open the saloon doors, walk down a few steps, and have a seat
at one of the ten or so orange arborite tables. Clint Eastwood
might have parked himself on a wooden stool, instead of a
matching 1960s vinyl covered stainless steel padded
chair, but you get the idea. And yet somehow, the shiny, brand
spanking new digital juke box does not seem particularly incongruous.
El Faro is a small bar in Colonia Reforma, about a ten minute
taxi ride from Oaxacas zócalo, serving
nothing but liquor and the finest in typical, filling, and
usually fried finger foods and other quickly prepared local
The purpose of this visit was to try the reknowned marinated
onions and then have co-owner Marta provide our pre-arranged
lesson on how to prepare them. But our hostess was so gracious
and accommodating, and more importantly willing to sell the
preparation to us in bulk, that the working part of the adventure
thankfully fell by the wayside. Now down to indulging
left to do but munch away and imbibe. But be careful with
the latter. Liquor is served clearly without any consideration
given to portioning, and a couple of drinks will leave you
feeling like four.
Los tragos arrive promptly, alongside shelled peanuts,
made on the premises with course salt and spices, a Oaxacan
staple. Of course quartered limes, sal de gusano, and
other accompaniments arrive depending on choice of beverage.
The parade then begins, starting with a burst of smoky flavor
and spice constituting our marinated onion slices. While vinegar
is the main ingredient, the unique and appealing flavor of
chile pasillo, with a mixture of spices, predominates,
creating an appealing uniqueness. Certainly it bears some
similarity to piedrasos, often sold on street corners
in large glass containers and served with marinated vegetables
over giant chunks of toasted bread. So encountering this tart
treasure in a sit-down environment was indeed a true find.
A tlayuda is set before us in short order, prepared
without any excess baggage. The large crunchy oversized baked
tortilla is made with requisite asiento (schmaltz,
as my grandmother would say, but this fat isnt from
a chicken) and a thin paste of chile de arbol, topped
with queso. Forget the vegetables, refried beans and
meat typifying most tlayuda toppings. All in due course.
Marinated serrano chiles with onion slices (rajas),
additional salsas, and guacamole follow, rounding
out the sides.
A plate of fast-fried potato pieces known as bolas de fuego
(fire balls) is placed before us. Seasoned with some type
of chile, perhaps paprika, and without a doubt garlic, these
crisp-on-the-outside golden goodies do not disappoint, being
true to their name.
Frijoles con pata consists of black beans served in
a bowl with boiled pork foot. Its a traditional dish,
and in fact our Oaxacan friends ate the gelatinous vittles
with great gusto. But its equally a taste, and texture,
which many North Americans take time to acquire. Fifteen years
later, were still working on it. The salsas do help.
The empanadas de seso (beef brain) are the best weve
had anywhere, anytime. While fried as is the custom, these
little filled turnovers are lacking the customary double dose
of oil, making them as close to a baked botana as one
can find. Guacamole is the preferred dipping sauce, since
theres already a bit of spice in the stuffing.
We rounded out our experience with two meat dishes combined
on a single platter: costillas enchiladas (spare ribs
coated with a chile mixture) which were well cooked as I had
requested, and had plenty of meat on and off the bone; and
tasajo (a thin filet of lightly seasoned beef) which
arrived tender and juicy, and not at all over-cooked (often
an issue in Oaxacan eateries), already cut into (large) bite
El Faro isnt for every traveler. But there are many
who walk by such establishments, take and quick peek in, are
clearly intrigued, and then say no, wed better
not. At El Faro, you can.
El Faro. Jasminez 222-B, Colonia Reforma. Mon to Sat, 9am
Machaya Oaxaca Bed & Breakfast ( http://www.oaxacadream.com
Starkman Casa Machaya Oaxaca Bed & Breakfast ( http://www.oaxacadream.com
) combines the best of bed & breakfast Oaxaca with a downtown
Oaxaca hotel style characterized by service and comfort. Inquire
about Alvins Oaxaca tours, completely personalized to
meet your specific interests and passions. Alvin is the Oaxaca
destinations expert for a major international travel website.
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