Monday, August 30, 2010

El Tapatio

Saturday August 28th 2010
El Tapatio, 4801 Nolensville, Nashville, TN

I thought I was there. I thought for sure I was ready. My first time with tongue was at the infamous Midnight Tacos in Los Angeles, I tried a bite of my friends burrito lengua just for the experience, so I’d know what it was all about, and was taken aback by the pleasant relatively normal flavor and texture it had. Not at all what I’d expected. That was a few years back. Last week we find ourselves in the Salvation Army parking lot on Nolensville, fully expecting a visit to the store, and instead we got distracted by a small taco truck that also shared the lot, and ordered some food. To refresh my memory, to give it another shot, I got a tongue taco, and as expected I thoroughly enjoyed it. I’m not exactly sure how it was prepared, possibly fried, but it tasted amazing, and I found myself wishing that I’d manned up and gotten a whole tongue quesadilla, cursing my pork choice, longing for more of that succulent tongue taste. That’s what had me convinced it was my newly discovered love.
El Tapatio on Nolensville came recommended from this really weird spaced out psychedelic dude who was hanging out at Crom’s house one night telling a story about how shocked and blown away he was when a thickly southern accented waiter and owner of a diner he visited told him he could “go out back and smoke on my deck if you’d like”, until he finally realized what the guy was actually saying. It was a nice place inside, bright, spacious, weird Mexican paintings and old movies playing on the television. We were served a complimentary bowl of extra chunky guacamole and freshly made tortilla chips, warm to the touch, lightly salted, delicious. And I knew exactly what I wanted to order, tongue quesadilla.

My future disappointment should be prefaced with the knowledge that the night before there were some friends in town, we stayed up late partying, and the three or so hours I’d been awake so far, the only thing I’d managed to work into my already sensitive stomach were two large glasses of black iced coffee. It was a gastrointestinal meltdown that could have benefitted from many other things before it could have benefitted from this, this entire buffet on a plate, this six person gut busting party platter of beans, rice, peppers, pico de gallo, radishes, chips, guacamole, and lest we forget the tortilla plentifully stuffed with cheese and tongue.

Actually I believe that this would probably be a more authentic way of preparing tongue, again I have no idea how they prepared it, but it was much more tender and juicier than the other I’d had which had an outer crunch to it. It’s flavor was much stronger as well, conjuring up non-existent memories of having my face bathed by a cow. Where as the tongue in last weeks taco had a pretty nondescript appearance, it could have been anything, and maybe it was something else, this was unmistakably tongue, chopped up into cubes, taste buds looking up at you, layers of muscle tissue visible in the cross section. I got through a quarter of it before I asked myself, “wait a minute, do I like this?”, and the answer was no, I didn’t. I finished another quarter out of personal obligation and waste concern before I had to throw in the towel. “At least Scott Otis is coming into town tonight, he’ll finish these.” we said as the large remaining portion was scraped into a styrofoam box.
Really, I was sad, because I thought tongue was maybe my new thing. I could make a tongue pizza, learn how to cook it myself, there were all these exciting prospects that suddenly got shut down when after eating the same tongue a proud Mexican would enjoy, I felt disgust and shame. I thought back on it, “was it just my fragile stomach, sore from a tag team beat down courtesy of coffee and beer?”, and honestly I didn’t think so, it didn’t help, but unfortunately I don’t care for authentically prepared tongue. I will however return to El Tapatio for another selection, it seemed like quite the nice place. No hard feelings.

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