A look of absolute bliss must have been on my face. The lady at the next table who is leaving asked “What are you eating?”
When I’m around food, I forget others might not have Chowhound inclinations.
“Goat”, I say.
“Goat !!!”, she exclaims with extreme shock.
She says goat with such vehemence, that she starts coughing ... then choking ... I’m beginning to think she might need the Hhhheeeeiiiimlick maneuver (say it as a goat would).
Now I’m alarmed. Will I be the first person charged with murder by birria?
Once she stopped coughing I was going to explain that anyone who likes lamb would like goat. However, the ladies beat a quick retreat coughing all the way out the door. They wanted nothing to do with a goat eater.
Gee, Disney never even did cartoon about a cute goat ... someone might not want to eat Bambi or Donald ... but goat?.
Anyway I start with chavela (aka chabela or chelada) – beer with clamato and lime juice. It is $7.50. This ain’t the type of joint to sell seven dollar drinks. Out comes a frosty mug, rim lightly salted, decorated with a slice of lime and a little shrimp clinging to the edge.
The mug is huge ... HUGE. Think the size of 7-11’s largest slurpee ... larger. McDonald’s old super-size drinks would be dwarfed by this mug.
I’m thinking no one could possibly drink two of these. The guy at the table next to me downs two while waiting for his burritos. I’m impressed and tempted to give him a thumbs up.
I get to watch out of the corner of my eye the etiquette of drinking a chavela ... or two.
He takes the bottle of Tapatio sauce and gives the drink a few generous shakes. Then the shrimp gets a dressing of Tapatio. He salts the shrimp. Ever the gentleman, he offers the shrimp to his girlfriend. She demurs. He insists. She enjoys the shrimp and then sucks on the lime. He dips a few chips in the drink and downs the rest.
This is a very good drink. It tastes very like a slightly carbonated V-8. The clamato is the dominant taste. There is a choice of any beer. I ask my waitress what’s best. “Corona” she says without any hesitation and a smile. Corona it was. Forget the bloody Mary’s, go for the chavela. More about this drink in this topic.
There was no pozole today so the order was for the goat stew (birria de chiva). The waitress’s face again lit up. “It is very good”, she smiled. She was very right.
There is a white board with four house specials – Molcajete, birria, chebala and flan. Special as in that is what El Tapatio is known for and are always on the menu.
A huge bowl piled high with chunks of tender goat was on a plate with stellar fresh chopped cilantro, sweet tiny pieces of chopped onion, Spanish rice and beans with cheese. There was six warm corn tortillas. A bowl of chips and a very good salsa come with dinner. Today the thin chips were fresh.
The red soup was tasty. I can’t tell you if it was spicy because between the salsa and drink, my mouth was already tingly.
There was a VERY generous serving of goat with bones. The meat had just the right touch of fat for flavor. The goat was very fresh and good quality. Often the fat will give away poor quality goat meat. This was as good as I’ve had.
The goat and soup was very good. Then I sprinkled a bit of cilantro and onion in the soup, gave a squeeze of lime and gave an audable and involuntary ‘mmmm’.
There were little bones, big bones, bones with tender marrow to be sucked out. One large piece of a joint still had the tasty gelatenous connective tissue attached ... this description probably would have really had that poor woman screaming. But mainly there was meat ... tender, flavorful meat that was not in the least gamey.
This is problably one of the best Mexican soups I’ve ever had and I’m a fan of Mexican soups. The soup is so superior to anything I’ve had at Portumex down the street.
This isn’t one of the best neighborhoods in the world. If anyone goes, don’t go chow-slumming ... give the restaurant the respect it deserves. Go because you want to enjoy one of the best bowls of Mexican soup in the Bay Area.
More about El Taptio in my previous visit. Address is at the bottom of that report.
*** Note: Edited July 4th, 2006, about 12:15 pm. I wrote this right after drinking a barrel of chavela. So no content changes, just some sentence structure and spelling changes ... like spelling chavela consistantly ... I went with the version that had the most hits in Google (50), though the restaurant spells it differently.