This is an account of a year of eating tacos on the San Francisco Peninsula, mostly in my hometown of Redwood City. It began in July 1996 and ended in June 1997. This was not the end of the taco eating by any means.
When I first thought about putting up a taco website, I naturally looked into calling it Taco Diaries. The domain names TacoDiary.com and TacoDiaries.com were both available and I took them. But then I found that a woman had a MySpace page called Taco Diaries. Out of respect, and to avoid confusion, I chose not to use the name and I let the domains expire when the year was up.
The Original Taco Diaries 1996-97 by Scott Wilson, Taco Obsessive
Note: Somehow a bunch of out of place symbols ended up in the text below. The apostrophes were replaced by symbols. You’ll see when you get there. I’ll clean it up when I get some time.
14 July 96-Homemade tacos for lunch. Bruce had leftover pork chops from Jenni’s B-day party so we cut one up and sauted it with onion and garlic, moistened with tomato juice from a jar of home canned tomatoes. Double corn tortillas, Homespice salsa, and shredded Napa cabbage. Just killer. Sometimes homemade tacos are just the perfect call.
19 July 96 Fri-El Grullense, Middlefield at Maple. Probably the best of the Grullense for burritos right now, though tonight I ordered three carnitas en chile verde tacos with both salsas, which means they put the hot red sauce on too. While waiting, I goofed on Gilberto across the street in his hair salon. He’s a crazy, pimpy type that blares f@#! ballads onto the street thru big speakers. You can see him in there when he’s cutting somebody’s hair, spinning around the person, tossing his scissors or comb from hand to hand like some hood in West Side Story. From a distance, by the way he moves and dresses, he seems pretty young, but up close, you see his face and guess he’s 35 or so. Two nights ago, Bruce and I went down to score burritos and he was sitting in an orange armchair on the sidewalk, talking to the guy that sells cassettes in front of El Grullense. The guy also makes fishing nets by hand while he’s hanging out there. He’s got a fat daughter with stains on her shirt that helps him on weekends.
Anyway, the tacos were so-so. Too watery and the meat was tough. I didn’t give a heck too much. I just gobbled them down in the shade with Jana, and then drove off to see a jazz show at Stanford.
29 July 96- Bluffs above the beach north of Bodega Bay. Al’s Rico Tacos. We found a truck up there of all places, at the beach. Of course we had to go check it out. After we abandoned our rental house, we drove up there. I had 3 al pastor tacos, which were pretty good. Sometimes the location is more important than the quality. The tacos had lettuce on them, but no onion and cilantro. Lettuce on tacos is lame! Everyone else I was with ordered various tacos, which they seemed to enjoy. Our feast got cut short when a dickhead California Parks cop was going to write us tickets for illegal parking. We weren’t even blocking traffic but he was a real malcontent jerk. Al wasn’t even Mexican nor was his cook. They looked Iranian or something.
2 Sept 96, Phoenix, Oregon- Just about to pull onto I-5, we see a taco truck in the parking lot of a grocery store. TACOS JALISCO stenciled on the side . The top third of the letters green, the middle third white, the bottom third red, colors of the Mexican flag. We swung the car around the front side and let out moans of disappointment to see the fellow lowering the awning. He saw us, smiled, and put the awning back up. Yes! We got out and scanned the menu, fairly typical. We ordered four lengua con todo. Out of lengua. 4 pastor and a Pepsi. The lady taking orders, big bug eyes. Spoke English well, responded to Q’s so slowly I thought she didn’t know English. Tacos. Single tortilla. Pastor that was red like adovada. Pinto beans (different than RWC) and salsa fresca. Not very hot. Pretty tasty and filling. Cool to see truck up there. Lady said they bought truck in CA. Said business is OK.
11 Sept Tues- Fat tacos at El Grullense #5 last night around 11 PM. Bruce and I on way home from Palo Alto. We were at a Yuppie pool hall/restaurant, drinking beer, saying sayonara to Louie on his last day at GB. When youâ€™re coming into RWC from the south, it’s easy to cut over a few blocks and score a few tacos, get back into the local vibe. We cut off El Camino to Main and Cassia and WHAMO, there we were staring at the place across Middlefield Rd. Empty lot to right, fountain carver to left. We pulled right up to the privileged spot in front not 10 feet from order window. One of the big brothers was working. Good crew. The lady who always makes my burritos fat, like my carnitas en chile verde on Monday night. But she made Jana’s tacos a bit on the limp side. Bruce ordered two cabeza con todo. And I got two carnitas. Such lovely tacos. And such a pleasure to stand at the counter there and groove on the scene, watching this part of our town do its thing on a weeknight. Gilberto was cutting Monday, but not anoche. Bruce said he saw Gilberto in Starbuck’s, with his shirt open, looking around real nervous, then he bolted out the door.
Forgot to mention lunch run yesterday to El Tulense. I swung by and got a plate of 2 chile verde, 1 pastor, and the same for Pops, who met me at Maga’s. She’s holding off the tacos since she hasn’t been up to snuff recently. She said she’d love to dig into a taco but the stomach wouldn’t like it. The tacos were grand (plates looked picture perfect when I peeled the foil back, with lime wedges, carrots, jalapenos) Dad dug his as usual. I’m afraid we bored Maga with Homespice business talk. She grins anyway.
Nothing like the sound of Pac Man and other outdated video games mixed with Norteno music and a bunch of little Mexican kids running around screeching.
Some fat guy got pissed last night because they put lard on his tacos. He said, Oye compa, estos tienen grasa. No quiero grasa. They were cool. They said there was no grease on his torta, just butter. He said, Es la misma chingadera.
16 Sept 96 Mon- Three visits to Grullense #5 since Friday. The first one was Friday night when Chris, Jana, and Veronica came down from Roseville. The two Jana’s went down and picked up the grub. I had a Chile Verde burrito that was well decked out, so well in fact that I wrapped up the last third and saved it for a snack later on. Chris dug is Asada burro. The Janas gobbled their tacos.
Yesterday we needed tacos to shake the dullness of heads coming down from a full evening of drinking and revelry. Same gang as Friday plus Dan and Ana, friends from Canary Island days now living in Salinas. My three fat Verde tacos with both salsas slid down nicely, abundantly juicy. My Jana thought the carrots were off, though they seemed good to me and ate them all. Veronica was running around being a curious, precocious kid. Everyone else seemed to be Mexican guys in their 30′s eating plates piled with tacos.
There’s a trick to ordering if you want more than four tacos. You have to divide your order in two, as if you’re ordering for two people. Because if you order five or six, by the time they arrange the tortillas on the plate, there’s barely any surface showing and you get much less meat. When you order on two plates, there’s plenty of room on each tortilla for a pile of steaming flesh, onions, cilantro and salsa.
This afternoon Bruce called to see if anyone wanted a burrito. Jana didnâ€™t. But I was interested. Bruce came over to collect pollen from some combs then we jammed down to #5. Iâ€™ve felt a bit guilty lately, eating so many burros, so I ordered 2 verde, 2 lengua tacos con todo, dos salsas. I needed to reestablish my connection to the taco thing and did it in a big way. The tacos were on tonight, while Bruce complained of dinky burrito. Sometimes the Burros there get a little wimpy and it sucks to get a small burrito, makes you want to get all fired up. Usually, though, you just anticipate the next visit and pray for a big fatty.
While we waited we surveyed the scenery. Gilbertoâ€™s salon across the street, advertising flattops on a sign in the window, next door to that, the newly painted Foresterâ€™s Hall where Mariachi and NorteÃ±o bands fill the place on weekends. Waning sliver of a moon above the hall. Slight breeze blowing at twilight on the third or fourth evening of hints of autumn weather. I felt a little nervous, depressed, wondering about getting a winter job now that the landscaping gig is slowing down. Changing of seasons always seems like time for evaluation of where on is at in any of their journeys. I feel that time coming. On the surface, the tacos may seem constant, but examination reveals their manifold incarnations, subtle metamorphoses at the hands of different practitioners, perceptions of hungry diners and buzzed smackers, bums putting down a buck for a taco, or a gringo plumber ordering a shitload for the fellas at the job site.
18 Sept 96 Wed-Mountain View, 4 tacos, RWC 1 taco. Adam is down from Vashon to visit his sister in Santa Cruz. He cruised over the hill for a visit and overnighter at our place. We drove down to Lindaâ€™s house on 101, along with Bruce and Jana, stopping at the truck Los 2 Hermanos in the Walgreenâ€™s parking lot. Bruce and I hammered four tacos each. I got 2 pastor and 2 cabeza. All very superlicious and juicy. Then on the way home we pulled over at Grullense #5 for a little nightcap. The place was fairly busy for 11 PM, families with kids still out walking. I copped a verde taco whilst Adam grooved on lengua. The we dove into the car and took Bruce to Truman St. He was half asleep already. Funny thing was that he didnâ€™t have to work the next morning and I was pulling a 7:15er. Adam got up with me at 6 AM to listen to Howard Stern. He was making mushroom beads and little clay animals. I at Malto Meal and he commented, when he saw me pour maple syrup on my cereal, that he was hooked on maple syrup ever since he visited us in Center Conway, NH in October 1994.
24 Sept 96 Tues-2 pastor con todo at the newest El Grullense at Middlefield and Charter, the place my Dad digs because he says itâ€™s less greasy. Jana and I shared the tacos after a sÃ©ance ritual equinox thing at Peggyâ€™s. They were juicy and good. I helped myself to a few extra carrot rounds to gobble up.
1 Oct 96 Tues- new Grullense. Went down w/Bruce after getting sprinkler parts at OSH. Got 1 asada taco for there and Pastor burro to go, lengua burro for Jana. Taco was ultra big. Burro was somehow smokylicious tasting. Just plain hungry. Gobbled it down at home, drank beer, ate hot carrots. Life is crazy, hectic right now. Itâ€™ll work out. Tacos are a constant in the fluctuating equation of life.
6 Oct 96 Sun- New place on El Camino called Vanessaâ€™s Meat Market and Taqueria. I went in once when it was called Panchoâ€™s Taqueria. But they didnâ€™t sell tacos and the guy got pissed when I asked. Now they have tacos, with homemade tortillas on weekends, they also have birria on weekends. There was one lady in front of me when I walked in, very Indian face, wearing a too tight shiny white dress. She was waiting for her order. There seemed to be a bit of confusion concerning taco prices. The young guy was charging her $1.25 each even though the handwritten, fluorescent fuchsia, menu showed $1.00. He seemed genuinely unaware and not a shyster trying to rook the poor doll for a couple of extra dollars.
I ordered three pastor and one lengua taco. Then I stepped back to wait. I perused the selection in the meat case: ChicharrÃ³nes filled one section, those big, crazy bubbled sheets of fried pig skin. They fry it twice, once to cook it and the second time in blistering hot oil to make it puff and crackle. Ingenious use of the shit, really! We make footballs, they eat it. Pork chops, skirt steak, frozen pig feet. There was some chorizo hanging out to dry. Fairly crappy selection and very slow service. While I waited, a couple of dons in their 50â€™s or 60â€™s ambled in to â€œplaticarâ€?, or chat amicably, with who looked like the head honcho of the joint. Even with two people running the grill, the tacos were slow in coming. Then the guy came out to ask what was the order again. The kid who took my order , who was now over by the meat counter with the gents, said three pastor with a question mark, looking at me to confirm. I added a lengua taco to that and they all seemed baffled. They finally brought my order out a few minutes later and I payed up. When I got in the car I looked in the container and there were three delicious pastor tacos. The tongue, apparently, was too much for them. The tacos looked good, different color and smaller than other places.
10 Oct- Apatzingan-2 chile verde tacos and a Pepsi. Had Â½ hour to kill before going to Peggyâ€™s to work. Tasty but their tacos are a bit watery sometimes and the tortillas disintegrate.
After Peggyâ€™s, I was cruising down Middlefield Rd. and stopped in at Lupeâ€™s Food for their now standard fifty cent cabeza tacos. The fat guy was working. The false 20 dollar bill still taped to the wall. I ate there. Good little afternoon interlude.
11 Oct 96 Fri-Drunken trip to El Grullense for burritos. We made Bruce drive us since we were loaded. Greg is back from Hawaii and here for a few days before heading back to Colorado. We had a big appetitive and ordered burritos, the standard chile verde fatties. Since Iâ€™ve been doing landscaping, Iâ€™m ordering more burritos. Sometimes I feel like Iâ€™m abandoning tacos, but the rice and beans in the burritos are more substantial and fill the belly.
Taco Crawl in Salinas
17 Oct 96-We rolled into Salinas under the dubious cover of a thinning late morning for. Fields of vegetables peeled off in all directions. I gazed at the myriad shades of green and wondered what far-off American city all these heads of lettuce, broccoli and cauliflower would end up in. They might as well have been on a different planet because neither they nor their brethren would land on our meal plates that day. We were in town for something else.
Danny D., our host for the event, greeted us at the door with a Cheshire grin on his face. â€œIâ€™ve got it all mapped out. I figure we can hit eleven places if we pace ourselvesâ€? We nodded with approval and smiled smugly. Then we all cracked open steam beers and drank deeply. We felt ready and were getting in the mood for the task at hand: To sample tacos from the top taquerias in Salinas.
A few years back Dan had worked in Salinas as a translator and had dabbled in tacos. Since we met in Spain and lived in the same city from 1991-93, we had hung out together and become fanatical about Spanish snack food. Not only that, he had listened to me rave incessantly about the tacos in my hometown, so his head was swimming with tacos and he needed to break into the scene in Salinas.
Gutierrez y Rico, Corner of Sherwood and E. Rossi St. Huge selection of plates from $5-12. Seafood, burros, tacos at $1.40. Tons of meat on taco. No condiments. Condiments in bar. 3 or 4 salsas, fresh green onions, lemon wedges, radishes. I ordered chile verde but got chile Colorado. It was good with salsa verde and salsa roja. Others had lengua and carne asada, which they liked. Much meat on all tacos.
Los Altos taqueria-tacos at $1.40. huge dbl. tortilla. I got pastor. Fresh chips on table. Owners from San Juan de los Lagos, Jalisco. Big stein drinks popular: beer, white wine, clamato juice.
Truck-Tacos La Perla. Corner of Hebron and E. Market St. Killer tostadas de ceviche, though not as flavorful as could be. Owner, 2 sons from Michoacan, lived in Ensenada. Will soon have tacos from 6-11 PM.
Mi Taqueria-Tacos at $1.40. good choice of salsas, onion, cilantro. Rooster on roof. Looks like it used to be a mom and pop chicken joint. Once Dan went there and saw a car driven halfway through the fence in the parking lot. It was still running with no driver in sight. About half and hour later, when he came out, it was being towed. Today the fence was still smashed with pieces everywhere. Ana tripped out on trash everywhere. I explained how they donâ€™t even see it.
Taqueria El Pastor-Castroville- tacos at $.80. bitchin smoky salsa roja.
Truck-downtown Salinas. In some back alley. Pastor. Bruce had birria de res. Piss smell on the wind. Piss stains in all the corners of bldgs.
Taqueria Don Pepe on N. Sanborn St.-tacos at $1.50. mediocre. Chile verde no sabor. Faded sign. Kid with thick eyebrows at cashier. Asked how we learned Spanish. Dan said from eating at taquerias. Kid believed him. TV was blaring soccer right behind our heads. Families gobbling huge plates of food, staring at tube.
Taqueria Jalisco on N. Sanborn. Chile verde kills. Got tacos and took them out to patio down corridor. Lattice covered with ivy. Old couple out there with grandkids. Tacos were tasty.
El GÃ¼ero Tacos and Check Cashing on N. Sanborn. Tacos at $.90. longaniza kills. Very crowded. Vast menu. Lots of fat people scarfing. Pickled pigskin on counter. Lady ladled out an order onto plate. Limp, pale, yuck. Very resourceful to use everything.
El Chavinda-$.80, only tacos, tortas, etc. Kitchen is cruising. Taco man was very fast. Flips salsa in air, then moves taco under it. Adobada good. Some bum asked for change. Asked how I knew Spanish. Said I lived in Spain. Said he lived in Alemania. I said â€œseig heilâ€? and he got excited and started shouting. When we pulled out he was a couple of stores down. Bruce yelled orale to get his attention, then seig heil. He got excited again.
Mexican restaurants in Salinas are all Mexican. Barely any gringos. We saw four whiteys in 10 places.
20 Oct 96 Thurs-Apatzingan- Stopped in for lunch after working in Palo Alto. There were about six people in front of me so I knew it would be awhile to get my tacos since just one couple runs the place and they both seem a little confused. So I got a bowl of freshly made tortilla chips and a dish of house-made hot sauce from the big bowl made of black volcanic stone. With chips and salsa, I got my Pepsi and sat at a table, pushing aside the mess from the people before me. The place is pretty big and seems huger with its high ceilings. Most of the tables were occupied by Mexican laborers. A couple of white guys were in there. While reading El Mensajero, I took a sip of my Pepsi and just about shit. My freakinâ€™ upper left molars are sensitive as hell sometimes, with my receding gums leaving more tooth surface for cold drinks to fuck with. I never drink cold sodas. So I donâ€™t know why the hell I get ice cold Pepsi when I eat tacos.
The tacos finally came up. They put them on the counter and call out, but you can never hear them so you have to keep an eye out and watch people that ordered before you going up. I went up and snatched my two chile verdes and one birria. The verdes were OK but the meat there tends to be in chunks too big to manage the tacos. The flavor was decent. The birria was shredded and tasty but a little tough, probably because itâ€™s goat. Once again, the tortillas were a little on the moist side.
Then last night, after going to visit Maga in the hospital, Jana said she wanted a taco, so we blazed down to Grullense. Jana got a lengua and I got two chile verde. While I was waiting for the slow crew to take up the order, I tripped out on this black guy that looked like he was on dope, walking around talking to himself, gesturing like some rapper. Some lady with three little kids with silver caps on their teeth was waiting too. She didnâ€™t seem phased by the crazy dude. My tacos, by the way, were pretty damn good.
22 Oct 96 Tues- On our way home from Williams, we stopped at the taco truck in Phoenix and had pork tacos all around. They took long enough to make them. Then driving down I-5, we pulled off at Corning to get a smoothie cone and Jana spotted a trailer in an empty lot by the Corning truck was that read TACOS. No menu. We ordered pastor. Three short guys were waiting under the awning. They all were about 5â€™2â€?, short bristly hair, bristly goatee beards, and looked identical.
12 Nov 96 Tues-coming back from UPS in Menlo Park with Pat Larson, it was about lunchtime and we pulled into the killer taco place there on Willow Rd. the one with the sign that reads TACO-Mexican food. I ordered up two barbacoa and two chile verde. Pat got two lengua and we ordered two lengua for Jana, who was at home with our week old baby. Pat and I gobbled our tacos in the van outside, parked under some carob trees.
14 Nov 96 Thurs- After working at Peggyâ€™s, Bruce and I stopped at Lupeâ€™s Food. I got 3 pastor, Bruce got 3 lengua. Price was .75 each, special offer. Best tacos there in a long time. The fat guy was working.
18 Nov 96 Mon- about 10 AM coming back from UPS, I stopped at TACO and got 2 chile verde tacos with scrounged change. They were good, very hot as usual, though somewhat drippy with grease. I gobbled them in the car before I split to deliver chiles to Burlingame.
23 Nov 96 Sat-Mi Pueblo, truck, Mtn View-With Winky on way to Lindaâ€™s, filthy truck. 3 al pastor tacos were good. Wink got burro.
24 Nov 96 Sun-El Grullense. Gillianâ€™s first taco run. Whole family went down. Wink and Pam in town. I got 3 carnitas in chile verde. Lady taking orders got pissed because Mom, Wink and Pam all made special funky orders. Some drunk, sick, bent over guy was sitting in booth across from us with nasty lady. Gilberto in front of his shop with shirt off. Later playing football in Grullense parking lot.
27 Nov 96 Wed-On way home from work, dropped in at old friends at El Tulense and got 3 chile verde. Quite tasty. Same problem as always. Too watery. Tortilla falls apart.
30 Nov 96 Sat-Coming back from doing a little work in Palo Alto, stopped at El Grullense and got 4 tacos de carnitas en chile verde. Stopped in to see Max at the AmpLab and shared them with him. He was pleased to gobble them up with me. I gave him the lowdown on Grullense and he wants to check it out.
9 Dec 96 Mon-TACO, Menlo Park, 2 chile verde, 1 barbacoa. Bum tried to approach van. I drove off. At tacos at foot of Whipple Ave.
11 Dec 96 Wed-Dave Norris came down from SF for tacos. He called up and asked, â€œDo you want to get a taco?â€? I wasnâ€™t sure if he meant now or later. I said yes. He and I and Jana and Gillian and Brown went to El Grullense next to Sigonaâ€™s Market. We chose it for its distinction of being the only taqueria with beer. Gillian was the centerpiece on the table, occasionally surprising us with involuntary jerks and arms raised like Godzilla monsters. I had 2 pastor tacos. Fine crisp texture, juicy and greasy. Nice salsa. Squeeze of lime. Drank a Negra Modelo with Jana. Bruce ate 2 lengua after finishing off a lengua burrito only hours before. This Asian bum was in there drinking an orange soda. Iâ€™ve seen him on Middlefield Rd. before.
12 Dec 96 Thurs-Apatzingan-Going from jobsite in M.P. to Peggyâ€™s. Went a new way and took 2 wrong turns. Place was empty. I ordered 2 pastor. Ate chips and salsa and read Spanish newspaper while waiting for tacos. Salsa in big molcajete. Serve yourself. Tacos were NICE! Their sauce rocks. Perfect juiciness. Abundant pile of meat on double tortillas.
15 Dec 96 Sun-Went to Grullense with Bruce. Got 3 carnitas en chile verde. Quite tasty. We ate them at home. I wanted more.
16 Dec 96 Mon-worked Â½ day with Ryan. Stopped at Grullense. And got 2 pastor, 2 chile verde. Pastor were too salty. Chile verde were great. The chick put 6 jalapenos on my plate. And no carrots. Lame.
19 Dec 96 Thurs-LA COSTA, new place on El Camino. Jana and I brought Gillian, who was fussy the whole time. I ordered chile verde plate. Quite huge portion. Handmade tortillas. Making tacos.
20 Dec 96 Fri-Grullense, Bruce got a super burro and didnâ€™t like it. I got tacos. 3 chile verde. Pretty darn good. Lots of people down there. Even Gilberto was doing cuts at night.
21 Dec 96 Sat-East Palo Alto, Raining. Bruce and I in rain gear. Picked persimmons at Claudieâ€™s, then to Three Brothers Taqueria on Donohoe. I got 4 chile verde. Fucking good. Different flavors than RWC. More shredded texture of meat. Bruce said his lengua tacos were dyno.
23 Dec 96 Mon-TACO, Menlo Park, UPS run. 3 chile verde. Shredded. Juicy, very hot. Same as always! Consistent.
25 Dec 96 Wed, X-mas, Jana and I going to Magaâ€™s. Truck el Grullo, .85 each. Me-2 pastor, Jana-2 lengua. Little boy wanted â€˜luengaâ€™ tacos.
30 Dec 96 Mon- Phoenix, OR. Truck-Jalisco. 3 adovada, 2 lengua
31 Dec 96 Tues-Dad and I went down to El Grullense to get tacos. I got 3 chile verde. Dad got 2 chicken and a side of rice and beans. We ordered for Jana and Mom too. Lengua and vegetarian burritos. Across the street at Foresterâ€™s Hall, there was a Grateful Dead Tribute New Yearâ€™s Eve party getting in motion. Gilbertoâ€™s salon next door was dark. About half a dozen young hippy types were at the window outside, ordering, looking vaguely lost and amused as hippies often are, groovy grins painted on their malleable faces. We went inside and ordered.
Before we left the house, there was a heated discussion humming about Black English (a.k.a. Ebonics) and leading into other realms such as planetary destruction, finding oneâ€™s way back after taking the wrong path, etc. We didnâ€™t continue the discussion when we walked outside. We ended up talking about tools on the way down there. The order weighed nicely, with its food laden paper plates covered with foil, napkins, extra hot sauce. I carried it back to the van. Upon return I doled out real plates and beverages. My tacos were nice, plenty of chunky pork double dice sized nuggets, perfect with both salsas. The tortillas were waterlogged though. They would have crumbled in the hands of a less seasoned taco eater. In my hands, the mathematics of movement and load bearing capacities at certain velocities and camber of the tacos, played themselves out surgically and soon my plate was empty with nary a fallen crumb. The bonus tonight was that they gave me two lime wedges instead of one, and about five nice sections of hot carrots.
3 Jan 97 Fri-Today was my first day of work in two weeks. We were working in Menlo Park. I drove home up El Camino and cut over on 5th Avenue to Middlefield Rd. I went straight to Lupeâ€™s Food and ordered three lengua tacos, which were featured today at 75 cents. The fatty man was working. He was actually staring at the TV, which was showing a young girl dancing on a Mexican variety show. He finally noticed me and took my order. Since nobody else was there ordering, my food came quickly and I sat down to read a free magazine while I enjoyed. A new feature I noticed were three jars on the counter with hot sauce and jalapenos in them. The looked like a three pack deal from Price Club, half gallon plastic jars with floral patterns on them. This was the first time I had lengua with red sauce. The sauce was quite different from Grullense. Hotter and less oregano.
6 Jan 97 Mon-I had to drive down to S.J. airport to pick up Danny D and Ana. They were flying in from Indy. They left their car at our house for 3 weeks during Christmas. When Dan called from his parentsâ€™ house in Indianapolis, he said he wanted to get tacos after I picked them up. I was up for it. So I snatched them up at the airport with relative ease and we drove north on Hwy 101 to Redwood City. I almost pulled off at Willow Rd; for them to try TACO but I decided to get closer to our pad so the tacos would still be hot when we got home. We hit our favorite El Grullense and ordered up. Dan picked up my tab, which was a nice gesture. I ordered a chile verde burrito and Jana, Dan, and Ana got the kind tacos. Danny D has an ulcer so he only ordered two tacos. Ana and Jana also grubbed two.
9 Jan 97 Thurs-Made a big mistake and went back to Los Gallos at Marsh Manor Shopping Plaza on Florence St. I was driving from UPS to Peggyâ€™s house. I almost stopped at TACO. Suddenly I remembered that Los Gallos was also on the way. I had stopped there once a long time ago and ordered one taco after having fished enough change out of the glove box for one taco. They also gave me a basket of chips. Now, I couldnâ€™t remember the details of the experience, so I dropped in to check it out.
I walked in the door and the place was three times as large as before. They had enlarged it and put in a grand eating area, which was now full of people sucking down their lunchtime slop. I was surprised at first that it was so big and crowded. Then I remembered that a big office park was nearby and all these well dressed folks found the proximity, relative inexpensiveness, and passable quality made this a perfect lunch joint. I ordered and sat at the counter. My three chile verde tacos were delivered quickly enough. They were made with the dinky corn tortillas doubled up. The meat was cut too big for the tortillas and much of the contents spilled out when I took my first bite. The sauce was watery and the flavor watered down. They gave me chips that were oily and the salsa fresca in the serve-yourself salsa bar was insipid.
11 Jan 97 Sat-Jana and Gillian and I went to Magaâ€™s for lunch. We stopped at Lupeâ€™s Food. All his tacos are 75 cents right now except he doesnâ€™t have any pork. As usual, he had the TV cranked up. I got 2 cabeza and 2 asada. Jana got lengua and Maga got asada. Mine were pretty decent. I took an extra container of salsa roja and doused my snacks. It was fairly hot and my nose ran. Jana suspected foul play with her lengua tacos and wouldnâ€™t eat them. So I gave her one of my asadas. I gobbled the lengua tacos and they were edible though certainly not of the highest quality. On the contrary, the meat was suspiciously dark and there was too much fat in the mix. So I poured more hot sauce on them and sucked them down in three bites each. Maga had the heat kicked up and I became sleepy. So I slept for an hour then woke up and ate a bunch of Seeâ€™s candy and Brachâ€™s candy mix. Apparently, Magaâ€™s taco was pretty darn hot and lit her up real good.
12 Jan 97 Sun-As I had promised earlier to Jana, because her tacos sucked, I drove to El Grullense #5 and got her and me chile verde burritos. I asked for extra salsa roja for me and no beans for Jana. The guy working was pretty sharp. He even wrote on the big bag which burro had no frijoles. Heâ€™s been there for a few years. Some of the workers donâ€™t mark special order burritos or say anything.
When I drive to #5 I usually take Broadway to Maple. Itâ€™s cooler than taking El Camino. Except for the diversion in Broadway, the route is perfect. Sometime back in the fifties, the city moved Broadway at the train tracks so that it funneled traffic onto Marshall St. toward the government buildings. So to stay on Broadway, you have to make a right turn immediately after crossing the tracks onto Arguello St., which connects into Broadway again on the other side of the tracks. It has terribly fucked up the whole historic backbone of the town. Anyway, once Iâ€™m on Broadway again, I cruise downtown to see whatâ€™s happening. Thereâ€™s Spankyâ€™s Sportsrock Bar where the owner tried to get Bruceâ€™s girlfriend, who worked there, to wear his wifeâ€™s clothes. She didnâ€™t do it. Thereâ€™s a whole block of restaurants down near Main and Broadway. 20/30 has been there the longest. The chef is Jaime Carpenter, Jakes uncle. Heâ€™s a cool guy. He once took me to the cigar shop across the street and smoked a stogie with me. Then I cross over Main St. and pass the Grocery Outlet where I buy my discount beer. At this writing I am sipping a nationally know microbrew purchased at GO! for three dollars a six pack. After the Grocery Outlet I turn right on Maple St. and continue two blocks until I reach the side entrance of El Grullense. There is always a gold Cadillac parked there. The guy that sells music cassettes in front of Grullense owns it. Another option is to cut behind that block and come in the Cassia St. side where there is more ample parking.
We ate our burritos on the living room floor. Gillian slept in the basinet. A couple of sitcoms and the X-files were playing on the television. Janaâ€™s burro was incredibly huge, as was mine, but hers even more so. As she ate it, she found that it was nearly three-fourths full of porky chunks. So she began pulling pieces out until there was a tolerable amount in the burro dog. The pile of misfit meat was whisked into the fridge. The X-files was about the chupacabras.
The leftover pork we heated later and also heated up some tortillas that Bruce had just brought home. We also had a cup of salsa roja to put on the tacos, along with some lettuce mix. We each had two of these tacos. Later on we were still hungry so we made a bunch of quesadillas with fresh epazote from the garden. We have about eight plants that have taken 3 frosts and still look fantastico. In fact, Iâ€™m delivering some to Draegerâ€™s tonight for a cooking demonstration. The executive chef from Coyote CafÃ© will be there to show his fancy wares.
17 Jan 97 Fri-El Grullense-Dad came over after work and we drove down to Middlefield Rd. I ordered 3 chile verde tacos and Dad got two carnitas. We also ordered burritos for Bruce and Jana. Gilberto was doing a cut across the street. It looked like there were a few guys in there.
17 Jan 97 Wed-After Mom and Dad came over and announced that they are separating, I felt like eating tacos. I donâ€™t think the two events were linked. Later, Jana and I found ourselves at Grullense, (having our first tacos of the year.?) Gillian was sleeping in the car seat. Jana and I both got chile verde. She ate two. I ate four. Very tasty. Good tortillas. The chick working there dug me. Smiling a lot. She also loaded our goddam tacos so high we could barely hold them. We tore them up though, and left totally satisfied. Then we drove to Mountain View to visit Linda.
30 Jan 97 Thurs- Apatzingan, lunch, 2 carnitas tacos, made perfectly. Rare for these guys. Pepsi. Chips with a green salsa.
1 Feb 97 Sat-Grullense with Bruce. 2 carnitas en chile verde. Describe guy selling cassettes and his fat family.
17 Feb 97 Mon-Grullense 2 chile verde
20 Feb 97 Thurs-Apatzingan, 2 pastor, very good 1 chile rojo (achiote flavor?) salty. Read evangelical newspaper. No free chips. Didnâ€™t feel like asking, as if it wasnâ€™t meant to be.
28 Feb 97 Fri-Bruce and Stan went to Grullense. I didnâ€™t order anything, being sick. They brought home 3 extra lengua tacos. I felt compelled to eat two of them, which filled me up to the point of overflow. They were OK.
6 March 97 Thurs-Apatzingan, 2 pastor, 1 chile verde. Pepsi en lata. The woman recognized me and said hi. Tacos were perfect. Salsa in big bowl was hotter than usual.
7 March 97 Fri-Grullense, got 3 chile verde/w salsa roja. They were good but I noticed my interest has been down quite a bit in the past few weeks. The last 2 burros Iâ€™ve had havenâ€™t done a thing for me. And the tacos yesterday and today didnâ€™t move me much, except in the bowels.
11 March 97 Wed-Grullense w/Bruce. 2 pastor, 2 carnitas. Bruce-lengua burro. Went to Mtn. Mikeâ€™s for all you can eat pizza. Place was packed full of fat pigs. Waited 15 min and drank our beer without seeing a pizza leave the kitchen. Got refund. Went to Grullense. They were crowded too. Lost our order. Cook sucked. Place full of smoke. Looked out window. Saw car on sidewalk. Accident just happened. Bruce called 911. Tacos were decent, but Iâ€™m still not into them?!
21 March 97 Fri-Grullense, 3 chile verde. Gilberto had a sofa on the sidewalk and potted plants on each side. Music blaring.
28 March 97 Fri-Good Friday. All Grullenses closed for Catholic holiday and painting. Taco truck â€œLa Nayaritaâ€? from San Mateo was in parking lot of Grullense. I got 2 pastor. Very Good.
31 March 97 Mon-Grullense, 2 pastor, tasty. Car passed smog inspection. Celebrate with tacos. Lots of fat boys in there.
5 April 97 Sat-Grullense w/Max. Max was starving but I wasnâ€™t. I hadnâ€™t been hungry since Friday night. Family dynamics making me nauseous. The cassette guy was making a fishing net. Foresterâ€™s Hall had a quinceaÃ±era happening. Mariachi guys and girls in pink dresses out front. Gilbertoâ€™s was dark. We ordered inside. I got 2 chile verde. Max got a carnitas burr and one chile verde taco. He got a Coke. I got a Pepsi. The guy asked if I wanted salsa roja also and I said yes. He put plenty of carrots on our plates. We sat down at a table by the window. I looked at the bad painting of the Virgin of Guadalupe with the little angel holding her up. Max loved his burrito. I was surprised to find that I was enjoying these tacos more than any in the past two months.
7 April 97 Mon-Took Dad to radiator shop. Dropped him off. Went to Grullense 10:30 AM. Got 3 chile verde with salsa roja. Watery. Tasted decent but tortillas disintegrated. Lazy bitch didnâ€™t drain them enough. No carrots on plate. I had to go back and get some. Ate them in car listening to Howard Stern. Nice sunny day. But this taco experience was lame. Consolation is that it filled my gut with crap.
10 April 97 Thurs- Apatzingan with Jana-veg burro. 1 chile verde, 2 pastor. She loves chips there. Baby asleep on table.
16 April 97 Wed- Grullense, Bruce brought me 2 pastor. Shitty. Dry meat, hard tortilla.
17 April 97 Thurs-Grullense at 5th and Spring, 2 pastor. Excellent
18 April 97 Fri 4 PM-2 Hermanos truck, Mtn View. 2 pastor, pretty good, too much gristle though. Over by Laundromat, a bunch of Mexicans drinking, one passed out, starting to rain.
18 April 97 Fri 7 PM-Burritos at Grullense. Jana and Gillian were in car waiting. Small raindrops lightly falling, I stood by the take-out window at Grullense on Middlefield Rd and Maple. Gilberto had a guy in the chair and was giving him a cut. It was humid and hot and didnâ€™t feel like Redwood City in April. I picked up the burros and turned around, began walking toward the car. I notice now that there are four cops standing to the right of his door in front of the potted plant thatâ€™s always there, and never gets vandalized on a street where everything is painted on and slapped around. Two of them are white, one shorter and with a bubble ass. Another, maybe Asian or Hispanic, dark hair, wearing a leather or synthetic black jacket, holding an automatic rifle loosely in his hand. One guy to the left, who must be associated with the cops as well, being way too close to the action to be a bystander, has a really short wiry haircut, heâ€™s got on a windbreaker a size too big. Seems young from the three-quarters rear angle Iâ€™m catching of his face as I walk back to the car containing my wife and daughter. I get in. Janaâ€™s in the backseat with the baby. One of the white cops goes up to gate and says something. Gilberto turns down his tunes which are blaring loudly goes to the gate and unlatches it whenâ€¦in a dash the machine gun and a handgun in white hands are pointed at Gilbertoâ€™s head and his hands go up while disbelief and disgust wash across his face. Next door, at the Foresterâ€™s Hall, a group of Mexican kids and a couple of adults have poured out onto the steps and sidewalk thirty feet away, watching. Then the cops grab Gilberto and give him a one-eighty and put the cuffs on. Then they make him widen his stance. Big whitey frisks him while bubble booty stands quite closely to his colleague. The house vato is still about where he was. The machine gunner, Kato Rodriguez, has gone to fetch the limo. The frisker seems to be taking his time, and all the while Gilberto rolls word after word off his tongue. I can hear him saying something about defending himself. The squad car pulls around the corner and rolls up to the fellas. I pulled out and turned onto Middlefield and pass by Gilberto getting put into the car. As I pass I yell, â€œViva la libertad!â€? Jana and I were both feeling nauseous as we drove home. I donâ€™t like to see a gun pointed at anyoneâ€™s head.
20 April 97 Sun-El Tulense, 3 pastor, 1 asada. Picked up tacos w/Bruce to take to Magaâ€™s. They were OK. Though tortillas were a bit wet which is unusual with pastor since its so dry.
26 April 97 Fri-Grullense w/Adam. 3 pastor. Adam and Marife are down from Vashon for a couple of days before going to Hawaii.
1 May 97 Thurs-Apatzingan, 1 birria, 2 carnitas. Alone today. Jana and Winky took tacos to Maga. Tacos were tasty, though I got heartburn later on.
15 May 97 Thurs-Grullense. 2 carnitas. Stopped in on way home from Peggyâ€™s. Needed a good grub after lame ass asada burro 2 nights ago. I asked cassette guy about Gilberto and he laughed, said he got out then they put him in again. I looked at cassettes while I waited for my tacos. Tacos were OK. Tortillas too dry, though.
22 May 97 Thurs-Didnâ€™t have time to eat at Apatzingan. Got 3 pastor from El Tulense truck across the street. Just like the old days. Jalapeno, carrots, radish
2 June 97 Mon- Thrift store shopping for work clothes. Afterwards, around the corner to Grullense. 2 pastor. Jana 2 lengua. Gilberto sitting on wicker sofa in juniper strip next to salon. Spread out. He has sharp vision. When I look at him from across the street, he keeps catching my looks. The City painted new lines on the street. Stupid design.
3 June 97 Tues- Jack In The Box. 2 tacos for $.99. Doesnâ€™t really count. Tacos are crappy. Fried. Finely ground beef w/cheese mixed in. A bit spicy. 2 Mexi chicks sitting inside staring at drive thru cars.
5 June 97 Thurs- Apatzingan. Met Jana there. Place full of Mexican workers. Jana wanted burro. No rice. Chick said they ran out then burned new batch. She got 2 lengua instead. I got 2 pastor and 1 chile verde. It was tasty. Chips and salsa too. I had tamarindo instead of Pepsi.
later- after Peggyâ€™s we visited Maga. I stopped at 5th and Spring and got 1 asada for Maga. I got 2 pastor. Ate at her trailer. They were good. Maga got burned up again. She loves it.
7 June 97 Sat- El Grullense. Chris and Jana came down for the wkend. Chris and I immediately went to get tacos. I got 2 paastor and 2 carnitas. I watched the chick making my order. She put asada on my tacos, then looked at the order and pulled the asada off with her tongs, leaving several chunks on the tortillas. Then she stacked a shitload of carnitas right over it. When we got home, Dan and Ana had arrived. We didnâ€™t get them any tacos since we didnâ€™t know when theyâ€™d show up. So Chris gave Dan one of his tacos and I gave one to Ana. I donâ€™t know if Dan was still hungry but I was, so I greedily snarfed up my goods without offering more.
8 June 97 Sun- Since everyone loves these goddamn tacos so much, we ate them for lunch again today. First, we stopped at Apatzingan. I wanted our pals to try out their tacos. And Jana was dying for one of their burros. We pulled up and I looked inside. The place was Ã¼ber full. It was about noon and seemed that every Catholic son of a bitch in the neighborhood had just gotten out of mass at St. Anthonyâ€™s across the street and come in to have Sabbath lunch there. We got the hell out of there fast and went to El Grullense at Middlefield and Charter. Surprisingly, there were parking spots and tables. I ordered 2 pastor and 2 cabeza. They donâ€™t have carnitas there for some reason. The tacos were good. Janaâ€™s burrito sucked. It was a lame ass vegetarian burro. I ate over half of it because Jana didnâ€™t want it. Dan and Ana got super burritos, which I generally advise against. The extras that they add are tomatoes, lettuce, and sour cream, all things that serve only to make the food cold and runny. My tacos were good. Pastor is almost always right. The cabeza wasnâ€™t as good as those at Lupeâ€™s Food.
10 June 97 Tues- On my way to Orchard Supply, then work. 11 AM. Grullense. 2 pastor, 1 carnitas. Carnitas had salsa verde. Last time too. Did I miss it all that time? Nice nâ€™ juicy. Wolfed them down in car in lot and while driving. Stuff bite in as light turns. Big stomachache after. Was it bad food or too much meat? Wore off after 1 hr.
12 June 97 Thurs- Car trouble. No time for Apatzingan. Stopped across street at Tulense truck. 3 pastor. Same damn excellent set up. Pepsi. After work-got two more pastor, 1 asada for Maga, horchata for Jana at 5th and Spring. Tacos were just fine. Maga sizzled. No spill this time.