Back to reality

Home from my girls’ trip to SPI and have been flung back into the grind. No more lazy days on the balcony and beach, whiling the day away with a great book and fantastic company.

Because of the rigors of the grind, I’ve got a long list of things to do, so this will be short and sweet. I have a hard time focusing until my suitcase is unpacked and my house is in order, but first things first, I needed to get to the gym. Too many days had passed since I got my burn on, and while the girlfriends and I kept it healthy on our trip, enjoying the phenomenal produce and seafood from the Gulf, I also ate this:

Yes, a taco as big as my head. Bigger, actually. The handmade flour tortilla was 18 inches in diameter, and more likely than not fattened up with lard and lots of it.

We dined at Manuel’s in Port Isabel, just on the inland side of the causeway leading to South Padre. This place is legendary in a land chock-full of great Mexican food.

It’s a family-run place, a hole in the wall with friendly service, passionate employees, and a-ma-zing food. Abuela was in the back, rolling out the Texas-sized tortillas and gave me a mostly-toothless grin as I asked her if she minded me taking a photo of her work. 

I’m glad she said yes, because this stack of gigantic tortillas has to be seen to be believed.

I’m a bit of a guacamole purist, and Manuel’s is by far the best I’ve tasted. With apologies to my buddy Abundio at Escalante’s in Sugar Land, whose customized, tableside guac is my favorite, I must say the guac at Manuel’s had it beat, by a slim margin. And only because the avocados were grown right there, practically on site. The Rio Grande Valley is home to some of the best produce on Earth, and the avocados are good enough to make you weep with joy. As they say at the Goode Company restaurants in this neck of the woods, “You might give some serious thought to thanking your lucky stars that you’re in Texas.” Nowhere is this more true than at Manuel’s. They don’t even have a liquor license and I still believe that. I’m glad I got a photo of the guac before it was devoured (mainly by me).

Amateur and professional foodies alike have sung Manuel’s praises and given thanks for the authentic, yummy food made there. Texas Monthly bestowed a most-prestigious award upon Manuel’s when it was added to the bible of taco-eaters, The 63 Tacos You Must Try Before You Die list. Why 63? Why not? Because this is Texas, and we do things the way we please, pardner. If you don’t like it, scurry on back to one of the other states.

Manuel’s is particularly praised for its chilaquiles. If you’ve never sampled this little piece of heaven on a plate, get thee to a Mexican hole in the wall, pronto. Ask for extra queso fresco. You can thank me later. 

One thing I do not recommend, however, is the menudo. Neither the band

nor the soup. Yuk.

Why the menudo is in a plastic tub inside a plastic bin rather than in a refrigerator is a mystery that I won’t be solving, because I won’t be anywhere near that tub. Or the bin. Maybe it’s because menudo smells so bad, it will contaminate anything and everything else in the fridge. And the county.  I’m going to think about the out-of-this world guacamole instead. And plan my next trip to Manuel’s.