Tuesday, July 08, 2008

The Best Mexican Food In The World

Is at Camacho's Place. You hear restauranteurs talking all the time about the importance of Location. Here's the truth of that. If you have a good location you can serve shit burgers and people will come once to savor the view. If there's enough traffic you will never have to worry about steady or repeat business.
If your food is exceptional, people will flock to your door.

I set out this afternoon about 12:30 to be there to pick up the order I made by calling Maria Camacho at home last night. Just making the order took about half an hour because I had to give her an update on every single one of my kids, all my sisters, promise to tell my cousin, the brilliant attorney's partner hello from Maria and her son. All that good, honest local stuff.

The first landmark on the drive is The New River, or as we locals call it, Shit Creek. This is one of the most polluted waterways in the world. One mouthfull of this water can quite literally kill you.

Coming up out of the river basin, you see Billy Hale's horse operation.

Billy has some of the most prized cutters and penning stock in the West. You can take one of his ponies into a feedlot pen looking for the mostly black one with a white splotch over its left eye and once you put that horse on the cow, that cow will be forced out of the herd, and coaxed to where ever you want it to go. All you have to do is hang the fuck on. Once one of these guys gets a bead on a cow they drop into that pea picking stance and they fucking explode at light speed in what ever direction they need to go to get the job done. Nothing like a cutting horse to show you how superfulous a rider really is on a working ranch. Billy has also been kind enough to offer a very reasonable boarding set up for my arabs come September. Stud fees from Casey are involved, I don't think Casey will mind a bit.

Next is about eight miles of this:

But don't relax too much. If you miss the turn, you'll have less than a mile before you're across the border. Chertoff's fence hasn't happened yet. Here's the thing to remember, when the pavement ends you're in Mexico. Act accordingly. Lucky for us all, there's a high voltage transmission line at the road we need to turn left on.

Before I quit drinking I still managed to miss that turn a few times.

The next landmark is Farmer Ed's feedlot. This is an old fashioned farmer's co-operative venture. Hay farmers pool their resources to have a ready market for their overages. There's some damned fine beef here. The main breed is Brangus. Regular Angus cows can't take the desert heat, Bhramas taste like shit but are hardy as hell. These aren't anywhere near as tractable as the Angus beeves, but that's why Billy's horses are such top notch masters. One of Billy's Bulldog Quarter Horses will not only make that cow do what ever you want, they will humiliate the poor horned critter too.

Right across from the feed lot they are cutting a field of Timothy.

This is a great smelling crop, normally, driving past something like this I would roll down the windows and inhale deeply. Sweet, country hay. Smells great. Since there are about 3,000 cows on the other side of the road, I just keep driving.

Back down into the New River Basin to cross Shit Creek again.

Up the bluff, past Danny Phillip's Cattle yard. Another 5,000 goddamned cattle.

Then we're here. Camacho's Place, established in 1946.

The place started out as a country store, but Maria Primera, being a tender hearted soul, began making tortas and burritos for the field hands and vaqueros. Word got out and folks started showing up for cooked food. It is pure Norteño cuisine. Poor people's, working people's food. It is wonderful stuff. The parking lot is always full. People start coming in at 7 a.m. and will eat steady until 9 p.m., except on Mondays (closed) and Sundays (they open after Mass, when ever after Mass happens)

That's the original counter from the store, those are the original reefer cases too. They still work.

That's the main dining area. Those dark brown beams are the main framing of the building, and the family houses. They started out as railroad ties, but when the Southern Pacific discontinued its runs to San Diego they left all this fine timber lying around and Tapio figured "Porque no?" There are ten consecutive years of Blue Angels portraits on the wall. It's a rite of passage for new members of the Angels to come here and taste real Mexican food.

I don't know if you can make out the headline but it's about how the Skipper of the Blue Angels was surprised by his crew. They flew from Pensacola to NAF El Centro, picked up his birthday lunch and flew back. Your tax dollars at work.

Here's the three generations who have owned and operated this fine restaurant. The fourth generation (and the third Maria) are here now.

The food comes and I drive the same road back. Once at home I spread out the goodies.

Quesadilla Especiale Take an uncooked tortilla round, stuff with cotija and jack cheese, crimp and fry. Total, gooey, lucious, goodness. Also something you won't find anywhere else. This is Norteño Pocho style. Delicioso.

Arroz, Salsa Roja, y frijoles. Each one of them exquisite.

Rolled tacos. Machaca, and cotija cheese, rolled in home made tortillas and fried to a perfect crispy but not crunchy texture. The perfect mixture of crisp and chew.
There were also some flat tacos, which are exactly the same, the machaca and the cotija are flash fried together, then shredded lettuce, diced tomatos and grated jack cheese are added. I blew the picture, sorry, they're all gone now. I only got two dozen of them. Nope, I didn't blow the picture at all, just blew the order of them. Now it's right These beauties below are the tacos. Probably the smell and the anticipation drove me temporarily insane and shit.

Every thing on the menu here is homemade, from local ingredients. It's all so very good. Especially since the folks here have been family friends forever. That makes it extra nice.



Blogger Bukko_in_Australia said...

Mate, you're making me hungry and frustrated! There are many good and exotic cuisines here. Boatloads of Italians and Greeks immigrated to Australia after WW II, and brought their culinary arts with them. Refugee boats of Vietnamese, and planeloads of Lebanese, came after their civil wars. Ditto for their food. Plus Indians (the original kind) and Malaysians and Indonesians... Great eats of all sorts.

But the Mexican restos are pathetic! Aussies have an aversion to hot sauce (although they do like spicy curry, especially when drunk) so it's like Midwestern Mex. And they do weird combinations like "pumpkin" (Australia's catch-all word for any kind of squash) and potato burritos. WE NEED MORE MEXICANS, DAMMIT!

One of the good things about re-visiting the U.S. is going to La Taqueria, a great burrito joint in the Mission district of San Francisco. Mrs. Bukko usually demands a stop there on the way out from the airport.

6:22 PM  
Blogger jurassicpork said...

Mexican food is great but up here in MA we have Tex Mex eateries, which I prefer even more than Mexican.

Of course, we don't need assistance from AAA, GPS's and NASA to get to them.

Must be awesome fucking grub to go through all that. The decor gives the place all the charm of a government bomb shelter. The unpadded folding metal chairs are a nice touch, though.

6:46 PM  
Blogger seventh sister said...

The food looks too good to describe.

The directions to get there remind me of a Chuck Brodsky song:

It's just past the 3rd dead cat It's just past the 3rd dead cat The one that looks like a welcome mat It's just past the 3rd dead cat ...

8:08 PM  
Blogger somewaterytart said...

Dude, this place is 80 fucking miles from Borrego Springs. We couldn't do that, yo! Perhaps my man-meat and I can travel out yonder this summer, though.

I'm still waiting for an exact date for Mission Beach, by the way.

8:46 PM  
Blogger Lisa said...

One can see how good it tastes. I feel like I've got a front row seat to the Splendid Table, and I don't even have to wait for Sunday eve.

This is a great travelog/foodie log.

10:55 PM  
Blogger pissed off patricia said...

I got stuck on the part of the story about cutting horses. When I was in Jr. High, I visited a farm where great cutting horses were in use. They are amazing animals. Talk about a horse with a mission. Wonderful to watch.

2:50 AM  
Blogger Maggie Jochild said...

I do love Tex-Mex as it is done in Tejas, especially the Valley, but (they'll revoke my Texiss citizenship for this) the red sauce and tortillas of Arizona and New Mexico have us beat by a country mile.

I remember La Taqueria from my days living in the Mission in SF. But Chapalita was better. Gone now.

Minstrel Hussein, I'll do my best to steer you toward some good eats here in Austin during Netroots Nation, but lower your expectations when it comes to our tamales and sauces, bro. I'm hoping our addiction to breakfast tacos and migas will make up for it.

4:20 AM  
Blogger Sherry said...

oh wow!

5:26 AM  
Anonymous oddjob said...

Must be awesome fucking grub to go through all that. The decor gives the place all the charm of a government bomb shelter. The unpadded folding metal chairs are a nice touch, though.

I see you are unfamiliar with the Imperial Valley.......

I've been there. The whole area's like this. This is where they grow those "tomatoes" you buy in the store in the winter, the ones with the right color (albeit in a somewhat paler version) that taste like softened baseballs or something. It's also where I learned that cattle urine can create its own fog.

Not a fun fog to drive through in the evening.........

6:24 AM  
Anonymous tata said...

You've just reminded me I'm less than a mile from fantastic Oaxaquenian comidas. Why am I still drooling in a basement?

7:18 AM  
Anonymous horsedooty said...

tex/mex is my favorite. In Texas, la comida Mexicana is supposed to be mostly brown. It is different in New Mexico and it is different in Arizona and in California it is different there also. All of those different flavors are somewhat different from Mexico proper.

Is that Mexican rest on the east side of I 35 in Austin still open? Tipico, I think was the name of it. I can't remember exactly if it was on E12th or E14th. It sat back off the street with a parking lot in front. It was very traditional and in my opinion excellent. that is for you Maggie Jochild.

10:07 AM  
Anonymous Constant Comment said...

All that looks delicious. Are rolled tacos the same as flautas?

12:43 PM  
Blogger The Minstrel Boy said...

flautas are different. they usually contain only chicken, while a "taquito" or rolled taco can contain anything. flautas also are made with flour tortillas, not harina.

2:08 PM  
Blogger Maggie Jochild said...

México Típico, yes, it was there about five years ago when I could still get out more easily. On East 6th. Funny how the mention of the name brings up the flavor of their refried beans in my mouth. A GREAT place, you're right.

9:00 AM  
Blogger The Minstrel Boy said...

here's the main criteria for beans. the best are the ones that are called "everyday beans."

beans you can imagine yourself eating everyday, two or three times.

them there is some beans.

9:14 AM  
Anonymous stephen t said...

Maggie said you're coming to Austin for Netroots - is this right? Seventh Sis and I would love to take you to dinner while you're here. I'm particularly fond of el Mercado on South First, or for the truely trendy, there's Guerro's on South Congress.

Let us know if you're coming out here.

4:33 PM  
Blogger The Minstrel Boy said...

nope, not gonna be in austin. my choices went like this:

go to austin.

go to the beach in san diego.

austin - mission beach


aus - - nah fuck it. BEACH!

4:37 PM  
Anonymous stephen t said...

yeah, I can't say I blame you. July is not the best time to be in central Texas.

6:51 PM  
Blogger Red State Blues said...

Hate to disagree, but the BEST Mexican food in the world is at Rosalie's Cafe outside Taos, NM at a little crossroads called Arroyo Hondo. Though I do grant you that the stuff in the pics looks delicious.

8:10 AM  
Blogger The Minstrel Boy said...

red, i can allow that rosalie's is truly the BEST in your world. i would love to give them a look and a sample. i would remain forever loyal, both as a friend and a foodie to the supremacy of camacho's. what makes places like this deserving and worthy of designations like the "best" is that they are unique and personal. bests like that can simultaniously exist in the world and hearts of dedicated foodies.

10:04 AM  
Blogger Lisa said...

I remember stopping at Rosalie's while a friend and I were hunting for the site of Ansel Adams' "Moonrise" which of course today looks nothing like it did in that magnificent photo.

The restaurant did have that homey feel, but as MB says, when talking of wonderful, nourishing, homely food, "personal" has an awful lot to do with what is defined as "best".

11:03 AM  
Blogger Red State Blues said...

Wow, lisa, that's awesome that you actually know Rosalie's. While you were there, did you happen to take a hike down the canyon from the arroyo to the Stagecoach hot springs?

I agree Minstrel Boy, "best" is always personal. As in, I have the best kids in the world.

1:08 PM  
Blogger Lisa said...

Nope, no hike, Didn't know about the hot springs. Just a whirlwind tour.

5:03 PM  
Anonymous viagra online said...

I stayed absolutely fascinated when I was at Camacho's Place. The food is exquisite, you wanna eat everything you look at the menu. It's a little place, but the service is great, and is definitely the best Mexican food that I've tasted in the last five years.

10:08 AM  

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