Iâ€™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 Rogers, Arkansas.
Greetings from Rogers, Arkansas
N 36Â° 19.0368â€™ W 094Â° 7.6424â€™ Elev. 1355 ft.
I seem to be going in really loopy circles lately. I guess thatâ€™s just how my mind works. Whatâ€™s weird though is Iâ€™ve also been eating at many of the same restaurants Iâ€™ve written about previously. Or so it seems. Today Iâ€™m back at Pupuseria SalvadoreÃ±a #2.
Iâ€™ve hit this place a few times over the last couple of years. In the past I always had Chile Rellenos because they stuffed them with meat. Evidently Iâ€™ve not been here for much longer than I knew. The meat-stuffed rellenos are history, 86ed from the menu. Thatâ€™s bad for me. But business has picked up, which is good for them.
Due to the absence of my usual fare I decided to put my fate in the hands of my teenaged server. What would you get, I asked? â€œI really like this,â€ she said, pointing to the Caldo de Pata ($7.70). I thought that would be good; after all, â€œShank Soupâ€ was written in English underneath, and I like shank. So I ordered it. â€œI hope you like it,â€ she said.
Now, itâ€™s understood that the shank is the shin or lower leg portion of an animalâ€™s leg, right? Itâ€™s analogous to a pork hock. Right?
Well, not here. Not at all. Here it turned out to be a cut from a little lower on the leg: a Freakinâ€™ Hoof! Gadzooks!!
I donâ€™t want to criticize what other cultures might find delicious, but a freakinâ€™ cow foot is not really the tastiest, much less meatiest, part of the animal. Indeed, the â€œmeatâ€ is a bunch of fatty, cartilage-ish, semi-gelatinous gunk wrapped in and around a hell of a lot of bone. Moreover, the â€œmeatâ€ doesnâ€™t even have the courtesy of being the consistency of stewed chicharrÃ³n (essentially pork fat, which I like). In short, itâ€™s largely flavorless and not worth messing with.
The rest of the Caldo was damn good, however. Indeed, it was muy rico y muy sabroso (very rich and very tasty). I liked it very, very much. I just wish thereâ€™d had been some edible form of meat in it, like in a Caldo de Res (beef soup).
The soup was served with the obligatory lime quarter, and fresh chopped onion and cilantro. I also got a large Agua Fresca de Melon (cantaloupe fruit juice) for $2.
As I was waiting for my server to hoof it out with my hoof soup I kept staring at a handwritten sign on the wall. The sign was written in Spanish; Si quiere tamales o pollo oreneados aga su orden con tiempo para Thanksgiving. The part I could translate with my remarkably bad Spanish reminded people to order tamales in time for Thanksgiving.
I knew Pupuseria SalvadoreÃ±a didnâ€™t previously offer tamales. Now theyâ€™re on the menu â€” pork or chicken â€” for $1.25 each! So I ordered three to go. They came with a bag of pico de gallo (latino cole slaw) and a little thangy of salsa.
While people may be familiar with tamales, there are actually two very distinct versions of these latin delights: Northern and Southern. In the North they wrap the tamal â€” Itâ€™s called a tamal, damn it; tamales is plural â€” in corn husk. These tend to be dry, dense and somewhat grainy in texture.
In the South they wrap them in banana leaf. I donâ€™t know if the recipe for the masa (dough) is markedly different. The end result, however, is like day and night. The banana-wrapped ones are cake-like, light, fluffy and, to me, a bit sweeter tasting.
While Iâ€™ve had a few tamales I didnâ€™t care for (mostly because they were dry, stingily stuffed, and little more than masa tubes) Iâ€™ve never had a bad â€œSouthernâ€ tamal. Does that mean that SalvadoreÃ±os (or any other Central Americans) make better tamales than Northern Mexicanos? Hell yes! But hey, they work with what theyâ€™ve got.
After all was said and done at Pupuseria SalvadoreÃ±a #2 I was fat and happy but disappointed. The soup part of the Caldo de Pata was great but the Pie (Spanish for â€œfootâ€) sucked. To make it worse, all the latinos were ordering some chicken deal that came with a bowl of chicken-and-rice soup, a side of rice, pupusas, and half a grilled chicken. F#@K ME!!!!!!!!!
More proof: Itâ€™s tough being a white guy with few smarts, armed with even less discernible knowledge of other cultures. Pero trato. EstÃ¡ todo bien.
And so we roll.
Pupuseria SalvadoreÃ±a #2, 1601 South 8th St., Rogers, Arkansas
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.