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Tio Wally Eats America: Sam’s Original Restaurant & BBQ

I’m happy to have Tio Wally (long-time Me So Hungry reader) aboard to send in his eating adventures from across America. Here he is in Fairfield, Texas.

Tio%20Wally%20Eats%20America%20truck2 Tio Wally Eats America: Sam’s Original Restaurant & BBQ

Greetings from Fairfield, Texas
N 31° 43.104’ W 096° 10.561’ Elev. 579 ft.

Sam’s Original Restaurant is one of those places I’d passed by many times. It had all the hallmarks of a great place to eat: Nondescript building, packed parking lot, located at an intersection of some highway to nowhere and the Interstate, in Texas. When I discovered that I could park in a lot right next door I finally stopped and went in.

02 Sams sign Tio Wally Eats America: Sam’s Original Restaurant & BBQ

I was kind of taken aback at first. The entrance to the restaurant was a gift shop. People were buying all kinds of over-priced crap — waiting in line two-, three-deep to pay for it! Sam’s is evidently some sort of landmark.

I asked the lady manning one of the two cash registers to see a menu. Though she wore no name tag, I’m pretty sure her name was Surly. She grudgingly obliged me and I took it to the foyer, to take pictures, and figure out if I wanted to eat there. After perusing the menu and taking pictures, I took the menu back. Surly was still there. I gave her the menu, thanked her and offered some chitchat. A cricket chirped somewhere, figuratively speaking. I was amazed how easily one can read certain people’s body language. Surly’s surely said: Go away, scum!

Ah, the hospitality industry.

I have to say this: I’ve been to a lot of places and nowhere have I seen more unsmiling faces on the staff than I saw at Sam’s. I ended up counting the smiles I saw. Indeed, of the 20+ person staff I saw just three people smile. It was kind of sad. It wasn’t that they were unfriendly per se, Surly notwithstanding, just that they were, well, sort of glum, like they’d all much prefer to be most anywhere else.

Sam’s has been here forever it seems. Indeed, it’s been such an institution for so long that I think their credo has devolved to “We don’t care because we don’t have to.” That doesn’t stop people from coming in droves, which may explain the lack of any need for geniality. Then again, it’s an extremely busy place and maybe the staff is just frazzled.

Although the restaurant is centered around an all-you-can-eat buffet, they also offer a complete menu that’s rather extensive. In fact, one of the things I saw come out of the kitchen was a stack of Hand Battered Onion Rings (Small $1.99, Large $2.99) that looked as if it could give Cheddar’s a run for its money.

I got the buffet ($11.99), which consisted of chicken fried chicken (that I thought was fish), fried chicken, smoked sausage, barbecued beef, and chicken fried steak. Because it was my first time there I got all of them.

Although I was hoping it was fish — they only have fish on Fridays — the chicken fried chicken, fried chicken breast filets, were pretty good. If I had an ounce of self-respect I would never admit that I circled the salad bar looking for tartar sauce before discovering it was actually chicken.

The fried chicken was somewhat Swanson-esque, though much moister than TV dinner chicken. I was thinking that perhaps they’d merely overcooked that batch a bit or, at least, I hoped so. The smoked sausage was good but run-of-the-mill, but the barbecue beef was quite good. The chicken fried steak, however, was … O.M.G.! How do you make the perfect Chicken Fried Steak? Well, you make it tender with a nice moist breading and you have a decent gravy. Sam’s did just that.

When I first saw the Chicken Fried Steaks I thought they were dressing, like patties of leftover Thanksgiving stuffing/dressing. I had to ask a lady, who ‘splained it. I’m pretty sure that I wasn’t the only person to discover that these Chicken Fried Steaks are to die for. Fork tender, simple gravy. Sam’s truly has this dialed in.

Sam’s has a very, very extensive salad bar, all of it quite fresh. It contained a couple of real treats: pickled watermelon rind and pickled green tomatoes. The pickled watermelon rind was perfect; a pickled, almost candied, piece of opaqueness. It tastes slightly like bread-and-butter pickles. The pickled tomato is likewise a treat. Less seasoned than the watermelon rind, it too has a little pucker going on with the sweetness. What a treat such things are!

They had two soups on the buffet. I think one was a cheesy broccoli affair, while the other was a hearty vegetable. Obviously homemade, the vegetable was just slightly salty but still very, very good.

A nice thing Sam’s does is they bring you a mini-loaf of homemade bread, if you want it. I was pretty excited when it came until I discovered that it wasn’t warm. It kind of surprised me that it wasn’t. I mean, Is there anything better than warm homemade bread? I would’ve asked them to nuke it for me but that seemed like a nonstarter.

Another real standout at Sam’s are the desserts. They’ve got a rack of various slices of pie, as well as a steam table with warm desserts. I had both the raspberry cobbler with a little soft-serve ice cream and the peach cobbler. They were both very good. Then I had a slice of Chocolate Pecan Cream pie. I had to ask a staffer who passed by, unsmiling, what it was. This was the best piece of pie I’ve had in awhile. The merengue was perfect, nice hard crust atop, dense yet fluffy underside. But that’s not what really made it.

30 Sams chocolate pecan pie Tio Wally Eats America: Sam’s Original Restaurant & BBQ

The chocolate filling in the pie took me back to my childhood. I’d tasted that filling before. It’s made with Hershey’s cocoa, milk, and lots and lots of sugar. When I was a kid our neighbor, Georgia, who was originally from Arkansas, used to make Chocolate Gravy (chocolate pudding served while still warm) and Baking Soda Biscuits for us for breakfast. Then send us off to school. I suspect eating such wholesome Southern breakfasts may have had something to do with my being suspended from school for a week when I was in the First Grade.

Now that I’ve been to Sam’s I can definitely see eating there again, especially now that I know what to expect and what not to, like a slew of smiling faces. Heck, for all I know maybe the frowns at Sam’s Original Restaurant are actually part of a stealthy cult thing, like the service at the now-closed Sam Wo Restaurant in San Francisco, and the staff are vying to become as notorious as the late Edsel Ford Fong. Having experienced Edsel’s terrifying “service” firsthand, however, I can say the frown thing at Sam’s Original isn’t even remotely in the same league.

And so we roll.

Sam’s Original Restaurant & BBQ, 390 East I-45, 1-45 & US 84 (Exit 197), Fairfield, Texas

Tio Wally pilots the 75-foot, 40-ton(max) land yacht SS Me So Hungry. He reports on road food from around the country whenever parking and InterTube connections permit.

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Tio Wally Eats America: Carino’s Italian Grill

I’m happy to have Tio Wally (long-time Me So Hungry reader) aboard to send in his eating adventures from across America. Here he is in Houston, Texas.

Tio%20Wally%20Eats%20America%20truck Tio Wally Eats America: Carino’s Italian Grill

Greetings from Houston, Texas
N 29° 54.9661’ W 095° 36.8655’ Elev. 128 feet

I’m learning to love Houston. It’s 70° here as opposed to the -20° (with the wind chill) I gleefully left behind in Davenport, Iowa two days before. And although the wind is blowing here I can actually walk upright! It’s a veritable tropical paradise by comparison.

I was able to drop the box (trailer) and bobtail over to a Staples to get some binder clips. These are the best devices on the planet for keeping snack food bags closed. If you fold the bag correctly — burp the air out, fold it over like a paper airplane wing, double it back on itself, and then roll it down — these clamps will all but reseal chip/cereal/cracker bags and keep the product fresh nearly indefinitely. (Ah, the things you learn when you’re on an endless campout.) At 10 for $3.49 they’re a real bargain. And they come in electric colors! Why people use those useless plastic “bag clips” instead of these little gems is a mystery to me.

After coming out of Staples I fired up the GPS to look for something to eat. I decided to try Johnny Carino’s Italian Grill since it turned out to be less than 50 yards away. I went in knowing I wanted pasta but couldn’t decide what to get. So once again I relied on the server to steer me (moo) in the right direction.

The server, Jessica, suggested I get one of Carino’s Signature Dishes, Italian Pot Roast ($12.99). It’s described in the menu as “Pot roast sautéed in red wine marinara with parmesan, onions, carrots and peppers. Served with spaghetti or roasted rosemary potatoes.” It also came with soup or salad and bread.

I already had a $1 Side Salad from McDonald’s floating around in the trusty Coleman Thermo-electric Cooler, so I opted for soup. The soup offerings that day were Chili — Chili is a soup? I thought chili was more like a stew. — Minestrone and Potato. Jessica recommended the Potato, so I got that.

The soup was pretty good, with nice chunks of potato and chopped green onion. I thought it could’ve been a bit thicker but it had a great somewhat smoky-bacon flavor. The next time, however, I’m going to try the Minestrone just because.

Jessica gave me two mini-loaves of French bread, along with two little containers of olive oil with garlic for dipping. The bread kind of freaked me out at first: It had speckles in it. I was afraid that it might’ve been specks of rosemary. I hate rosemary, especially in bread. I think rosemary bread should be called Rosemary’s Baby Bread because it’s the spawn of the Devil. Rosemary always tastes like mold to me. Thankfully, it was just regular French bread, warm and pretty good.

Conversely, I got kind of excited by the olive oil. Unfortunately, it was a fairly flavorless olive oil and contained dried, roasted garlic which was really crunchy and sort of bitter. Good oil, fresh garlic and a little parmesan would have been much more fun. Throw in a splash of Balsamic vinegar and you’d really be cooking with gas. Still, it was nice to have.

The Italian Pot Roast was nothing short of amazing. It was a generous amount of slices of meat in a mildly spicy marinara. I’m not sure how to describe the flavor; it didn’t taste a bit like run-of-the-mill pot roast. The meat was fork tender while, and I didn’t expect this, the carrots were still slightly crunchy. It made for a great contrast of textures. For reasons you can probably guess, I passed on the roasted rosemary potatoes and got penne pasta. I wish I had the culinary knowledge to describe the flavor of this pot roast. It was really different and quite delicious. It didn’t taste of wine per se but had a very distinct flavor. I’ll definitely be having this again. It’s a keeper. And it’s reasonably priced.

This meal was so good, and I was so pleased by Jessica’s recommendation, that I called Carino’s the next morning to tell the manager. I like calling and complimenting people for work well done. Not enough people do it. It’s also kind of fun to do because it usually catches managers off guard as, more often than not, people only call them to complain.

As we spoke, Tonya, the manager, told me about a special the corporate-owned Carino’s are currently running: After 4 p.m. on Mondays you can get any of the Family Platters (designated FP in red on the menus in the pictures) for the price of a single entrée. And they come with soup or salad and bread! What a crazy, great deal!! Tonya recommended the Spicy Romano Chicken ($13.99; $30.99 for the FP), “Bowtie sautéed with sliced chicken, cayenne pepper Romano cream sauce, mushrooms, artichokes, sun-dried tomatoes and green onions.” Yum. The Family Platters feed four people and normally range in price from $31-$35. Sadly, the Italian Pot Roast isn’t one of them. Bummer, man.

Speaking of bummers, I heard on the radio the forecast calls for freezing rain and then up to 3” snow. Geez, Looo-eeez. This is freakin’ Houston! So much for tropical paradise. But I don’t care. I’ll be well over 600 miles away by then. It is, however, yet another reason to hate Houston. As if I needed one.

And so we roll.

Carino’s Italian Grill, 19820 Northwest Freeway, Houston, Texas
and 29 other states

Tio Wally pilots the 75-foot, 40-ton(max) land yacht SS Me So Hungry. He reports on road food from around the country whenever parking and InterTube connections permit.

Tio Wally Eats America: Allsup’s Convenience Store

I’m happy to have Tio Wally (long-time Me So Hungry reader) aboard to send in his eating adventures from across America. Here he is in Stratford, Texas.

Tio%20Wally%20Eats%20America%20truck Tio Wally Eats America: Allsup’s Convenience Store

Greetings from Stratford, Texas
N 36° 19.9063’ W 102° 4.3877’ Elev. 3,691 feet

You can enter Stratford, Texas from any direction — it’s at the intersection of US Highways 54 and 287 — and you will see the sign: “Stratford, Pheasant Capital of Texas.” You won’t see any birds however, pheasant or otherwise. At least, I never have. Cows? Sure. Pygmy ponies? Yes, indeedy. But a bird? No sir. Not one, not once. Never.

I take that back. There are birds in Stratford. Chickens, at Allsup’s. But they’ve been parted out and fried.

Allsup’s is a ubiquitous chain of convenience stores in Texas and New Mexico, each with one of those little hot-case delis inside. I don’t usually stop at them due to a lack of parking. But there is a mostly avian-free Allsup’s with yacht parking here in Stratford.

I was glad I stopped at this one because, although I’ve been to a few before, I made an important discovery: Hot Links for $1.09. For another dime you can get a slice of “delicious” — I saw it described as “delicious” on a sticker somewhere — white or caramel-colored white bread. Add some mustard and you’ve got yourself a really great snack.

These are high-quality hot links, some of the best I’ve ever had, in fact. The sausage has a great “crunch” and inside are a lot of red pepper flakes. This may be considered low-end dining by some, but these things are flavorful and highly satisfying. And they are hot.

Allsup’s also sells beef tamales that are pretty good. Although they’re on the small side they’re reasonably priced at 3 for $2.09, or you can get a dozen for $4.99. They come in hot or mild varieties.

Places that sell hot links (or tamales) are few and far between, especially quality ones at such a reasonable price. They are hard to find even in the South. Some of the truck stops carry a breathtakingly awful faux version of them, but they are remarkably terrible, inedible really, and have nothing in common with a true hot link. They’re more like hot dogs that have been infused with red food coloring and chemically enhanced with unidentifiable artificial flavoring. Allsup’s, however, has the real deal!

And so we roll.

Allsup’s, 10 S. Maple, Stratford, Texas
with locations throughout Texas and New Mexico … and one location in Frederick, Oklahoma!

Tio Wally pilots the 75-foot, 40-ton(max) land yacht SS Me So Hungry. He reports on road food from around the country whenever parking and InterTube connections permit.

Tio Wally Eats America: Alfredo’s Pizza & Pasta

I’m happy to have Tio Wally (long-time Me So Hungry reader) aboard to send in his eating adventures from across America. Here he is in Lewisville, Texas.

Tio%20Wally%20Eats%20America%20truck Tio Wally Eats America: Alfredos Pizza & Pasta

Some people are so unique, so special that they’re hard to describe. Such is Freida, the gregarious owner (along with her ultra-low key husband, Richard) of Alfredo’s Pizza & Pasta in Lewisville, Texas.

I was introduced to Alfredo’s by a woman I went to high school with and her beau; I believe they’re possibly the handsomest Hog-straddling couple in Texas. I stop and visit them whenever I pass through the Dallas area if time permits.

On the way to the restaurant she described Freida as “one of those people who calls everyone ‘sweetie.’ You’re going to love her,” she said. She then told me an anecdote that turned out to exemplify Freida to a T: The first time she went to Alfredo’s she wasn’t able to finish all of her food. So she got a to-go box and asked Freida, How do I reheat this? “I can’t tell you. It would put me out of business,” Freida snapped, and walked away. A short time later Freida returned and said, “I like you, so I’ll tell you.”

It being my first time there, I was really looking forward to meeting — or should I say “experiencing” — Freida. Unfortunately she wasn’t there.

The next visit, however, I had the good fortune of meeting her. And she was everything my friend said. Alternately warm and no-nonsense, it was obvious she didn’t take crap from anybody. In fact, when I gave her some good-natured lip she was quick to let me know that her sons, who work in the restaurant, knew karate. It was hard to tell if she was serious about what seemed to be a not-so veiled insinuation that, on her orders, they’d happily take me out back for a good thrashing and probably toss me in a dumpster, but I got the message. Truth is, though, that Freida is a genuine sweetheart who not only seems to remember every customer who’s ever come in, she treats everyone like family.

On my third visit to Alfredo’s Freida demanded to know what I’d done with the pictures of her I’d taken previously (which she was none too happy about. And as you can see by the photo of Richard, he too was excited to have his picture taken. “Thanks,” he deadpanned.). I detected a complete lack of trust in my propriety in the use of her image. Evidently, in addition to being a motherly type, Freida is also an excellent judge of character.

The food at Alfredo’s is great tasting and a great value. Every time I’ve been there I’ve ordered either Veal Parmigiana ($10.25) or Eggplant Parmigiana ($8.50). The entrees are served with a side salad and a side of spaghetti, along with really, really great homemade bread (rolls).

I also usually get to-go orders of either Meat or Cheese Ravioli ($7.50 and $6.50, respectively), or an order of each. The raviolis are huge, about 3-inches around, and very generously stuffed.

My friends always order pizza when we go. I haven’t tried it but they say it’s great. The thin-crust pies sure look tasty though.

In addition to pizzas and pastas, Alfredo’s also makes hot and cold Subs, as well as a handful of both appetizers and desserts. (Damn, I just noticed they have a Sausage and Green Pepper Sub on the menu — my favorite! I guess I know what I’ll be ordering next time.)

Alfredo’s, which is open seven days a week, is tucked away in the corner of a little shopping mall. Although you have to look to find it, once you do you will be back.

By the way, I would’ve taken more pictures the last time I was there but I was sort of afraid … of Freida. Without reason, of course.

And so we roll.

Alfredo’s Pizza & Pasta, 2305 State Hwy 121, Ste 225, Lewisville, Texas

Tio Wally pilots the 75-foot, 40-ton(max) land yacht SS Me So Hungry. He reports on road food from around the country whenever parking and InterTube connections permit.

Tio Wally Eats America: Arbuckle Mountain Fried Pies

I’m happy to have Tio Wally (long-time Me So Hungry reader) aboard to send in his eating adventures from across America. Here he is in Davis, Oklahoma.

Tio%20Wally%20Eats%20America%20truck Tio Wally Eats America: Arbuckle Mountain Fried Pies

Greetings from Davis, Oklahoma
N 34° 26.851’ W 097° 08.123’ Elev. 815 ft.

There is a great, great band called The String Cheese Incident. I want to recommend that you experience them instead of experiencing what I’m calling: The Fried Pie Disaster.

I was on my way to a pathetic, fetid little burg in Texas called Houston, a truly odious swamp of a place with no redeeming qualities. Indeed, it is one of those places that is in much need of — deserves! — a massive petrochemical explosion that would, if all went well, leave no trace that it ever existed. But that’s just my humble, yet well-reasoned, opinion.

Although there’s a Flying Fishhook (Flying J truck stop) there that sells tasty meat Fried Pies (2/$3), that alone should in no way be construed as a redeeming quality nor a reason to prevent or diminish the aforementioned explosion. Jeezus, it’s freakin’ Houston for cris’sake.

Having had the fried pies at the Flying Fishhook, I was wanting to try some from a real fried pie place.

On the way to There-Is-No-There-There I stopped for coffee in Fairfield, Texas. Across the street was a place called Cooper Farms (Exit 198, I-45 & Hwy. 27) that advertised Fried Pies. I walked over hoping to get a meat fried pie, but they didn’t make them. I did, however, buy a Coconut Fried Pie ($3.50); I love coconut cream pie and figured it would be similar. How could I go wrong? Well, by leaving it on the passenger seat until it molded before I could eat it for starters. Talk about harbingers.

On the way back from the Execrable Armpit of Texas I stopped at Arbuckle Mountain Fried Pies in Davis, Oklahoma. They claim to be The Original Fried Pie, a curious boast as Baker’s Ribs in Caddo Mills, Texas makes the same claim. I’m sure there are more than a few others.

Walking up to the place I was delighted to see an obviously narcissitic rooster admiring at his reflection in the glass of one of the front doors. That’s a good sign, I thought. The not particularly friendly fried-pie lady explained that the cock lived nearby and liked to strut over and visit occasionally. Quaint.

I perused the menu and ordered three expensive ($3.99 each) Fried Pies: a Spinach, Mushroom and Potato; a Beef and Vegetable; and a Polish Sausage and Potato, which they billed as the “Comfort Food.”

The half moon-shaped pies were fairly large, about 7 inches in length at the base, with great crust but sort of thin. I was pretty excited, especially about the spinach. Then I took a bite.

It was so salty it should’ve come with a Surgeon General’s Warning so that people with heart conditions taking statins didn’t bleed to death from their follicles, if not every pore on their body, after a single bite. In a word: YUK!

I would’ve thrown it out the window but I’m sure that that much salt would’ve attracted a herd of deer or cows or horses within minutes, effectively shutting down I-35 in both directions. No doubt, the pie would’ve then been traced back to me through an anonymous tipster and I’d get a ticket for … lord knows what.

Then I tried the “Comfort Food” pie. It was full of pureed potatoes that tasted faintly of chicken broth. Not bad. However, it contained only (approximately) 1.376 grams of Polish sausage; two measly pieces to be exact. While the pie wasn’t offensive it offered absolutely no “comfort.”

The Beef and Vegetable was the best of the three, although a visual examination didn’t reveal any beef or vegetables. I never figured out what it tasted like, really. It was something familiar yet undefinable, sort of like a Swanson’s® Salisbury Steak nukerowavable delight … or something. Mostly something.

Was I disappointed? Yes. Pissed? Not completely because I liked seeing the local Cock o’ the Walk. But overall I hated, HATED the pies. What a rip-off! Would I recommend avoiding the place? Yes, at all cost. Unless, of course, you’re a big, big fan of handheld salt licks and random barnyard fowl.

In all, the whole adventure ended up being pure kismet: The pies sucked; I ended up losing their menu as well as everything else with Arbuckle Mountain Fried Pies’ address on it; and all but one of the close-up photos of the pies were so blurry they were unusable, much like the pies themselves. Pretty poetic, I’d say.

Since I’m talking about avoiding places, here’s another one: Betty’s Truck Stop on I-44 at Highway YY (Exit 74) in Missouri. Here’s why: I was dead tired, starving, wanting just to eat and then sleep. I went into Betty’s — I’d been wanting to try it even though it never seemed busy even though it has acres of parking — and was greeted by a waitress that could only be described as, to be kind, icey.

I was looking at the menu and was thrilled to see they had tomato soup, as well as “homemade” vegetable beef and chicken noodle soups, as permanent menu items. I love tomato soup. Moreover it’s rare for a restaurant to have any “named” soup as a regular menu item unless it’s good and it sells.

As I always do, I asked if they had any specials. “Sloppy Joe and fries,” she said. Hmm, a Sloppy Joe sounds good. What can I substitute for fries, I asked? I was thinking a cup of tomato soup would be great. “You can’t,” said Icee. Huh? “You can’t substitute on the special. It’s the rules.” But what if someone can’t eat potatoes, what then? “It doesn’t matter. No substitutions on the special,” she said haughtily, robotically. Screw you, I thought. And Betty, too.

A basic rule of commerce: If a business won’t take care of its customers, its customers shouldn’t take care of them. I observed the rule. (Note: Never ever take shit from anyone who’s trying to sell you something. Your money talks. They need you, not vice versa.)

So I walked back to the yacht, fuming. Never had I run into such blind obstinacy in a restaurant, especially one that supposedly caters to drivers. I then enjoyed a delicious chicken salad (from Braum’s) sandwich on wheat with green leaf lettuce, followed by a sound sleep.

And so we roll.

Flying J Travel Centers, nationwide
Cooper Farms, Exit 198, I-45 & Hwy. 27, Fairfield, Texas
Arbuckle Mountain Fried Pies, I-35 at Exit 51, Davis, Oklahoma
Betty’s Truck Stop, Exit 74, I-44 & Hwy. YY, Sweet Springs, Missouri

Tio Wally pilots the 75-foot, 40-ton(max) land yacht SS Me So Hungry. He reports on road food from around the country whenever parking and InterTube connections permit.

Tio Wally Eats America: Perla Tapatia

I’m happy to have Tio Wally (long-time Me So Hungry reader) aboard to send in his eating adventures from across America. Here he is at Perla Tapatia in San Antonio, Texas.

Tio%20Wally%20Eats%20America%20truck Tio Wally Eats America: Perla Tapatia

Greetings from San Antonio, Texas!
N 29° 29.004’  W 098° 23.503’  Elev. 738 ft.

The SS Me So Hungry sailed into San Antonio to deliver 20+ tons of various margarine concoctions, like Shedd’s Spread Country Crock®, to H•E•B. I like to think we helped oil the toast of the citizens of San Antonio. Sort of grease their buns, if you will.

H•E•B is a chain of supermarkets in Texas and northern Mexico. It’s named after Howard E. Butt, youngest son of Florence Butt, who opened the C.C. Butt Grocery Store on the ground floor of her family home in Kerrville, Texas in 1905. Now a 315-store chain, its parent company is H.E. Butt Grocery Company.

But that’s not what’s important. What’s important is that by calling its stores H•E•B it has denied the (mostly male) youths of Texas and northern Mexico the opportunity for innumerable titters, guffaws and jokes, and successfully quashed the advent of an unknowable number of possible euphemisms. They could’ve named it Butt Market — but NO!

Across the street from its distribution center was the Perla Tapatia Mexican Restaurant. I was starving by the time I got there and had been looking forward to breakfast for hours. But when I looked at the menu my heart sank — I couldn’t find my favorite Mexican breakfast anywhere on the menu.

I want Huevos con (eggs with) Napoles, I told the waitress. Without blinking she asked, “And what to drink?” Where is it on the menu, I asked. “It’s not.” Okay. So I ordered it with a Melon (cantaloupe) Aguas Frescas.

Napoles, also called Napolitanos, is one interesting vegetable. The closest vegetable it can be compared to flavor-wise is green beans, but it sometimes can also have a decidedly okra-esque slimy quality to it, depending on how it’s used. The reason is that Napoles is cactus, specifically Napol Cactus.

Nopal Cactus is that broad-leaved (technically the leaf or pad is called a cladode) cactus also called Prickly Pear. Nopales (also called Napolitanos) are usually harvested just as the cladode is about to develop thorns. The older cladodes are still edible, just more dangerous.

Mexicans eat Nopales a number of different ways, but most commonly either in scrambled eggs or simply as a salad. The Prickly Pear (tuna in Spanish) of the Nopal is also edible. I haven’t eaten one since I was a kid and can’t remember what they taste like. I do remember them being vicious because of the glochids, little hair-like spines that get into your skin, hurt like hell, and are impossible to remove.

Needless to say my Huevos con Nopales were just what the skipper ordered. It came with Refritos (refried beans) and homemade flour tortillas; there simply isn’t anything better than homemade tortillas. They also served it with a Salsa Verde which was really good and had a nice heat to it. I’m not usually a fan of green salsas as I’m not into tomatillos. It’s too citrus-y for me. This stuff was tasty though, and obviously homemade.

Even though it was the pulp-less variety from a mix, the Melon Aguas Frescas was very refreshing. Plus, I got a free refill! I’ve never figured out why but most Mexican restaurants give free refills yet others don’t. Total cost for my soul-satisfying not-listed-on-the-menu breakfast was $5.93.

By the time I left at about 11:30 a.m., the place was packed — always a good sign. I’m really looking forward to trying some of their other offerings the next time I deliver industrially processed corn squeezins to H.E. Butt.

And so we roll.

Perla Tapatia, 5102 Rittiman Rd., San Antonio, Texas 210.662.2919

Tio Wally pilots the 75-foot, 40-ton(max) land yacht SS Me So Hungry. He reports on road food from around the country whenever parking and InterTube connections permit.

Dining with Dondero: Izzoz Tacos (Austin, TX)

American singer-songwriter, David Dondero, is reporting in his meals from his current tour. He’s living my dream of playing music and eating on the road. Here’s Dave at Izzoz Tacos in Austin, Texas.

Austin, TX is one of my favorite towns on this planet to eat.   Breakfast tacos are very popular and can be found pretty much anywhere around the city.  In the past several years the food trailer trend has taken off like so many other places around the country.  On South 1st, my favorite trailer had recently moved to a new location.  They always blast terrible alternative modern rock like Puddle of Mud or some other similar shit.  They have the best tacos though so it’s worth suffering through their horrible musical taste.  Even better than Torchies.

They have a taco called the Bac Spin.  It’s scrambled eggs, bacon bits and spinach on a flour tortilla.  Their salsa is really distinctive with a more smokey flavor.  The price is cheap.  One taco fills me up for $2.25.  Their queso is also great.  That’s only if i’m really hungry.

I ordered the bac spin again and sat underneath a shade tree in the 105 degree heat.  This time i ordered 2 of them and was only able to finish 1 and a half.  I like Topo Chico sparkling Mexican mineral water to wash it down.  A nice way to start the day.  I wait at least 30 minutes before diving into Barton Springs.

Izzoz Tacos - 1503 S 1st St. Austin, TX 78704

David Dondero is one of the hardest working touring folk singers in America. Once named one of the Best Living Songwriters by NPR, alongside Bob Dylan, Tom Waits and Paul McCartney. It’s a privilege to have him part of Me So Hungry.
http://www.daviddonderomusic.com/