When menudo won’t do

Henri takes the cure at Tacos Cortes

FIESTA MENUDO <br>Taco’s Cortez owners (from left) Rodolfo and Ofelia Cortez, and cook Alfonso Avila.

Taco’s Cortez owners (from left) Rodolfo and Ofelia Cortez, and cook Alfonso Avila.

Photo By Tom Angel

Tacos Cortes Tacos Cortes, 1110 Dayton Road, is open daily from 10 a.m. Tues.–Fri., 9 a.m. Sat., and 8 a.m. Sun. until 9 p.m. Phone 342-4189.

Henri has always prided himself on his hangover cure. Four Tylenol, a cafà au lait, a croissant—with prosciutto, havarti and a dash of horseradish—and the Macy’s insert from the New York Times, followed by an afternoon of power shopping. Nothing like a new blazer or pair of espadrilles to ward off a queasy stomach and pounding head.

It had been a long Saturday night, and Henri was in bad shape. Miss Marilyn and I had stayed up till the wee hours completely given over to a Donald O’Connor marathon and two bottles of superb Bordeaux that had arrived that day, FedExed from Provence. Truth be told, Henri doesn’t remember much after Cosmo’s delightful “Make ’em Laugh” in Singin’ in the Rain, including how I got into my new Pierre Cardin pajamas.

I awoke about 9, my mouth dry and my head spinning. I needed some fresh air.

In part due to Henri’s pathetic sense of direction and in part due to his, well, hazy frame of mind that morning, I was soon lost. Within a couple of blocks, in fact.

I was approaching wilderness and beginning to panic when I spotted activity—people carrying buckets into and out of a small restaurant with a sign that said Taco’s Cortes, unneeded apostrophe and all. I parked beside a rather dilapidated pick-up truck into which a woman was hefting a large Dutch oven.

Menudo is a rich red aromatic soup made of tripe, hominy, chile pepper and garlic. Traditionally, it is served in large bowls with tortillas. It is said to replenish vitamins A and C and to restore the appetite—that is, to cure a hangover. A sign of an authentic Mexican restaurant is one that sells menudo, particularly in bulk, particularly on Sunday mornings. Henri had never tried it.

“How much?” I asked the man at the counter, as he handed another man a steaming bucket.

“Depends on how much you want. You got 10 dollars, we give you 10 dollars’ worth.”

I ordered a “small” bowl, about a quart, a plate of huevos rancheros and, not seeing cafà au lait on the menu, a cup of coffee. The “lait” came powdered.

Now, not to disparage the many fine people clearly enjoying their menudo breakfasts at nearby tables—or those scooping it out of buckets at home—but menudo is not Henri’s cup of Oolong. In fact, the word hideous comes to mind. The tripe floats in the “soup” like pieces of, well, fat, which is what it is. I had one spoonful.

The huevos rancheros, on the other hand, were divine and definitely cleared the tête a bit. In fact, I walked out into sunshine that—on the other side of my new Armani sunglasses—was actually tolerable, although I still needed a decent cup of coffee.

I found my way back to town and bought some fresh-ground French roast. When I got home, I made a double espresso and ordered a new pair of huarache sandals from shop.com.

Complete lunch and dinner plates (with rice and beans) at Tacos Cortes run $3.15 to $4.50, while a la carte tacos, tamales, flautas and tostadas are $1.35 to $3.50. Fillings include carnitas, chorizo, chile verde, and lengua (tongue, another sign of authenticity).

A note from a reader: Mon cher ami Henri. I read with fear and trembling your story of St. Patrick. There was no Angleterre when St. Patrick was born, just Ireland, Wales and Scotland—Celtic Britain. The despicable English (Angles and Saxons) first arrived in 425. St. Patrick was born at in 387, in Scotland, and died at Saul, Downpatrick, Ireland, 17 March, 493. So his mother was L’Ecosse. St. Patrick Anglais??!!! Quel horreur! Ton ami, Jean-Claude.

Jean-Claude, Henri was trying to place St. Patrick’s mother geographically, not ethnically. Mon mal. Keep in mind that most sources suggest problems with the “facts” of St. Patrick’s life, despite his Confessions. The only source sure of the details is the Catholic Church, an institution that, with all due respect, is known for both its self-certainty and its proclivity to be wrong.