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Friday, January 20, 2012

Restaurant Review: El Tapatio Mexican Cuisine, Middletown, NY

On our way back from Ithaca on Saturday, my family was getting hungry.  We stopped in Middletown, NY, for gas and I whipped out my iPhone and checked Yelp! to see what was nearby.  Less than a mile away, we found El Tapatio Mexican Cuisine, so I turned the car around and drove to 252 Rt. 211 East, where we parked beside the micro-strip-mall that houses El Tapatio, along with a Chinese restaurant and a liquor store.  In my experience, crummy locations are always a sign of good food, so my hopes were high.

Perhaps you remember this Puerto Rican boy band
from the '70s and '80s.  Hopefully, you don't.
If you need a reminder click here.
As we entered the vestibule, there was a specials board, with several items on it, but the menudo caught my eye.  The owner's daughter, a cute little girl of about five, brought us our menus a few moments later and, as we nibbled on chips and salsa, Kimberly and Ian quickly decided on steak tacos, but my attention was caught by the non-gringo items on the menu.  Lengua (beef tongue), nopales (prickly-pear cactus), cueritas (pork skin), and cecina (dried beef) all made appearances as ingredients in burritos and tacos and I was tempted, but my mind kept going back to the menudo on the specials board and that's what I ended up ordering.

"Now, just what is menudo?" you may be asking yourself just about now.  Perhaps you remember Menudo, the Puerto Rican boy band that was (in)famous in the 1970s and 1980s and that helped launch the careers of luminaries such as Ricky Martin of Livin' La Vida Loca fame, and a whole bunch of other people I've never heard of.  That's not the menudo we're discussing here.  We're talking about the traditional soup made of beef tripe and intestines, pig's trotters, and hominy.  How can you say "no" to cow's guts, stewed ever so gently in a spicy broth with pig's feet and corn that has been soaked in lye, and served with lime, onions and cilantro?  I mean, really???

While we waited for the meal to arrive, Ian commented that he wished that he weren't so squeamish about food, that he wished that he enjoyed the adventure of trying things like fish heads and tacos de ojo, but that he just didn't feel up to the challenge.  Still, when the food arrived, he took great pleasure in watching as I spooned up bits of intestine resembling calamari rings and scraped meat off of the hunks of bone that filled the bowl.  The broth was pleasantly spicy, much like a good pozole rojo and the trotters gave the broth a richness much like vietnamese pho.  It was great stuff and I was extremely happy with my menudo and warm corn tortillas.

Though he couldn't bring himself to taste any of the solid parts of the menudo, Ian tried the broth and liked it, so that's at least a step in the right direction for him.  Now, he just needs to step it up before he travels to China in April and gets to sample real Chinese food.  Kimberly, conversely, opted against sampling the menudo and, as I am a man who wishes to remain happily married, I didn't press the issue with her.  She and Ian enjoyed their tacos immensely.  My only regret for the evening is that we were in a bit of a hurry to get home, so we didn't stay to sample any of the desserts at El Tapatio.  Something tells me that we'll have another chance to do that when we travel through Middletown next time.

Menudo!  A steaming hot bowl of guts and bones!
What's not to love?!?!?
Ian's steak tacos.
How can you go wrong with steak tacos?


Anonymous said...

Very poor experience. The Chile Relleno with cream sauce was not appealing at all. Some lumps created from a poor mixture of tomato and some kind of cream.
Also, we were overcharged and they appeared to be upset when we mentioned about the overcharged amount !!! We wouldn't comeback, and not to be recommended. Sorry...

Paul Bryant-Smith said...

Thanks for reading my blog and for offering your experience at El Tapatio. I appreciate your feedback!