Lunch at Don de Nacho | Mexico | Living in Mexico

Lunch at Don de Nacho

There are chain restaurants in Mexico. Fortunately, most restaurants are one-of-a-kind. Even taco stands have unique offerings. One sells cabrito—baby goat. Another, pulpo—octopus.

For lunch today, Jean and I went to an excellent seafood restaurant out by the Pilipa glorieta: Don de Nacho.

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This place embodies many of the things about Mexico that I love. The tables are outdoors, mostly under a roof. The atmosphere is very informal. It's cheap. The food is excellent and unique.

There's only one problem: It doesn't offer much seafood. For a seafood restaurant.

Apparently, the original concept was to recreate the beach here in the Mexican Midwest. The restaurant originally was called Señor Playa—Mr. Beach.

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Yep. Shrimp, tacos and volleyball.

Out front was a sandy area with a volleyball net—a pathetic beach simulation. The menu primarily offered seafood, but you could get arrachera (steak) tacos and carnitas as well—sort of as an afterthought.

People came in for the seafood. I mean, where else can you get ostiones (oysters) on the half shell?

After tasting the carnitas and arrachera, nobody bothered with the seafood. Especially the ostiones. And nobody played volleyball, either. Somehow, a stomach full of pork boiled in fat isn't conducive to vigorous net sports.

"Hey! How about some volleyball?"

"Oh God. I think I'm gonna spew..."

Señor Playa is an example of a typical Mexican business founded more on inspiration than on market research. But the owner is nothing if not adaptable. The menu changed. Out came half the seafood, the carnitas got top billing and the name of the place changed.

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One might, if one was a gringo, think that nachos would be on the menu. One would be wrong.

The word Nacho is also a nickname—probably a diminutive of the name Ignacio. Don, besides being an honorific, is a word that means "gift" or "talent."

So "Don de Nacho" means something like "Ignacio's forte" or "Ignacio's offering."

Consistent with Mexican tastes, Nacho's sign displays anthropomorphic food images: a happy shrimp complete with head and antennae, and a resigned-looking pig, both wearing bow ties.

The carnitas are excellent. I once saw them being prepared here. Into a huge copper pot of boiling oil went large hunks of pig, bones and all. Several good-sized pieces of limp white skin also went into the pot. Sounds gross, but skin mixed with the well-done pork helps with the dryness you get in the loin. For flavor, oranges and onions and herbs were added, and the whole thing boiled for hours.

Don de Nacho makes fresh corn tortillas to order. A woman puts balls of masa (cornmeal dough) into a tortilla press and then cooks them on a griddle. You have no idea what a tortilla tastes like until you've had them like this: delicate, flavorful, tender. They're infinitely better than the cello-wrapped kind. It's just like the difference between a fresh loaf straight from mom's oven and wonder bread.

Carnitas are sold by weight. You get a foil-covered plate with your half-kilo order.

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Chopped onions and cilantro and a selection of salsas accompany your meal. You take a fresh, warm tortilla, put some pork on it making sure you include a little skin, salt it and season it and off you go.

There were six tables of four when we were there. The only food on any table was carnitas. I'm betting it won't be long before the shrimp come off the menu.

Rosita the Boston Terrier is particularly fond of tortillas and of carnitas.

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Here she is lobbying Jean for a bite.

That's another plus for Don de Nacho; they allow dogs.
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