02 May 2012

"We Ain't Got No Beer..."

Ft Bliss (El Paso), TX, 1963

Me, Upper Left - Debbie, Lower Right, Hose, Background

"We Got Beer," Rosa Mexicana

Rosa Mexicana, Union Square

The Old Man loved Mexican food like he loved the West. Cheap, hot and not a lot a fans. Well, used to be. Charlotte, NC -- Sometime in 1970. Not a lot of fans. A new Mexican restaurant opened and it looked like the Alamo. We pulled into an empty parking lot on opening night.

Five of us cram into a red banquette and a waiter takes orders. It takes forever for my family but military life in Texas and Mexican towns speaks to our cutting edge knowledge of Mexican food. Hell, in 1970 Charlotte, we were cutting edge... and we were showing off.

The waiter looks to the Old Man for the last order -- he gives it and adds a beer. "We ain't got no beer," says the waiter without looking up. I'm not sure what the Old Man's thinking, "Do they expect me to drink sweet iced tea like everyone else in this one horse town?" Or, "He didn't even look at me."

What the Old Man said was, "Then what'aya doing with all those beer signs lit up in your windows?" The waiter opens his mouth. I look down at the table and wince. The bull has entered the arena. He is snorting and pissed off.

30 years later, I order Carne Asada tacos with hand made corn tortillas, marinated hanger steak, raw chopped onion, cilantro and lime. No cheese. No salsa. The waitress looks at me and says, "You eat like a Mexican." I think I'd be happy with those words on my tombstone. Under, "He never ate a Big Mac. He never watched, 'Titanic.' He never stepped foot in Las Vegas."

I remember eating at Rosa Mexicana in 1985. My date was Jean, an FBI agent who was learning Italian and who is better remembered here. The tab was a quarter of my monthly take home pay. Rosa Mexicana is still at it. I'm a fan. The Union Square location has always been my favorite. If I were you, skip the table and head for the bar.

Guacamole and a beer starts it off with a side of corn tortillas. Butter and salted or spread with Guac -- Doesn't matter. At least I know what I'll be eating when I lose my teeth. About a year ago, Rosa did a Pork Pibil that was as brilliant as it was unknown. Slow cooked in banana leaves covered in an achiote paste. Not sure why but they discontinued it.

The Carne Asada tacos are my way home to El Paso. They connect me with tumble weeds and horny toads and underground desert forts we built as kids. A girl named Debbie made me walk a garden hose shaped like a heart. If my foot slipped off -- I had to kiss her. Later, her brother and I went to the Ft Bliss skating rink and I dropped a cherry coke on the smooth hard wood floor. The spill arc must'a been 20 feet.

Rosa Mexicana always takes me back to El Paso and it never hurts to be six again. It does hurt to remember Charlotte, NC again. The waiter tells the Old Man they don't have their liquor license yet. I remember thinking that might explain the empty parking lot but not before I hear, "Let's go." And we all follow the Old Man out of the Mexican restaurant. Adios, mi amour...


Patsy said...

Amazing that a photo of kids I don't know, in a place I've never been can take me right back to my childhood.

I'm a huge fan of Rosa Mexicano. They are opening an outpost near my office, I hope they don't ruin it for me.

Anonymous said...

Great story Tin.

Jean sounds like a hell of a woman.

Quite honestly I can't think of a better thing to put on someone's tombstone.


Anonymous said...

One of your best stories. Ever.

Your type of carne asada tacos: I agree. By far the best way to have them. When you see it on the menu everything else just disappears.


Main Line Sportsman said...

Mexican food without Cerveza is like a nice Browning 12 bore without shells...useless.

Amatourist said...

ha! can't blame him one bit. if a man ain't got his standards then he ain't got nothing. might as well have opened with no refried beans.

my old man was a particular snort as well. could've lived on corn tortillas and butter, cold beer, small glass, limes and extra salt. i think he saw it as one dish with various parts. and i, the same.

great story.

The Sluice Box said...

I'm delighted to know that I'll finally be able to enjoy Rosa Mexicano in San Francisco, once the restaurant opens a couple of blocks from where I live. I was recently in Los Angeles and noticed that they've also established an outpost there.

Anonymous said...

Some Texas hidden into your heart. . . glad to hear it. . .regards from Dallas.

Oyster Guy said...

A great story well told. I don't eat like a Mexican but I wish I did. I ate a Big Mac but only once. I never watched Titanic OR E.T. I never set foot in Las Vegas but probably will one day, though only for the shooting ranges.

randall said...

I would have had you pegged for a Vegas guy. Not sure why though.

What's the aversion?

Anonymous said...

I grew up in El Paso, and while I don't miss the city much, I do still miss the food!

Paul in NoVA said...

Another great story Tintin. Mexican food a is a godsend for my son who is allergic to wheat and dairy, although maybe a little too much.

I had heard about Rosa Mexicano when it opened in DC so we took him and his buddies there last spring after a trip to the Spy Museum for his birthday.

I probably should have checked out the prices a little beforehand, but I love taking kids out to cool restaurants and just watching.

Being a Navy family, Chinese food was our go-to night out. I will never forget my old man taking us to an authentic place in Chinatown in NYC in the 70's (the Son of Sam summer) during a family road trip. The seven of us were the only honkies in the joint. An old Navy buddy of his - some eccentric Jewish lawyer from Manhattan told him about the place. It was very cool.

You've inspired me to start writing down these stories about my folks while they are still with us.

Cathleen said...

Debbie is pretty cute; I like her game. And, corn tortillas are a delicacy, especially with Dos Equis.