Jeff Smith 12:15 p.m., April 24
Aqui es Texcoco serves pulque!
In addition to off-the-wall barbecued lamb, South Bay's premier barbacoa restaurant sells ancient Mexico's favorite booze!
Aqui es Texcoco (1043 Broadway, Chula Vista, 619-427-4045) has mostly enjoyed success for lamb barbecue. Much like Mama Testa becoming synonymous with fish tacos in the eyes of TV audiences, Food Network and Travel Channel talking heads have dubbed Aqui es Texcoco the king of lamb barbacoa, and not without good reason. The restaurant’s inexpensive, expertly prepared lamb barbecue is totally and completely off the chain. Sitting at a table and building tacos out of roast meat, onions, cilantro, and sauces is a true pleasure.
The lamb broth, served for just a few dollars with garbanzo beans waiting in is murky depths, is the secret delight of the barbacoa shop. Nourishing and cooling at the same time, it’s amazing to sit and sip on the rich lamb stock between tacos.
Grilled tacos de cesos (brains!) are an experience, to put it mildly. Everyone should eat some brains sooner or later. They’re like greasy meat tofu.
You can even get a lamb head for $17. Pick the meat from the bones and build tacos all day. It’s some of the tenderest bits and pieces an animal can yield!
But what really sets Aqui es Texcoco apart is the pulque! Yeah, that’s right. Pulque. The drink, made from fermented agave sap, is the historical booze of pre-Columbian mesoamerica. A glass of pulque looks like watered down milk and tastes like sourdough starter. It’s pungent, mildly alcoholic, and like neither beer nor wine in any way. The closest thing I’ve ever tasted to pulque was a homemade kefir (fermented milk) that was an order of magnitude more funky, yeasty, and lithesome than the packaged varieties at Whole Paycheck. That kefir was so ripe that it needed to be watered down and sweetened with honey, but the out of this world fermented flavor would have made David Chang wilt like a besmirched Shakespearean maiden. The pulque at Aqui es Texcoco didn’t have that much kick, but it was knocking on the door. Perhaps the genuine article, scooped from a dirty bucket in a back alley chilango pulqeria, could be a more vivid experience, especially if it’s on its way out. Rancid pulque supposedly has a lethal odor.
Pulque from a South Bay strip mall might not be the funkiest in the world (or maybe, lacking comparison, it is!), but it’s uniquely delicious either way. Aqui es Texcoco is allegedly the only place in California to get a glass of pulque. They serve it straight up, or mixed with mango, almond, oatmeal, and other flavors.
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