Better And Better

If you don't draw yours, I won't draw mine. A police officer, working in the small town that he lives in, focusing on family and shooting and coffee, and occasionally putting some people in jail.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

No Menu

If you expand the above picture of a four-block area of north Fort Worth in the vicinity of the 2300 block of Main St, you’ll notice come rectangles. Red includes the restaurant known to one and all as Joe T. Garcia’s. The yellow blocks include the parking areas owned by Joe T.’s. Note that the restaurant takes up half a city block. Note the swimming pool toward the center of the patio area, and the enormous “Fiesta Gardens” on the left (north) side of the restaurant. I’ve seen this place over capacity on a Friday night, with a line some 50 deep to get in.

Last night, my wife Chris and I chose patio dining at Joe T’s, about 4 feet to the south of the pool. According to NOAA weather, Meacham Field in Ft. Worth registered 54 degrees as we sat down, and about 52 degrees as we got up. While the nip in the air whetted the appetites, medium-sized chivas fed with cedar blocks were spread about the patio, and kept the temperatures pleasant.

Joe T’s only accepts cash. No plastic, and only occasionally will they accept checks.

Joe T’s does not pass out menus for supper. There is no menu, because you have exactly two choices at supper, both of which are versions of The Dinner. You may order The Dinner with enchiladas (cheese only) or with fajitas (beef or chicken). The fajitas were added by popular demand during the 1980’s, I believe, but trust me—go with the original Dinner of enchiladas, served since the restaurant opened in the Garcia household in 1935. All meals are served family style and in courses. Of course there’s a huge basket of homemade tortilla chips and fresh salsa as you sit down, but within a couple of minutes of your drink order comes the first course of the Dinner: the tostadas. Simple affairs, really: a platter with two large tostada chips per diner, sprinkled with grated cheddar cheese and green chiles, and broiled until the edges start to brown. As you’re eating those, the platters continue to come out: the Spanish rice, the fresh guacamole, the pair of spiced pork tacos with lots of lettuce, the homemade corn tortillas (don’t make the mistake of choosing flour) and.. oh. The beans. Oh my, the refried beans. Is it crack cocaine they put in them? No—just spices and lots of lard. So. Very. Good. Finally the waiter brings out your large dinner plates and a pan with your enchiladas, and serves them on your plate before you. At 6’5”, 260+, I can usually finish my share. Usually.

The food is excellent, because that’s what they’ve made for better than 70 years. The food is served fast, because that’s all they’re making, tonight. The service is excellent, because the servers know the drill, and know how to make the customers happy.

I like restaurants with no menus.

Oh, you can get a steak or baked potato or even fish at IHOP, ordering off of their 8 page menu. You can get a remarkable variety off of a Bennigan’s 12-page menu. Is it good? Maybe sometimes, by accident.

But as I was telling LawDog and BigCasino over lunch one day at Joe T’s—I dig the simple expectation of quality.

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At Saturday, November 04, 2006 8:25:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh, man are you making me feel bad about not going there recently. Last time was when SWMBO's brother and family were in town (from California). After traipsing his kids through the zoo and the Stockyards we spun them over into Joe T's.

Pure culture shock for them. It's like they'd never been served family style before, let alone mass quantities.

I need to go see about a new pair of boots at Leddy's sometime. Guess I'll have to make a meal run out of the day too.

Thanks for the refresher memories.


At Sunday, November 05, 2006 12:54:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Should you ever get to San Diego CA you will love Quatras Milpas in Barrio Logan. It has been there since 1923, reportedly with the same menu: Tacos, tamales, and chorizo con huevo. Usually abbreviated to just chorizo, it is a thick soup of chorizo, beans, and egg to which is added, at the moment of service, a large dollop of Mexican style rice, all served with fresh tortillas made in the back of the building.

As great as the food is, Quatras Milpas is also a people watcher’s treasure. Located deep in cliqua territory, it functions as a neutral ground, a watering hole. Lunch hour will give a view of the local bangers, cops, lawyers and judges down from the courts, Navy folk of all ratings and ranks up from the bases, and "others" such as me. Often as not, lunch hour will include a fire engine parked on the center stripe in form of the restaurant as the crew get lunch.

One of the treasures of Quatras Milpas is the house salsa. It is a blend of chiles and spices fried in lard with chicharrones. Two warnings are in order. First, as great as the flavor is, it is very, very hot. In the days before the founders died, the place was also know as "Too much for your coins" as you could order the chorizo con huevo, eat about half the serving, and then complain about how too much salsa made the rest uneatable. The result was generally another ladlefull of chorizo to dilute the heat. As I understand the process, the founders had a finely tuned sense of who did and who did not deserve the help. The second warning is that the recipe for that salsa is unobtainable. I have tried to get it through three generations of owners and nearly four decades. You are, of course, free to try.

At Sunday, November 05, 2006 1:05:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Rats! That will teach me to trust the word processor!

Of course the center stripe is in "front" of the restaurant and the place is "known" as.

Think twice, edit thrice (and, perhaps more!), post once.

(Have I missed an "edit" button?)

At Sunday, November 05, 2006 10:24:00 AM, Blogger Matt G said...

Huck, you're quite right-- I'm intrigued. Should I ever find myself in SoCal, I'll make a point of dropping by.

As a corollary to liking places without menus, I love places that are icons of a community because of their superb food, and which are found nowhere else. I can't stand eating in a chain restaurant in a town I've never been in, and thinking, "Yep, it's just like at home, and just like the opposite coast, too." Bah.


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