Monday, March 22, 2010

Panaderia La Espiga

Monday March 22nd 2010
Panaderia La Espiga, 10th and Spring Garden, Philadelphia, PA

Friday I got the idea in my head that I’d walk the opposite direction down Spring Garden than I usually do on my break. It was Friday after all, and I felt deserving of a particularly long lunch. After passing 10th st, the word “Tacos” caught my eye on a near by awning and I knew right then and there, that’s what I needed to eat.
Knowing absolutely nothing about this place, it caught me off guard to be in a market upon entering. Goya products as far as I could see. Mexican calling cards. A display case of Spanish cakes and pastries. I wandered towards the back of the store, but dead ended at the meat cooler. Going towards the right I ended up in the adjoining latin music store, half of which was empty and appeared to be used as storage for cleaning products, the other half a mix between center floor displays of toilet paper and walls lined with salsa and reggaeton CD’s. Perusing the CD’s for a bit, I say damn near everyone of them had a beach scene cover with a spread of scantily clad Latin women, “Reggaeton” in bold block lettering at the bottom (let me just say I think it’s great when an album cover states what type of music the album is).

Still looking for tacos, I went in another adjoining room to the left and found about four empty tables that looked ideal for eating tacos at, but no sign of a place to order them, a kitchen to make them in, or a list of what they had. I double checked at the front counter to make sure I hadn’t missed something. No mention of freshly prepared food. I looked back around the store. They had a great selection of tortillas, cheeses, meats, vegetables, I could if I planned on going home, buy everything I needed to make my own tacos. Is that what they were talking about? Deep confusion set in. I was lost, out of place, and began to get anxious, so I blasted out the front door and ended up eating two giant and bland slices of pizza for lunch. It was a defeat.
Back at work I sought information from James, the Spring Garden Confucius, about this establishment and their immense lack of clarity in food service. He told me he thought they did sell tacos, but you had to order them at the check out counter where you’d normally pay for your Salsa album, Chorizo, and Jumex, but he only went in there to get sodas once in a while. So today, despite the rain, I went back, and asked the man at the counter bluntly,
“Do you sell tacos?”
“Yes we do.”, he replied.
“Where do I order them?”
“Right here.” Well how about that. I asked him what kind they had, how much they were, and placed my order. “Ok.”, he responded, leaving the counter unattended while he dashed away to wherever it was they were hiding the kitchen. Now, this is weird right? Its not just me I hope.
I walked out with a bag of three pork tacos. Double layered corn tortillas with huge chunks of pork in them. Look at that! This cost $7.50, which having briefly lived in California seems utterly ridiculous to me. One taco is maybe one dollar, a dollar in change. $7.50 for three is rough. But this is nowhere near Mexico, and there was a whole lot of meat in those tacos, so I guess its ok. They did taste pretty good, and I was able to adequately fill up on two and eat one later on. The only real bummer was that there was a real fatty chunk of pork in one of them, and I know some people are way into pork fat, but I’m not really one of those guys yet and even if I was I’m not sure pork fat paired with corn tortillas is the best taste or texture combination.

The more I think about it, Philadelphia isn’t really known for having very many good things at all, in general even. Mexican food being another one you can throw right up on that lengthy list of failures. I’ve only tried a few places, but I kept finding white people eating burritos with peas in them. The quality of all Mexican food around here is obviously below the standards for Southern California, or say Mexico, so shouldn’t it be priced accordingly?

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