From the street, Cholula Restaurant is the type of establishment where lonely men pay bailarinas (dancing waitresses) for some quality time. The blacked-out windows are patched with cheap vinyl, and it doesn’t help that the joint sits along a crumbling strip where a few doors down a business hocks Chinese food from a casket-sized stall.
Cholula is the kind of place my neighbors back in Sunset Park, Brooklyn, told me to avoid on Saturday nights. “Take the long way to Mass,” it was explained. “You don’t want to trip on a bullet casing, or track blood into St. Michael’s.” It was a good Catholic neighborhood, and we were good Catholics.
Inside, Cholula is a sleepy cantina with a chipping earth-tone palette interrupted by muted azure and unwiped tile-top tables. A TV hangs between a sarape and a portrait of a young lady on the far wall. A family of three with a toddler, a brooding gentleman in the corner and the waitress were the only others occupying the dining room.
My selection of suadero, barbacoa, pastor and carnitas arrived obscured under a heavy dusting of bright cilantro and diced onions. What lay hidden was an exercise in tedious mastication and confusion.
The pebble-sized suadero, light with freckles of char, was the most flavorful of the order, although it was mostly salt. The salsa verde gave the beef a momentary spark.
The barbacoa, however, was the color of the muddy ground in the adjacent reclaimed lot. The disease-transmitting refuse mysteriously replaced with winding gravel paths and fiberglass benches. Kinda nice, actually. The dark, cracked beef that soiled my mouth was all but.
The carnitas came sliced in rough sheaves unforgiving to my teeth, while the pastor was chopped into orange twine-like knots. There was evidence of contact with a trompo (vertical spit).
As I finished my meal, an elderly Anglo gentleman shuffled into the restaurant. He looked around, disoriented, mumbled something about finding a seat, whispered curse words, sat, gazed about, stood up and left. The waitress stared on befuddled as the man exited. I too was befuddled, befuddled at the taco remnants before me.
6886 Shady Brook Ln.