Japanese restaurant, but it doesn’t have to be. Here, it’s just a topping to a juicy beef sausage, along with the very tasty pickled ginger and the superior Japanese mayo. All of that might be perfectly decent on its own but I made the right call on the nori; it just puts the whole thing over the top. It’s one of the three best dogs I’ve ever been served, and the places I got the other two from have both gone out of business. Go there, order whatever looks good, and trust me: if you get the Yakisoba, ask for nori.
Despite the darkness, it was still fairly early. I’d polished off my food by the time we got back to the hotel, so while the girls shared the fries I was getting ready for bed. Completely out of character for me, I turned in pretty early. Means to an end though, the next day was going to be a long, eventful one.