Walter Mencken 4 p.m., May 3
Mulita Class on Golden Hill
Chop chop chop chop…
You can hear it all around the crossroads. It’s Danny, chopping up the marinated pork meat they’re going to be grilling right here in the gas station parking lot.
Keep coming back here to 25th and C because this dog-leg is a little jewel. The Number 2 bus turns left off Broadway, up 25th for one block, then right onto C. And like an eddy in the stream, it collects interesting people and more interesting places than I’d given it credit for.
Like, right now, about eight at night, I’ve just come out from the Krakatoa, running, as usual, because I heard the bus trundling west towards me. Then, dang! Bus gets the green light, I get the red. It’s gawn, heading downtown.
“Another one in fifteen minutes,” says this guy sitting on the electric box next to the bus stop.
That’s when, in the silence after the bus goes around the corner, I hear it.
Chop chop chop.
Mosey back to the T-junction. Amazing transformation going on. Guys whipping up blue tent, white tables, black tablecloths, plastic chairs. Get a brazier going. Turn on romantic ranchero music at La Nueva 106.5.
“Well be ready in two minutes, sir,” says this guy. Israel.
Israel and Danny
And two minutes later I find myself at the head of a crowd of people who’ve magically appeared out of the gloom. We stand in the delicious smoke as Danny and Israel grill whole racks of fresh pork and carne asada right here in front of us.
“Usually my parents would be doing this,” says Israel. “We’re the Dos Amigos taco shop in El Cajon (719 East Bradley). But these are hard times. My dad’s landscaping business dried up and mom’s daycare business kinda died. So we went looking for a place to do extra taco business. Now we’re here every night. Except tonight I've given them the night off.”
He says the main thing that keeps people coming is the marination. “I marinate all our meat for three days before I bring it. You need that long for the flavors to soak in properly.”
Danny chops pork
Israel tells me and Jackson, the guy behind me, another first-timer, to go for the mulita.
“‘The Little Mule.’ It’s two corn tortillas with cheese grilled onto them and carne asada or pork meat between. You can’t beat it.”
Regular tacos -- carne asada or al pastor -- are $1.50, mulitas $1.75.
I order the al pastor mulita. Pork.
Lickety split he hands it to me hot and steaming.
I go to the little rack of fixin’s, stick in chopped onions, cilantro…and then come up against the question I face every time.
“Israel: which is better for pork? The red chile salsa or the green?”
And he gives me an answer I can -- at last! -- remember.
“It’s like wine. Red for red meat, white for white meat. Except here it’s the green salsa for white meat like pork or chicken.”
Aha. It’s been worth coming just for that.
’Course I’ve just sat down at the luxurious black tablecloth table near the gas pumps and taken one sabroso, deeply flavorful bite when…aargh! I hear that low diesel grunt. The Number 2.
Dang! Jump up. Wrap everything. Here we go again…Chop chop.