Best of the Best: South-of-the-Border comfort food • Cathy Best, Lifestyle Columnist
Corpus Christi, Texas fills in place- of- birth on my birth certificate. Tucked in along the shore of Corpus Christi Bay, on the Gulf of Mexico, Corpus is the gateway to Padre Island National Seashore. MapQuest charts Corpus Christi approximately 160 miles slightly north and due east of Laredo, the Mexico border town, where U.S. and Mexico truck lines meet to exchange goods and manufacturing supplies. The close proximity to Mexico allows for an exchange in culture as well as commerce.
Growing up in Corpus, I fondly remember a large Hispanic community influencing my daily life. A big family, fun loving culture, the Hispanic population centers family life around food, offering a rich diversity in cuisine depending on the family’s regional origin in Mexico.
My earliest Mexican food memories are Christmas Eve tamales, after the midnight service, at the Catholic convent and school where I attended kindergarten, and dining out at Old Mexico, a Corpus Christi institution. Old Mexico opened in 1954, on Leopard Street, not far from my grandparent’s house. Upon arriving at the restaurant, Caesar would seat us at a large family table and follow up with lidded clay containers of piping hot, fresh off the grill, soft corn tortillas served with butter- no chips and salsa.
Caesar knew my grandmother would order the Ladies Special, a combo of one enchilada, one taco, and frijoles. To this day, I order the same fare for lunch most Sundays; if homemade tamales are available- I can eat my weight in them.
Mexican food is our family comfort food; we get a little surly if we don’t get our south-of-the-border fix. Before Mexican food was available in Madison, we made a weekly trek to Mexico, our son’s terminology for the drive to Athens. The recent boom in Mexican restaurants is a testament to its growing popularity.
Corpus now boasts 45 Mexican restaurants; five establishments, including Taco Bell, now serve Mexican food in Madison. I suggest giving them all a try. With all the options now available- surly is not one of them.
Best of the Best:
Madison Mexican food
El Sol, 171 W. Washington St. (enter on 2nd Street), serves authentic fare, great traditional tamales on Thursday and Friday and asada and carnita tacos. Watch their specials for the southern Mexico oaxaqueno tamale, a savory masa, and chicken variation wrapped and steamed in banana leaves as well as other regional favorites. If I’m in town, I don’t miss a weekly visit.
Pacho’s Mexican Grill, 1650 Eatonton Road, offers Tapatio Soup, a chicken, avocado, tortilla soup with a hint of lime. The chunky Guacamole Fresco is a tasty side; share this, it’s way too much for one person.
The speedy, what I call their version of the Ladies Special, is my Sunday lunch. Coupons, offered on the website, are emailed to you, if requested. www.pachosmexgrill.com
Rico’s Mex Mex Grill, 863 North Main- I’m working on a favorite here.
Tequila Express, 270 W. Washington St, has a chicken tortilla soup with a generous
pinch of diced jalapenos that has just enough kick, love it. The fish tacos never disappoint. www.tequilaexpresscafe.com
Cathy Best discovers new things daily.
Contact her to share local resources, books, blogs, Web sites and apps you’ve discovered: email@example.com.
Printed in the November 15, 2012 edition