It was three o'clock in the afternoon; I didn't have breakfast and I didn't eat lunch. I'd had coffee, three Red Bulls and a half pack of cigarettes -- my typical school day diet. Class was over and I was driving home, tired, jittery and famished. For the sake of my stomach and the motorists at risk on the road with me, I pulled off of the interstate to catch a bite to eat.
Harris Boulevard. Smack in the middle of Middle America. Forgive me for sounding like an elitist, but every chain restaurant reminds me of, well, Applebee's. There's an Irish Applebee's, Italian Applebee's, contemporary American Applebee's, breakfast Applebee's and so on. The genericization (not a word but should be) of the restaurant industry was killing my appetite. I refused to sell out so I kept driving, peering out of the window for a standalone joint that I could afford.
Restaurante y Panaderia Salvadoreña, 5724-G WT Harris Blvd. I crossed two lanes in heavy traffic as soon as I saw the sign. When I walked in and realized I was the only non-Latino customer, I knew I had made a good choice. The Spanish soap opera, full blast on the television, strengthened my conviction. Leche hervida (steamed milk) to drink; fried yucca; pork cracklings; two grilled pork, bean and cheese papusas; and a corn tamale cost me $9.75. Chips and salsa, of course, were free.
I rolled out of my booth and rolled back down Harris Boulevard, smirking as I passed the cookie-cutter restaurants packed with people under the impression that they're getting good food for a good price.
John Zoet is a second-year student at Johnson & Wales University, majoring in Culinary Arts and Food Service Management and a student in CL food critic Tricia Childress' Intro to Food Writing course.