AUSTIN, Texas – Taking a break from discussing beer with a dozen women at the Craft Brewers Conference last week, I stared down from the fourth-floor balcony of the Hilton, curious about a white-brick hacienda with valet parking across the street. Later, curious and hungry, I moseyed over and asked to see a menu.
Carmelo’s is an Italian restaurant. Nice-looking: White tablecloths and candles dotted the dining room’s intimacy. Pricier than I wanted to pay, especially since my credit card had just been rejected at the La Quinta.
I thanked the host for his help.
"Can you recommend a good Mexican restaurant around here?" I said. "But just remember: I’m a Mexican."
"We are all Mexicans here," he said, and gave me directions to Jaime’s Spanish Village.
At Jaime’s, the waitresses and the chicken mole enchiladas reminded me of my mother.
Como mi mama.
Or so I told the lady at the cash register, who responded by speaking to me in Spanish.
I told her where I was from.
Still assuming my Spanish was as good as her’s, the lady at the cash register continued. She said something about her family trying to buy land in Washington but that it cost too much to cut the trees down.
I suggested she’d eat better in Texas. I bid her buenos noches.
The next night, I ate barbecue at a place called Stubb’s, across the street from Jaime’s. I returned to Stubb’s for the Sunday gospel brunch buffet, featuring devilishly good brisket and a live gospel outfit whose lead singer sounded just like the dude from The Four Tops.
When I heard a white guy ask an Asian girl, "Do you want some migas on your tortilla?" I noticed what else was on the buffet: two trays of migas, or Mexican-style scrambled eggs; piles of tortillas next to biscuits and gravy; a tray of enchiladas by the pancakes …
We are all Mexicans here.
Amen, amigo, and praise the brisket.