Jay Allen Sanford 4:30 a.m., Jan. 28
Best Way to Start the Week? Menudo!
They say beat the heat with heat. So here I am in Barrio Logan looking for that sign at the corner of Newton and Beardsley…
Aha. The big “TAMALES” sign, and next to it, “La Doña/New Mexico Café,” (1784 Newton Avenue, 619-233-4939).
It’s a little painted brick and tile place that has been here tucked out of sight but always doing a steady business.
And tamales aren't what I'm here for. I've come for a nice hot, spicy bowl of menudo.
Inside, the ceiling is painted like the sky with fluffy clouds...
...murals show Mexican villages...
...and landscape fantasies...
...and two walls are devoted to a Mexican movie actress...
Dolores Del Rio
Tula’s waiting behind the counter.
“Menudo? Of course,” she says. “Every day. White or red?”
Red, I say.
She looks approvingly. They say red’s the stronger of the two.
I need it. Fact is, I’m a little hung over from the weekend. No crazy drinking, but a couple of Arrogant Bastards in the heat of yesterday afternoon had me waking up kinda foggy today.
And we all know menudo’s the classic hangover medicine.
Tula’s a cutey.
Lotsa laughs, but some pity for light-headed gringos too.
She brings the steaming dish of menudo...
...points out all the good stuff. Cow's stomach lining (“tripa de rez”), hominy grits, chile. Then a side plate of chopped onions, cilantro, lime wedges to squeeze, all to be scattered over the menudo, or in your (corn, please) tortillas when you wrap some tripe in them, plus botanas of rough corn chips and hot sauce.
Top line: it takes a minute to get over the “Eeew, this is stomach lining?” thing, and to get into the thrill of the swill. And no way is it swill. Truth is, it’s so danged tasty. And the hot sauce is really hot, so you can up your suffering to whatever level you want.
Bottom line: it does you good. I swear, you come out with a clearer head, and filled up, but not bloated.
“We’ve been clearing heads for 40 years,” Tula says as I go.
Can't help thinking: Someone should give them a medal.
'Cause Tula and gang are nothing less than curanderas to moaning Monday morning schmucks like me.