James Michael Dorsey 6 a.m., July 31
The tortilla ladies: Delivering it fresh and hot on San Diego Avenue
Cafe Coyote's Tourist Central for Fourth July weekend, but the tortillas are still great
Okay, we're in the middle of the day, in the middle of the Fourth of July weekend in the middle of tourist central, Old Town.
Crowd right here on San Diego Avenue is making a bulge around the two tortilla ladies, Elida and Francisca. We 're at Café Coyote (2461 San Diego Avenue (at Conde Street), Old Town, 619-291-4695).
Hey, it may be touristville, but you're still getting two tortillas for a buck. That's for flour or corn tortillas with butter and salsa, or cinnamon, or chocolate or hey, strawberry.
Right here in the street. And the kicker? This family standing around their kid in a stroller chowing away at their fresh, hot slabs running with butter just make it all look so messy and delish.
The kid below doesn't look too happy at being left out, but for the growns it's lush eating.
"Gotta have it hot and fresh," says one of them. "They're the best."
The two ladies, Elida...
...are pounding out the product, mano a mano.
I order two corn with butter. Then, what the heck, a strawberry and chocolate (flour).
"I first started here 24 years ago," says Francisca. Pancha. "One year before Elida."
They've been standing here ever since, flipping, rolling, putting on a show in front of crowds.
"Americans like flour, Mexicans always get corn tortillas," says Elida.
Hmm. That's probably why we gringos are more gordo.
"Back then, 24 years ago, you got four tortillas for a dollar," says Pancha. "Then it was three. Now it's two."
She laughs. "Better buy now, before it goes to one."
I do. Two steaming-hot, fresh-rolled corn tortillas. I add butter and salsa.
And, what the heck, a chocolate and a strawberry. Flour.
Two bucks. Deal.
I watch Elida slap down four little rolls of dough, grab the rolling pin, flatten them out into pretty perfect disks, and throw them like Frisbees onto the hot plate.
"We make maybe 1,000 of these a day," says Elida. "You get used to it."
My tortillas come off finger-searing hot, and dripping with the good stuff. They're all good. Even the strawberry. But hands down, the winner's the corn with butter and salsa.
I stand with a whole lot of strangers. We're all chomping, oohing and aahing, trying to keep the drips off our shirts, looking up like guilty kids at each other as we lean over while the jostllng sidewalk crowd tries to get around us.
Prices may have changed, but this is food that was old when Mr. Cortez arrived. It's pretty much exactly the same.
As they say: if it works, don't fix it.
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