On the Road Home: Aladin and Gays Cause the End of Humanity

I really know better than to go to the super market on Sunday afternoon.

If you’re intrigued by the title of this post, I’ve succeeded.  Not long ago, I decided to start a new series of posts called “On the Road Home.”  I had been having trouble writing posts, so I wanted to put down some of the thoughts of the days, especially during my evening commute.

I know today is Sunday; actually, I’m on vacation; therefore, maybe I’m stretching to make this work, but Sunday as it was, I had some errands to run and so I’m gathering here some of the pieces of the day.

I like eating at home (now that I have my own house), but I’ve decided I need to try some places in my new part of town.  A couple of months ago, a new place opened about a mile or so up the road.  It’s called Aladin, and the sign said, Mediterranean and Indo/Pak Buffet and Grill.  Today I had had no breakfast, so by noontime, I was ready for almost anything.  As I drove up the road, I decided to try the place out.  Just a couple of cars were in the parking lot, and when I got inside, I found that I was the only customer.

However, the place smelled good, and everything at the buffet tables looked appetizing.  Some of the Arabic foods, I knew, but I assume quite a few of the hot dishes are of the Indo/Pak cuisine.  I tried a bit of many things.  The salads, the hummus, and some kind of eggy squares were especially good.  The best, though, was the gyro, filled with tender, tasty meat, which they made and brought out, after I had already filled my plate.  If you’re in the Houston area out near 529 and Highway 6, try this place.  The food and the service are very good.

After I had eaten I decided to pick up some groceries.  I know if I go on a Sunday, I’m just a glutton for punishment.  The HEB I went to on Barker-Cypress was jam-packed.

Getting used to shopping out in the suburbs hasn’t been easy.  Everybody out here seems to have kids, and they have to bring them along when they go to the super market, which only adds to the traffic congestion in the store aisles.

One of the arguments that some of those against gay marriage is that if gay marriage is legalized, it will be the end of humanity.  They surely have to hold their own noses to their own “stinkin’ lyin'” when they say that.  As if gay people getting married would stop opposite-sex couples from having kids.

Gay marriage is already legal in a number of U.S. states, several European countries, South Africa, and now Argentina.  All I can say is that so far it hasn’t had any effect on all those people with kids at the HEB that I went to today.

Usually, when I’m waiting to check out, there is a family in front of me with at least one kid screaming, “I want this,” while pulling at the innumerable candy bars and other baubles on either side of the checkout aisle.

The little girl in front today had a bit more game.  Picking up a plastic package with a glittery brush inside, she looked at her mother, and coyly asked, “Would this work on my hair?’  Her mother barely shook her head without even looking at her.

Then the girl pointed at another item hanging from the many hooks, “Would this work to sharpen pencils?”  Her mother shook her head again.  At that moment, the girl looked back at me, and we both knew that she needed to try some new tactics, because obviously, Mom had already heard “Would this work?’ too many times, and that line definitely wasn’t going to work.

After crossing the scorching parking lot and packing away my groceries, I was glad to be inside the quiet of my car even if I did have to wait for the AC to start blasting out some cool air.

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View from the Suburbs: Quest for the Best Mexican Restaurant

Discovery of the weekend--Tostada Regia--on N. Gessner, Houston, Texas

If Prilosec is doing its job, Mexican food is my favorite, and when I lived “in town”, I’d get my fix about once a week.

My FFMP (forever favorite Mexican place) in Houston is El Paraiso, right in the heart of Montrose, on Fairview.  I started going there not long after I moved into Montrose in 1984.  Even through all these years, the great quality and homecooked taste of the food have never changed.  There’s even one waitress who has worked there since the days when I started eating at El Paraiso, and she still looks the same as she did “back in the day”.  It’s a favorite of business people and other workers for lunches, but starting later in the afternoons, every “type” of person you might encounter in Montrose might be represented among the clientele, and the atmosphere is one of the friendliest around.

When I moved near Memorial Park, I soon discovered El Rey at the corner of Washington and Shepherd.  Though the small interior can get crowded, nothing can beat going through the drive thru for either tacos al pastor or una torta.   Even jostled around in a styrofoam box, the portions are large and delicious.  El Rey’s frijoles a la charra are some of the best.  Since I moved out this way, there’s an empty lot about a mile away that says, “El Rey–Coming Soon”.  I keep wondering, “How soon?”

For the most part, I’ve been eating at home since I moved out here to the ‘burbs.  My kitchen is spacious, and I find that usually I’d rather make something for myself instead of going out.  There’s most every kind of fast food place and a wide variety of ethnic restaurants within a very short drive.  Even so, I haven’t ventured much beyond McDonald’s and a couple of Chinese buffets.

But for about the last month, I’ve been needing my fix of Mexican food.  Even though I’ve made some myself, it’s just not the same.  There’s every type of Mexican food place that one might imagine, from the mobile stands to chain restaurants.  With my taste buds hankering for some flavor, I’ve decided I have to try one new place every week.

There are several Mexican places right near the corner of Eldridge Road and S. H. 529, all in the strip centers that line that corner. I’ve tried two so far, Taqueria El Monarcha and Lupita’s Restaurant, both of which advertise themselves as estilo Michoacan.

First, I tried Taqueria El Monarcha.  Despite being in a storefront building, the place has a bit of character and the staff were attentive.  I ordered asado de puerco (roasted pork).  The meat came in the form of small pieces of meat, cooked almost to the point of being burnt, but were just crunchy and delicious.  The plate came with plenty of hot tortillas, good portions of refried beans and rice, and lettuce and tomato for any tacos you might roll up.  Ten bucks, including a tip, and I was out the door.  The food is good, but the back room, which might feel a bit cozier than the dinette style front, was filled with a family birthday party.

About a week later, I tried Lupita’s Restaurant.  Granted, it was long after lunchtime mid-week, but based on my experience, I won’t go back.  First, upon entering, there wasn’t the expected smell of spicy Mexican food, but just the odor of Pine-sol.   There was only one other customer in the bright, but sterile dining area.  The lone waitress seemed unsure of herself, somewhat hesitant to wait on this “gringo”.  I ordered carne guisada (stewed beef).  El Paraiso’s carne guisada has always been the gold standard for me; their version is simple but so good–nicely cooked chunks of meat covered in the thick gravy it has been cooking in.  Lupita’s carne guisada came floating in a dark red sauce, which I think was made from chile poblanos. I’m usually OK with dishes made with these chiles, but this tasted something like a soup made with chile powder.   The red sauce that came with the chips tasted very similar.  On the other hand, the green sauce was bright and delicious.  I can’t finish with Lupita’s without mentioning “the entertainment”.  Like El Monarcha and other taquerias, Lupita’s has two big screen TVs, but the court-type show in Spanish that was on while I was eating my meal was more disgusting than a Jerry Springer dream.  Obviously, the participants and the case were fake, but supposedly, these two 20-something girls had masturbated this rancher’s stallions in order to get the semen to use as face cream for themselves and to sell in spas–and all the details were included.

Today, I was out running errands, and by 1 o’clock, the toast and coffee I had while paying bills were long forgotten.  I decided to try one of the many restaurants along Gessner, north of I-10.  N. Gessner here in the part of Houston known as Spring Branch, and it’s peppered with Hispanic and Korean restaurants and shops as well as some Vietnamese noodle places.  These are all mixed together with the typical American Baskin ‘n Robbins, brake mechanics, donut shops, and Walgreens.

I took a chance and stopped at Tostada Regia, which had caught my attention other times when I had passed by.  I was hungry and this place was the right choice to satiate my appetite.  I ordered tostada ranchera, but first came a large basket of chips and three dishes of salsa: a very good green one, a spicy cooked red, and then a pink one, which the waiter told me was a habanero salsa.  It was hot, but no hotter than the red.  My order came quickly, and the plate held this very large tostada–7-8 inches–with a crispy flat tortilla on both the top and bottom, filled with shredded chicken, lettuce, onion, and Mexican-style sour cream.  I added the green sauce to it, and I couldn’t stop eating it.  Not to mention, on the side, there was a cup of  delicious chicken caldo with rice.

Tostada Regia has a comfortable atmosphere.  With the attentive staff ready at the waiting to serve more tea and water and the rustic wooden tables and benches, it reminds me of the old La Jalisciense that used to me on Montrose near West Gray.  The restaurant had customers coming and going, though, not quite the diverse crowd that could be found at La Jalisciense.   That doesn’t matter, and it doesn’t matter that Tostada Regia is not quite in my vecindad;  it’s close enough that I’ll go back when I’m out running errands or just when I need “a fix” of good Mexican food.