Whenever I think of Mexican breakfast I default to breakfast tacos. But after a while they can get routine, and it feels like the cultural significance is diluted when you can get a breakfast taco practically anywhere. Mexicans have a storied history and an innate adoration of good food. It's our job not equate this to chorizo and eggs wrapped in a flour tortilla handed out of a drive-thru window.
Whether you're gearing up for the day or nursing a severe hangover, a hot piping bowl of menudo from Margarita's Restaurant is a quality alternative. A small trot from the bright lights of Knox-Henderson, Margarita's is an unassuming restaurant no bigger than a small house on Fitzhugh. Don't let the barred windows scare you; as soon as you walk in you're greeted with a cheery "hola," and when you settle in you can focus on the Mexican soap operas that live in the television.
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I was the only gringo in the restaurant the other morning (and every other time I've ventured in). I sat at a small table, nestled among Mexican families, day laborers and line cooks grabbing a quick meal before work. They have your normal breakfast fare, huevos y papas, chilaquiles, nopalitos -- but I came for menudo. The majority of diners (including the aforementioned line cooks) were all planted in front of big bowls too, slurping up menudo - a good sign.
The first offering: coffee and corn chips served with a salsa that will jar you out of any stupor. My Spanish was absolutely atrocious, but with a little help from the waitress I put in my order. A large plastic bowl was placed before me, chunks of beef stomach floating in a fiery red broth. The aroma wafting from it was already clearing my head of the previous night's whiskey fumes. It came with fresh chopped cilantro, onion, jalapeños, a tortilla warmer filled with steaming house-made corn tortillas and a couple lime wedges to taste. I dumped all the condiments in and stirred it all together. I could feel and hear the bones knocking around the bottom of the bowl -- another good sign. The broth had body, flavors, texture and depth that could only be developed from hours of patient tending. The combination of spice and heat were warming me from the inside out.
I know: beef stomach, a little iffy. But remember that great traditional dishes were often born out of necessity. When times were lean, scrap pieces needed to be stretched to feed entire families, and it's pure ingenuity that leads to something not only edible but delicious. And not only was this menudo delicious, it was a jump-start for the rest of the day -- a filling and warming one-bowl fix that gave me plenty of hours of energy.