If we were having coffee today I’d have to confess to a bit of hankering for the old country.
I saw a posting on Facebook the other day from what used to be my favorite Mexican restaurant back in Austin, Texas. I both love and hate those postings … love them because they remind me of so many great Tex-Mex meals at El Patio. I hate them because they remind me I haven’t eaten there is such a gosh-darned long time. Oh, seriously, I don’t hate the posts and could never hate the restaurant. It just makes me homesick. It’s been a long time.
El Patio is part of a vanishing breed of old-school Tex-Mex restaurants. It’s been way over sixty years in the same location, right next to the University of Texas. My wife’s parents were fans of this place from the start and she even went on a date or two with one of the current owner’s cousins back in the sixties, although that doesn’t have anything to do with the restaurant, but when we got together it was one of the things we had in common: El Patio!
It’s not particularly fancy and it doesn’t concentrate on trendy additions to the menu. It simply and surely continues a long tradition of serving quality traditional Tex-Mex food. The postings really do make me homesick. Back in the day, I knew people who turned up their noses at El Patio as being old-fashioned and out of step. I always figured that was too bad for them as that was their loss. To me, it is comfort food and THAT, my friends, is never out of step. Old-fashioned? Let me tell you something, it was the pioneers like the Joseph family who put traditional Tex-Mex cuisine on the map. Spread that on your corn tortilla and eat it. The so-called trendy places of today would not even exist without the original trendsetters who blazed the trails (quite literally in the case of Tex-Mex).
I missed El Patio so much, I included a cameo snippet of it in my last novel, A Curse That Bites Deep … the snippet is based on my 1980s memories of the place, so it is appropriately set in the 1980s.
” “You’ve been away for a while. There anyplace you miss?… How about El Patio?”
Sam thought for several seconds … “Okay, I could do with some classic Austin Tex-Mex,” he said, smiling.
The small Mexican food eatery was in the shadow of the University of Texas and had a loyal following among the school community. Inside, savory aromas sparked his taste buds, which he thought was odd since he was bombarded with similar smells virtually every day at The Mossback.
They munched on saltines and hot sauce. The saltines were a throwback to the early days of Tex-Mex when fried tortilla chips were not automatically part of the meal. ”
Oh, in the 80s that saltines thing was the norm there. Now they have sort of caved-in to the times and started serving chips. It was a cost thing. But in truth, in the old days of Tex-Mex, saltines were the standard at most places. ( BTW, “The Mossback” is the small fictional restaurant where he works in West Texas in the novel. )
So, to my buddy David Joseph at El Patio, I hope you keep posting those tempting pictures even though they make me homesick. Perhaps if I sell enough books, I’ll get back by and enjoy another opportunity to feast for myself. You can read about the restaurant on their web page … http://www.elpatioaustin.com/ If you go visit Austin … go there! Tell David I sent you. He might just give me some free guacamole on my nachos if enough people tell him that.
Thomas Fenske is a writer currently living in North Carolina. More information and buy links for his two novels, THE FEVER and A CURSE THAT BITES DEEP can be found on his website, http://thefensk.com
Remember, if he sells enough books, maybe he can go to El Patio too!