On a lazy late Spring afternoon I decided to take the back roads home. Grand Ridge, Sneads, and Gretna passed by in the rear view mirror. The day was unseasonably warm and a haziness more often seen in mid-July took to the sky. Near Quincy my air conditioner wheezed and warm muggy air began blowing out of the vents. I resolved to stop at the first restaurant I could find for something to eat and a cold drink.
Sitting on the north side of the Blue Star Highway was a squat orange sherbet colored building. El Tamaulipeco Mexican Restaurant was written in dark brown around three jalapeno peppers drinking beer and eating a taco. Rose bushes ringed the cracked parking lot that was occupied by a lone Dodge Caravan with rusted quarter panels. The building nearest the parking lot turned out to be the kitchen, and a smiling owner/cook pointed me towards a weather beaten white wooden door.
I walked into the dimly lit single wide trailer. A flickering television played a Spanish language show. Menacing clowns with black and white face paint danced on the screen while two old women blankly stared at the screen. The floor sloped to the left towards a string of vinyl clad booths. Christmas lights ran around a menu listed only in Spanish. Boxes were stacked against the door and a cooler was stocked with Jarritos.
The man who moments ago directed me towards the trailer appeared behind the counter. We stared at one another as he asked me what I wanted to eat in a language I could not understand and smiled. I ordered three tacos, two filled with bistec, one pollo, and a lime tonic. I took a seat behind the two women and waited for my lunch. The minutes passed by and I started to wonder what was taking so long.
The owner appeared again carrying a foam plate lined with three tacos. One look and I knew why it had taken so long for my lunch to arrive. Each of the fillings were piled inside a warm handmade soft tortilla. The pollo and bistec tacos had made their way onto the plate, but my third selection had been replaced by one filled with chicharrones (pork belly fat.) I bit into the steak taco. The meat was tender and it had been topped with minced onions and fresh cilantro. A squirt of salsa verde from a large plastic bottle on the table gave it a nice bit of heat. The chicken taco was next. The meat was pulled and nicely seasoned.
The last taco on the plate was chock full of chicharrones. My first recent experience with chicharrones was not enjoyable, and the last thing I wanted to do was to eat that taco. I looked up and locked eyes with the smiling taco maker. I knew what I had to do, I had to eat the chicharrones taco. I grasped it in one hand, applied some salsa verde, and bit into the soft pig fat. It was spicy and filled my mouth like warm pork flavored Jell-O. I gagged slightly. A slight smile crept onto the man’s face. Two-thirds of the taco remained. A sip of lime soda, and I went back in for another bite. A piece of the pork fat fell onto the plate with a light plop. I scooped it up with the tortilla and slid the remainder out of sight. The owner gave me a knowing nod as I cleared my plate.
My lunch at El Tamaulipeco, aside from the chicharrones taco challenge, was delicious. Service was friendly and aside from being rundown, the restaurant was clean. El Tamaulipeco is located at 40 Pavilion Drive, Quincy, Florida. The restaurant has no online presence, but can be contacted at (850) 627-1003 for more information, including hours.
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