It’s Sunday and I have a hanker’n for etwas oaxacan. I think about the champurrado con pan I saw listed on the menu the first time I went to Casa Oaxaca in Santa Ana. How delicious such a simple combination can be on a Sunday morning. So after doing Sunday morning cleanings (the place was a whore’s den after a full Friday night and Saturday morning of hierogammania) I talk the prurient Difficile into heading over to First and N Susan Street just west of the Santa Ana River (whose latin name, by the way, is Riverus fecundus).
I choke down my double-bagged green tea and then light a fag, we hop in the Ford Blurry, and we’re off.
Because of the Fiestas Patrias there’s dick traffic. Oh those wacky Mexicans.
Difficile and I almost turn away from Casa Oaxaca because the parking lot is full, and street parking is in a sad “permit only” state. But Casa Oaxaca effectively coaxes assignation.
Although the parking lot was full, it’s not disgustingly packed in the way that Sunland/Tujunga’s Denny’s on a Sunday morning might be: obese white trash families; diabetic kids slogging their way through their Deep Fried Meat Skillet; the intermittent Ara; my own mother somewhere in the back, alone, and happily noshing away at her Logger Slamm; the queue that runs ten deep–how could people actually wait for this? At Denny’s everything is covered in a layer of grease and, for those of you that have a pulse, you can’t figure out what it is that actually brought you here. Is it the prices that sucked you in? The 1950’s retro-crappo decor? Perhaps, plain and simple, it’s the utter disdain you have for your own life (good ole death drive) that has obligated you to stop in.
Casa Oaxaca is none of these things. How dare I even fathom to compare the two. Bad Jimmy, bad.
Inside it’s pleasantly bustling. We sit near the Famsa Plasma. Throughout our meal I will wrestle to retain my soul, but hin und her, I will forget myself and watch the glowing screen. I know this as we sit down but welcome the scuffle and sit down facing the screen anyway.
We’ve arrived just in time to miss the weekend-buffet crowd. It’s noon, or 2pm, or some such. I order a Bohemia and Difficile orders thee staple drink of his very restrictive diet: Tecate.
I’ve been here once before for the 5 Estrellas. Although the moles bring me back, and I hanker for something sencillo like champurrado con pan, my eyes linger on other dishes on the menu. Enfrijolados, a folded and fried corn tortilla dipped in blended beans w/ fresh cheese (cotija probably) and a choice of meat. This dish warmly reminds me of a poorman’s recipe Soror told me about just a few weeks ago. When she, her mother, and her several siblings had just immigrated from coastal Jalisco and were living hard up times in East LA, her mother would dip tortillas into blended beans, fry them up, and fill them with whatever was in the re-freee. This was Soror’s mom’s fast and cheap meal to feed five. Casa Oaxaca’s Enmoladas also sound good: again a fried corn tortilla but this time dipped in mole negro sauce and then more of the same. I’ve never been a fan of mole negro (black mole) until I tried Casa Oaxaca’s; in general some complain it is too chocolatey, indeed in the past I’ve had the same complaint, but the mole negro at Casa Oaxaca is well-balanced between chocolate and spices, and it has depth and pairs well with the chicken it is served with.
We end up ordering the Botana Casa Oaxaca Para 2 Personas. It’s under the “Appetizers” section of the menu and we agree on this dish because it is a macédoine of Casa Oaxaca’s offerings: Molotes (dumplings), 1 Empanada de Amarillo, Quesillo (fresh cheese), frijoles, 1 Memelita con Asiento y pasta de frijol y queso (1 thick handmade tortilla smeared with memela and topped with bean paste and fresh cheese), Chorizo Asado (Sausage), Tasajo (grilled thin steak), Cecina (marinated pork), Chapulines (grasshoppers) and tortillas.
The quesillo is some of the best cheese I’ve ever had. It’s salty and has flavorful aged funk to it. Although the texture differs, I want to compare the flavor to the Turkish Beyaz Peynir (literally meaning “white cheese”) I had earlier this year while in Berlin. The cecina is adobada and very good. After some research I learn it is marinated in a paste of dried chiles, vinegar, garlic and spices. The molotes were replaced with satisfying taquitos, and the grilled onions, peppers (oo hot), fresh radishes were flavorful garnishes.
The chapulines (grasshoppers) are a little too salty on their own, but they have a good crunch and make an great addition when sprinkled onto the memelita, or the morrocan-style tacos I assemble.
We finish up our meal with a damn fine chocolate flan and coffee. It’s a good Sunday and, although my oaxacan gastro-craving is satisfied, I now crave a fag, another beer, or maybe a Mexican parade. Ipa epa! We leave Casa Oaxaca just before 4pm and head towards las Fiestas Patrias. Viva la France la Mexique!
Casa Oaxaca Restaurant
3317 W First Street
Santa Ana, CA 92704