I’m not exactly a morning person, but any invitation involving the word “desayunar,” from the Spanish verb “to breakfast,” is an invitation I tend to accept. That was the opportunity I found myself with recently when, after rolling over out of another long night’s work, I opened bleary rum-soaked eyes to find a new message from Maya, a friend who had left town a few months ago but had returned to kick off a birthday celebration at this steakhouse and cocktail lounge.
The Vibes: Barely functional, I cleared my head enough to masquerade as human on the walk past Los Mangos Library and La Comer on Avenida Francisco Villa to reach the restaurant. My party was easy to spot in the spacious dining hall of La Yaquesita, which specializes in fine cuts and hearty sides in the evening hour, but on this day was the backdrop for breakfast.
It is my belief that everyone needs a source of harmless ridicule for social purposes…people who are too perfect go into that uncanny Valley Ken doll territory where since the issues aren’t minor and visible, they must be hidden and severe…think of Patrick Bateman and his manicured good looks, refined tastes, impeccable eye for aesthetics, and uncontrollable blood lust.
Most of my ridicule over the years has taken aim at my tendency to talk a lot, my unusual system of dress, or my (slightly) exaggerated sense of self-confidence, but here in Mexico, however, the target for teasing is most often my lack of command over the local language. I can read a script okay–I call myself AJ and would like a beer please, thank you–but original thoughts and conversation get shaky fast…I couldn’t translate this article at gunpoint.
Which was too damn bad for me, as today I had walked into a meal with Mexican family and friends fully intent on showing their love with a constant stream of derision.
The Vices: The greetings began almost the moment I walked through the door when a hilarious imitation of a Yankee accent rang out: “OVUR HEER!” Maya’s cousin waved enthusiastically as everyone had a good laugh at the weird foreigner.
Maybe a Boy Scouts of America shirt wasn’t the best choice for today.
“Basta,” warned Maya’s mama. “Tu amigo habla español, si?”
I knew the answer to this one, but my translator wasn’t in the best condition…laboring with every stroke, it swam up until it breached the surface of Hangover Lake: “Si, estado aprendiendo por 3 años.”
I was never going to get through it like this…I needed some food, and fast. Luckily, the waiter soon arrived with baskets of tortilla chips and salsa along with a refried bean dip. Perfect.
I waited politely for others to dig in, but apparently made a wrong turn there as well. This time Maya’s mother chimed in: “O, no quieres comer? Eres un hombre grande, sé que te gusta comer. Intentando perder peso??”
Fair, no one has called me skinny in a decade or two…I made my choice between flavor and six-pack abs a long time ago. My only regret is knowing enough Spanish to understand but not to generate a reply to my standard. Accepting defeat, I laughed along with the group, grabbed a few chips and began to heal myself from the burn.
After a glass of fresh squeezed orange juice and more rapid-fire Turbo Latin exchanged between the other occupants at the table, the waiter appeared again to take our orders. He went around the table before coming to me, where I placed my order for Chilaquiles Yaquesita, a twist on the traditional morning dish served with thick cuts of steak…a sure cure for what ailed me.
At least, it would relieve my internal issues…my cultural difficulties were nowhere near an end.
“Rojo o verde?” prompted the waiter, asking me to choose between the available sauces for the dish.
“Verdes. Verdes son mejor.” Maya opined.
“Verdes.” came the consensus from the table.
“Rojos.” I replied, apparently not feeling mocked enough.
Hilarity ensued…at least, I believe so. I got some of what was said.
As we waited for our orders to come out, I was asked to repeat a long series of Spanish syllables that I can only assume was profane, as even people at the next table clearly saw the humor contained within.
Maya’s sisters also jumped into the fray. ¿Por qué pones esos pañuelos en tu muñeca?, she asked, wondering about the colorful cloths that are usually wrapped around my right wrist. Forgetting exactly why at the moment, I sloshed my pickled morning mind for a response.
Sensing I had no chance in hell at passing along the explanation I had previously given her, Maya jumped to my defense with the expertly crafted piece of marketing I had devised…sweaty brows and emergency tourniquets and blahblah. Totally not just because I think it looks cool. “Ooooh, que práctico,” smiling sarcasticatly Mama Maya, her years of parenting giving her a keen perception of when she was being nonsensed.
Breakfast came at last and all attention shifted to the dishes. My Chilaquiles Yaquesita came served on a wooden plank, stacked high with steak and arriving alongside más frijoles. I survived the gauntlet, party flu and all, and had never been so happy to eat. The food was delicious, but I managed to savor the feeling of being lovingly ripped to shreds as well. That may or may not come with your order.
The Verdict: La Yaquesita is an outstanding choice for fulfilling your carnivorous needs, offering a selection of steak dishes in a rotating all day menu. They have other meats as well, and I guess they have food for vegetarians too if you insist. Spanish is predominantly spoken–sometimes you remember we’re in Mexico–but as usual in life, if you’re willing to put yourself out there a little there are rewarding experiences to be had. Maybe I’ll catch you there.
Avenida Francisco Villa 1248, Las Aralias