After getting some excellent peach sorbet from Red Trolley one night, my wife and I wandered the two or three blocks of shops along 32nd between Clay and Zuni in the cold but refreshing night air. Before long, we found ourselves looking in the windows of La Loncheria Mexicana. Through the iron bars, the inside was lit eerily with the yellow street lamp glow, and if I didn't know better, I might have thought that the place had been closed for months. The interior was like a mini-diner that hadn't been updated much since its original construction; and barely lit that night, the classic small lunch counter, and three or four small, worn tables looked like they had seen better days.
I generally like a greasy spoon with a timeless feel, and I was excited about this one in particular, being that it is a Mexican greasy spoon. I was also excited because this place had come highly recommend by a reader as part of my January contest. In fact, she was one of three finalists, and due to my complete lack of decision making ability, one of the eventual winners in my first tell-me-where-to-eat contest. The exact words were: "
Most days of my life you can say those exact words and I will follow you wherever you need me to go. In this case, what particularly intrigued me was that I had never even heard of it. Actually what is worse, is that even though I have often strolled by it in the middle of the day, I have never bothered to notice it. So I put my trust in what I can only imagine is a discerning reader with excellent taste, and went to see for myself.
Even in the daytime, the place looks like it hasn't had much updating recently. It was packed, which is to say there were about seven people inside. We stared up at the hot-dog stand style menu up on the wall so my wife could choose something. I was, obviously, here to have a smothered steak burrito.
By the time my wife made up her mind (she is almost as bad as me when it comes to these big decisions), a couple seats at the small, L-shaped lunch counter opened up, and I was already seated there sipping a coke from a glass bottle. She sidled up next to me and we ordered. From the counter you can watch the two women cooking deftly on their single flat top grill. In the cramped area where the two have seemingly been working together for some time, they moved harmoniously from counter to grill to fridge to register without once skipping a beat.
My burrito did not disappoint. I absolutely devoured it, and slurped up the chile as best my fork would let me without embarrassing my wife. (Since being married I have come to learn that licking plates clean is mostly just an expression.) The green chile was indeed tasty, and the steak was tender and juicy; but it is the old-school atmosphere that puts it over the top as a place I would go back to without question.
My wife got a chicken gordita and a steak quesadilla. Both were a little plain. Even different combinations of the four excellent homemade table salsas couldn't save that poor gordita that tasted like it was cooked in 3-day old grease. There wasn't a big difference between the taste of the meat and the taste of the fried masa dough.
The guy sitting next to me had some tacos that looked good, and he kept ordering more, one and two at a time. I took his cue and ordered a taco de carne adobada. Meanwhile I picked at my wife's quesadilla. Doused in the smoky chile pasilla salsa, it was actually pretty good. Nothing special, I admit, but a worthy snack between burrito and taco.
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