Midwesterner in Mexico Rotating Header Image

September, 2009:

Weekend escape to magical Hacienda Las Trancas

The Las Trancas fountain in the open courtyard on a gorgeous sunny day in central Mexico.

The Las Trancas fountain in the open courtyard on a gorgeous sunny day in central Mexico.

After living in Mexico for a year, I’ve been a bit delinquent in checking “spend lazy weekend in gorgeous centuries-old hacienda” off my to-do list. When friend Emily alerted me to her discovery of just such a place north of San Miguel, I jumped at the chance to experience all that a remote countryside hacienda has to offer. This particular spot seems to be best known as an amazing destination wedding venue for many lucky couples from the US & beyond, but they welcome groups of all sizes for whatever timeframe you can spare! Below is an account of our lovely weekend escape, which will hopefully inspire the rest of you to consider Las Trancas for your future lounging-about needs…

A view of half of the landscaped courtyard that's surrounded by the suites (as seen from the roof of the hacienda).

A view of half of the landscaped courtyard that's surrounded by the suites (as seen from the roof of the hacienda).

One of the beautiful flowers scattered around the property.

One of the beautiful flowers scattered around the property.

We departed DF for Hacienda San Joaquin de las Trancas at about 12:45PM on Friday afternoon, with an eye towards avoiding traffic heading north out of the city later in the day. Despite the ongoing construction of a crazy new elevated viaduct along the Pereferico Norte & some additional construction near San Miguel de Allende, we had virtually no problems getting to the hacienda in <4 hours. It’s located just north of Dolores Hidalgo in Guanajuato State (here’s a rough map to clarify). While ~4 hours may sound like a ways, the bulk of it is on toll roads where you can coast along at 80mph (while passersby blow your doors off at 90mph+). Also, you would be amazed how fast the time goes when you have a new friend in your car & have placed upon her the enormous social pressure of creating the road trip soundtrack on the fly with her Ipod, while your husband sits in the back seat shouting “Next song!” every 30-45 seconds. 😉

 

Anyway, the written directions from the hacienda’s website were quite clear & the roads largely well-signed (a rarity for these parts!). Once you turn off at the sign for Trancas (key note: look for it at km marker 100), you’ll start down a lovely well-paved road but then you may become suspicious as to whether you’ve made the right turn when the pavement stops & turns into dirt. Just keep going!!

John pauses shortly after our arrival for a wee rest in one of the many hammocks scattered around the smaller courtyard.

John pauses shortly after our arrival for a wee rest in one of the many hammocks scattered around the smaller courtyard.

We extracted ourselves from the car & entered the lush grounds of Las Trancas. As soon as we were spotted, Gerardo instantly offered us margaritas, chips and guacamole (yum). Kathleen also kindly welcomed us and encouraged us to begin our exploration of the grounds. We scampered off to tour each of the 11 rooms, all tastefully decorated with unique handicrafts, stunning wood furniture, vaulted ceilings, & the majority of which are enormous suites. The four of us in the first carload were quickly seduced by the novelty of the separate-level bathrooms, which I think 3 of the rooms have…. Stairs lead down from the bedroom to a bathroom the size of your average New York City apartment. This is how I was meant to live.

The dining room prepared for our arrival to dinner. Note the cupboards to the right stocked with plenty of wine & margarita glasses.

The dining room prepared for our arrival to dinner. Note the cupboards to the right stocked with plenty of wine & margarita glasses.

 

Our room, Hidalgo, at night. Stairs leading to the bathroom on the left; small patios out the doors to the right overlooked a lovely garden.

Our room, Hidalgo, at night. Stairs leading to the bathroom on the left; small patios outside doors to the right overlooked a lovely garden. There was also a massive desk at the other end of this room, and then a living room with couches/TV/fireplace just through a doorway on the left.

The bathroom hiding downstairs from our bedroom... This extended towards the right to have enough space for 5 people to do yoga on that rug, a huge closet, + 2 chairs as part of the, uh, viewing gallery?

The bathroom hiding downstairs from our bedroom... This extended towards the right to have enough space for 5 people to do yoga on that rug, a huge closet, + 2 chairs as part of the, uh, viewing gallery?

A shot of the horses socializing on Sunday morning. (photo courtesy Alla K.)

A shot of the horses socializing on Sunday morning. (photo courtesy Alla K.)

Wandering into the back half of the building, we discovered a beautiful fountain and open courtyard surrounded by some of the many horse stables onsite (they have 10 horses & 2 burros, and guided rides are included in the price!). We headed off to the right, winding our way back towards the garden where a pool and jacuzzi awaited discovery amongst the fruit trees and flowers. The garden revealed the source of the squash flowers (flores de calabaza) that we would later dine on, filled with potatoes and lightly fried. There seemed to be a vineyard in the works, but it was tough to tell how successful it is just yet.  Circling back around, we stopped to chat with the pretty ponies (and braying burros), and promptly returned for further debate over whether we’d each made the correct room choice. :)

The pool located behind the main hacienda building; jacuzzi is just to the right.

The pool located behind the main hacienda building; jacuzzi is just to the right.

A view over the up-and-coming vineyard out to the mountains in the distance. Some neighbor kids frolic nearby.

A view over the up-and-coming vineyard out to the mountains in the distance. Some neighbor kids frolic nearby.

Here's the wall at the rear of the hacienda that is riddled with bullets. They've not redone/built around this area out of respect to what happened here many moons ago...

Here's the aforementioned bullet-filled wall. They've not redone/built around this area out of respect to what happened here many moons ago...

From a historical perspective, there were plenty of interesting tidbits to be had. Construction on Las Trancas began back in 1567, but it didn’t receive the official “hacienda” moniker until 1709. (Centuries-old? Check.) As elaborated upon on the website, it housed notable visitors during Mexico’s turbulent fight for independence like Father Miguel Hidalgo, whose fav room John & I stayed in. One of John’s top pics from the trip shows a wall on the back side of the property that is riddled with bullet holes, perhaps at the expense of the group of renegade soldiers who hijacked a caravan of silver passing by & were rounded up to be “dealt with”.  There are also some unexcavated tunnels leading out from beneath the hacienda, used by a prior owner for as a secret escape route as needed.

Since we were only there from Friday afternoon through Sunday afternoon, we didn’t personally make any escapes out of the village area. However, I could see this being a great spot for a week-long stay due to the proximity of Dolores Hidalgo, San Miguel de Allende, Guanajuato, etc. (hello, Talavera pottery shopping, anyone??) The hacienda offers several activities to keep you entertained at no extra charge (i.e. a surprisingly nice gym, the aforementioned pool/jacuzzi, horserides, mountain biking, and near-constant eating), and there’s also a spa onsite. We took advantage of a horse ride through the cactus-laden terrain– good times had by all.

Bill & Nicole prepare themselves for the horse ride. We later discovered that Bill's horse was even a bigger fan of eating than MY horse, and also like to slowly waddle along until realizing how far back he was from his buddies. Then, a short sprint would ensue. Nicole's horse, on the other hand, would engage in any mean necessary to prevent my horse from passing him in line. VERY possessive of 2nd place, that one...

Bill & Nicole prepare themselves for the horse ride. We later discovered that Bill's horse was even a bigger fan of eating than MY horse, and also like to slowly waddle along until realizing how far back he was from his buddies. Then, a short sprint would ensue. Nicole's horse, on the other hand, would engage in any mean necessary to prevent my horse from passing him in line. VERY possessive of 2nd place, that one...

Here we are fording the river during our ride, . It was almost like we were on the Oregon Trail, except we weren't pulling a wagon & no one had diptheria.

Here we are fording the river during our ride, . It was almost like we were on the Oregon Trail, except we weren't pulling a wagon & no one had diptheria.

Here's me bonding with my hungry horse. I didn't catch his name, but we'll go with Señor Hambre, since he stopped to eat roughly every 2 minutes. Some may say I "didn't have control over my horse"; I will blame the fact I was not given any spurs...

Here's me bonding with my hungry horse. I didn't catch his name, but we'll go with Señor Hambre, since he stopped to eat roughly every 2 minutes. Some may say I "didn't have control over my horse"; I will blame the fact I was not given any spurs...

A couple of our companions also discovered a secret cactus farm/shop just down the hill from the hacienda, where a family sells some of the most amazing cacti (cactuses?) that I’ve ever seen. We bought six of them– this from a girl who’s longest prior flora relationship was with a basil plant purchased at the grocery store & raised in a pint glass for months until it was time for a big batch of pesto. (Wish me luck on this new engagement…)

Here are two of the cactus wreaths sold at the cactus farm/store down the hill from the hacienda. These were absolutely stunning, but need a fair amount of sun so I decided to pass on them...

Here are two of the cactus wreaths sold at the cactus farm/store down the hill from the hacienda. These were absolutely stunning, but need a fair amount of sun so I decided to pass on them...

...and instead purchased these little friends, who have yet to find a home outside of their plastic houses. I love the Mickey-ears cactus. BTW, I will accept wages on how long it will take me to kill one of these.

...and instead purchased these little friends, who have yet to find a home outside of their plastic houses. I love the Mickey-ears cactus. BTW, I will accept wagers on how long it will take me to kill one of these.

One of the tasty salads we had during our meals at Las Trancas. It was actually possible to eat reasonably healthy there, which is saying something for Mexican food. :)

One of the tasty salads we had during our meals at Las Trancas. It was actually possible to eat reasonably healthy there, which is saying something for Mexican food. :)

From a food perspective, I would say the food we had was very good & well-prepared. I wouldn’t say it’s fancy-pants/gourmet, but rather very well executed classical Mexican dishes. We didn’t make any specific meal requests in advance, but I got the impression they would be happy to accomodate any Mexican dishes that you’re hoping to sample. (P.S. Ask for the coconut ice cream. Mmmm.) They also have a wide selection of wines & liquors; we didn’t take advantage too much, since being cheap midwesterners, several of us came prepared with our own wine. However, I did appreciate their super-reasonable prices starting at $7 USD/bottle (and the fact they weren’t annoyed by all the $80 peso crap we carted in). :)

A couple other notable highlights of Las Trancas include:

  1. John prepares for his first spa treatment of the day. He seems to have taken quite well to this pampered life.

    John prepares for his first spa treatment of the day. He seems to have taken quite well to this pampered life.

    The Spa. The hacienda owners have worked with the surrounding village to create/train a coop of women who provide all the spa services onsite. The prices are highly compelling, with options ranging from a 90-minute hot stone massage or facial for a mere $35 USD, and a 60-minute total-body or reflexology massage for $20 USD. You’d be hard pressed to find those treatments in the US for less than triple any of those rates, which almost offsets the cost of lodging if you look at it from that perspective! This spoke to John’s bargain instinct, resulting in this spa virgin having THREE treatments over the course of 2 days (including a facial). All met with his approval. I tried both the hot stone & total-body massages, and found them to be quite effective in relaxing me– most notably when I heard myself almost start snoring during one of them. :)

     

     

     

     

     

  2. The owners are good people. Hacienda Las Trancas opened in its current incarnation just a few years ago under the watchful eyes of Kelley and Stephen, two gringos who entered a more active early retirement than they ever bargained for! Their interest in & efforts to give back to the Las Trancas community is obvious, starting with the 18 people they keep employed full-time year-round. 50% of the income from renting out the hacienda gets put back into the community, via “Proyecto Pueblito” to improve infrastructure & create jobs. The rest goes to back into the hacienda, which I’m sure requires plenty of maintenance to keep it looking so immaculate. So while staying at the hacienda may not be the cheapest weekend outing in Mexico, it certainly helps to know that your money is actually helping local residents instead of lining the pockets of some rich hotel baron!

To that end, you may be wondering how much does all this magical hacienda-ness cost & how can you make a reservation. As I mentioned previously, Las Trancas seems to have gotten a lot of business from destination weddings, family reunions, & other week-long type bookings like those. But much like all of Mexico’s tourism has suffered at the hands of swine flu & narco concerns, so has business at the hacienda. They welcome guests for any length of time you are able to escape, but I would say you’d have the best luck making a weekend-only booking for a couple or small group within a 2-months-in-advance window (since most weddings would be booked prior to then). In that scenario, I would expect to pay something in the neighborhood of $185/person/nite, which is inclusive of all meals, a welcome margarita/guacamole, the activities I mentioned earlier, and a chocolate on your bed each night. 😉

Mmmm..chocolate teddy bears....

Mmmm..chocolate teddy bears....

 

Here I am with Amanda, brave friend who joined us on the trip despite barely knowing a soul! Check her out at http://culturvista.wordpress.com. (Photo courtesy Adam B.)

Here I am with Amanda, brave friend who joined us on the trip despite barely knowing a soul! Check her out at http://culturvista.wordpress.com. (Photo courtesy Adam B.)

I would say the ideal scenario is getting at least 10 folks together, at which point you can reserve the hacienda fully for your group & probably negotiate a better rate. For instance, we brought 15 folks in total & paid $125/pp/nite pre-tax (but they have capacity for up to 35 w/extra beds, etc.). Obviously all of this will vary by season/circumstances/etc., so I would encourage you to email Kelley directly for a quote. One bonus about the layout/size of the hacienda is that it’s very easy to find your own space/not all be on top of each other, so you don’t have to worry much about whether your group is all BFFs or whether you might get maxed out on interacting with Crazy Uncle Dave. Despite us being there with a total of 15 people, we often came out of our room & didn’t see/hear anyone else.

 

A view of the hacienda from across the lake/up a hill during our horsey ride. What narcotrafficante could possibly be bothered to drag weapons over such uneven terrain?

A view of the hacienda from across the river/up a hill during our horsey ride. What narcotrafficante could possibly be bothered to drag weapons over such uneven terrain?

I want to add a few final comments to address any safety concerns that potential visitors may have coming from the US, where the news regularly paints Mexico in an “unflattering” light at best. I can’t think of many places less at risk from narco violence than this random hacienda in the middle of nowhere, Mexico. The countryside is beautiful, with mountains, rivers, plus a huge variety of cacti (cactuses?) and other scrubby plants that don’t make the land conducive to drug traffickers easily scampering around. Also, the nearby gringo-filled community of San Miguel de Allende should serve as further evidence, with large numbers of Americans living calmly without the threat of drug violence.

Like I said, who can guarantee this kind of excitement at Señor Frogs? Note Amanda in the background tying to pretend she doesn't see what's happening.

Like I said, who can guarantee this kind of excitement at Señor Frogs? Note Amanda in the background trying to pretend she doesn't see what's happening.

So maybe this year, consider an alternative to your annual trip Señor Frog’s bar on the beach & your stay in a 20-floor high-rise hotel with 4,000 other foreigners. I promise that a hacienda can have dance parties that are *almost* as wild as what you will find at those beach bars. Feel free to peruse a few more pics below to help seal the deal on your impending trip to Hacienda Las Trancas. Tell them Emily & Julie sent you, and we look forward to hearing how many cactuses you bought. :)

We took a self-guided tour of the hacienda roof, and captured this lovely shot of the sun streaming down with the mountains in the background.

We took a self-guided tour of the hacienda roof, and captured this lovely shot of the sun streaming down with the mountains in the background.

Here's a shot of the Rosa bedroom; the wrought-iron railing leads down to another secret bathroom

Here's a shot of the Rosa bedroom; the wrought-iron railing leads down to another secret bathroom

This lamp was one of the many pieces of furniture I wanted to steal from Las Trancas. Must find special multi-pronged star light hanger dealie & purchase ASAP.

This lamp was one of the many pieces of furniture I wanted to steal from Las Trancas. Must find special multi-pronged star light hanger dealie & purchase ASAP.

Still life, swing and carriage in the open courtyard. Tell me this doesn't reek of "wedding photo backdrop"??? ;)

Still life, swing and carriage in the open courtyard. Tell me this doesn't reek of "wedding photo backdrop"??? ;)

The Sala bedroom was another one of my favorites, with the elegant (and functional!) mosquito netting & gorgeous arched ceiling

The Sala bedroom was another one of my favorites, with the elegant (and functional!) mosquito netting & gorgeous arched ceiling

The other end of the Sala bedroom contained this amazing stained glass window.

The other end of the Sala bedroom contained this amazing stained glass window.

I loved this huge blue/white Talavera sink also found in the Sala bedroom.

I loved this huge blue/white Talavera sink also found in the Sala bedroom.

Speaking of Talavera, here are some of the many types you can buy en route to the hacienda!

Speaking of Talavera, here are some of the many types you can buy en route to the hacienda!

One of the suites is named Capilla (chapel), and is where they hold some of the smaller wedding ceremonies. I thought the room was gorgeous; others were weirded out by the idea of having an altar near-ish their bed...

One of the suites is named Capilla (chapel), and is where they hold some of the smaller wedding ceremonies. I thought the room was gorgeous; others were weirded out by the idea of having an altar near-ish their bed...

I belive this flower is called "Bird of Paradise", or in more advanced circles, "Strelitzia"

I belive this flower is called "Bird of Paradise", or in more advanced circles, "Strelitzia"

I had hot plans for going to the impressively-equipped gym, but all I managed to do was take a photo of it instead...

I had hot plans for going to the impressively-equipped gym, but all I managed to do was take a photo of it instead...

Here's where all the good stuff happens-- the kitchen-- under the careful supervision of Yolanda, Amada, Marta, and Concha. Many pots hard at work heating up tasty goodness.

Here's where all the good stuff happens-- the kitchen-- under the careful supervision of Yolanda, Amada, Marta, and Concha. Many pots hard at work heating up tasty goodness.

I was excited about sighting some random pigs hanging out just outside the hacienda grounds. Rest assured that we carefully examined them for signs of the flu; they have a clean bill of health.

I was excited about sighting some random pigs hanging out just outside the hacienda grounds. Rest assured that we carefully examined them for signs of the flu; they have a clean bill of health.

Me trying to be artsy with wrought-iron hearts.

Me trying to be artsy with wrought-iron hearts.

Emily & I savor our final minutes at Las Trancas, maintaining our pearly-white skin color

Emily & I savor our final minutes at Las Trancas, maintaining our pearly-white skin color

Good steaky-beef in Mexico City

I am not a huge steak eater, but every now and then, a big slab of meat sounds like the perfect way to create both a food-induced coma & feelings of regret over not wearing one’s “fat pants” out to eat. Conveniently, John is an avid beef fan, and has gone through the burden (?) of testing several steakhouses here in Mexico City so I can focus my beef desires on only the best. The top of his list so far is Cambalache, an Argentine steakhouse that has 6 locations in DF and Toluca.

The Cambalache closest to us is located in Polanco at Arquimedes 85 (between Horacio & Masaryk). It has a relaxed atmosphere that I imagine sees many a swanky business lunch, but also accomodates folks in jeans & a nice shirt. While it’s certainly not the cheapest place to eat in DF, I would argue that if you were somehow able to actually order *only* what you needed to eat, it would be quite reasonable. Unfortunately this is inherently impossible at a steakhouse that plops down a basket of amazing bread & herbed butter as soon as you arrive, and then has such amazing salads, veggies, and sides that you cannot help but order your unfair share. (It still turns out to be pretty cost-effective for a nice steak joint when you consider the extra meal or two you get from leftovers.) 😉

What are Cambalache’s other selling points?

  • The souffled potatoes, which is a magical, non-greasy pile of puffed-up potato slices served in a basket MADE OUT OF SHREDDED POTATOES! Thanks for the nod to carb lovers everywhere, Cambalache.
The magical souffled potatoes from Cambalache are a sight to behold. If you're feeling Euro, ask for some mayo on the side (because who's kidding themselves about being healthy here?)

The magical souffled potatoes from Cambalache are a sight to behold. If you're feeling Euro, ask for some mayo on the side (because who's kidding themselves about being healthy here?)

  • I guess the meat should get a mention. I put in a strong vote for arrachera (tender skirt steak on the English menu), but John is more of an lomo fan (tenderloin in English). Those of you in Mexico who have gotten used to ordering meat 1-2 levels more well cooked than you would normally take note– they know how to cook here so order exactly what you want (i.e. medium rare). I don’t recall 100%, but I think the 400g (1 person) orders cost $200 peos and the 800g (2 people) cost $400… I’ll double check on my next trip.
    • To look smart when the waiter asks you how you want your steak cooked…
    • rare = cruda or vuelta y vuelta
    • medium rare = un cuarto or poco hecha
    • medium = termino medio
    • medium well = tres cuartos
    • well done = bien cocida or muy hecha
  • They have a great selection of Argentinean wines at very reasonable prices for a nice restaurant. For instance, we’ve found several reds (including some tasty Argentine malbecs) in the $380 peso range. Of course for those of you wishing to spend more, the sky’s the limit!
  • If you’re not in a full-on-beef kinda mood, I might recommend a compromise– a salad with bacon sprinkled on it! The Cambalache salad is excellent, with lettuce, spinach, watercress, hearts of palm, mushrooms, sprouts, bacon, pecans & tasty dressing. I find the salads huge– I took half of that one home last time so I would have room for arrachera and free bread. 😉
  • On the dessert front, I would say that odds are low of you having space for dessert, if you’ve successfully executed the other courses. However, everyone has room for coffee. Especially coffee with booze in it. Especially coffee with booze in it that’s on fire. Peruse down to the Cafes Flameados section (aka Flambéd Coffees) for a dessert with a kick.
  • Finally for any visitors non-fluent in Spanish, Cambalache has menus written in English, so you should be able to successfully avoid accidentally ordering sweetbreads (unless your palate is fond of the occasional calf thymus and pancreas).
Bro Tim & hubby John prepare to dig into the meat & potatoes, accompanied by John's fav- creamed spinach.

Bro Tim & hubby John prepare to dig into the meat & potatoes, accompanied by John's fav- creamed spinach.

All of this said, Mexico City has a wealth of great places to eat meat. There are loads of Argentine spots, as well as the occasional Brazilian churrascaria. Additionally, it seems like almost all traditional Mexican restaurants serve a mean arrachera, which has won the honor of “Julie’s favorite cut of meat in Mexico” due to its low levels of fat, tenderness and marinade-induced flavor.

So readers, any favorite spots you would care to recommend for steaky-beef here in DF??

A Taste of Mexico in Grand Island, Nebraska

After wrapping up my 3rd semester of MBA final exams this past weekend, I was up bright and early Monday morning to fly to Nebraska for a visit home! Continental Airlines won a few bonus points in my book via a) the ability to reserve exit-row seats online 24 hours in advance (thanks to bro Tim for the tip off on that one) and b) giving me full cans of pop on both flights and a free SMALL SANDWICH, CHIPS, AND MINI-TWIX BAR on the flight between Houston & Omaha! I was shocked and awed, given the recent trend of airlines to offer roughly 5 dry pretzels as a substitute for lunch.

I made it out of the tricky Omaha airport (20 whole gates!) to meet up with my mom for some quick shopping & dinner before making the drive back to my hometown of scenic Grand Island. There have been a few unexpected hospital trips due to Grandma having some trouble breathing the last couple nites (luckily she was looking good today, playing fan-favorite game “Snack Bingo” at the assisted living center). Other than that, we’ve focused on what any good midwestern family would focus on: eating.

Mom tested out the Vietnamese pho (beef soup w/noodles) at Vientiane, which was excellent.

Mom tested out the Vietnamese pho (beef soup w/noodles) at Vientiane, which was excellent.

I was craving some Asian food (Thai? Chinese? Vietnamese?) since there is not much of that in Mexico City , but was a bit suspicious as to what would be available here in the middle of Nebraska. The Grand Island, NE page on Trip Advisor actually mentioned an Asian restaurant called Vientiane; one favorable review from a stranger was enough to convince me to go!! We sat down & perused the menu offering a mix of Vietnamese/Thai/Chinese/Lao cuisines.  I was thrilled to see Crab Rangoons on the menu, which turned out to be the lightest, least-greasy Crab Rangoons I have had in many moons. The Egg Rolls also scored points for flavor & no-grease. I made some recommendations to my parents to test out the Pho and Larb (pork version), both of which were amazing. The Larb has a little spice, but nothing too dramatic for Larry. :) I had the Chicken Pad Thai which was nice but not my favorite version ever, and it paled in comparison to the other two. I would definitely to go back & try the other apps, some pork fried rice, and perhaps a dessert or two.

This will help you to recognize GI's new hot Asian restaurant from afar.

This will help you to recognize GI's new hot Asian restaurant from afar.

Getting some ricas carnitas (tasty slow-cooked pork) is definitely on the list for my next trip home.

Getting some ricas carnitas (tasty slow-cooked pork) is definitely on the list for my next trip home.

Anyway, you’ll note in the photo above the sign reading “Arroz Chino”, which is Spanish for “Chinese Rice”. This alludes nicely to the easy transition I had from Mexico City to Grand Island. Grand Island has a hispanic population of around 19%, so a number of restaurant and business offerings have sprung up over the last several years. I doubt that I’m alone in saying that growing up here, I tended to ignore ethnic markets whose products/language I wasn’t very familiar with. Coming back here now, after some Spanish training + a year in DF under my belt, it’s a whole different story. Having become such a fan of autentico Mexican food combined with my affinity for all non-chain businesses, I feel the need to pressure my parents to become regulars at any of these spots that are remotely viable. Although a rigorous existing dinner schedule prevented us from checking out any Latino establishments for la cena, I have extracted a commitment from Mom & Dad to go suss out the coctel de camarones (shrimp cocktail) at Restaurante Ario after I leave. And we did manage to make it to El Taco Naco for a snack, arguably the most DF-esque option in town.

Below are a few photos of the sights in GI that looked quite familiar to this adopted chilanga.

My parents will be reporting back shortly on the status of the Coctel de Camarones here at Restaurante Ario. Note that it is "Estilo Patzcuaro", or "in the style of Patzcuaro", the town a few hours west of DF that is the focal point for each fall's popular Dia de los Muertos celebrations.

My parents will be reporting back shortly on the status of the Coctel de Camarones here at Restaurante Ario. Note that it is "Estilo Patzcuaro", or "in the style of Patzcuaro", the town a few hours west of DF that is the focal point for each fall's popular Dia de los Muertos celebrations.

Obviously I forced Mom to come check out Super Acapulco based on the name alone. This large store has been around for 8 years, and has a great selection of groceries as well as a restaurant. I would recommend testing out their esquites/elote (Mexican-style corn) or licuados (blended fruit drinks).

Obviously I forced Mom to come check out Super Acapulco based on the name alone. This large store has been around for 8 years, and has a great selection of groceries as well as a restaurant. I would recommend testing out their esquites/elote (Mexican-style corn) or licuados (blended fruit drinks).

...though if their tacos al pastor are even half as good as the ones I've had in DF, they should definitely be at the top of your list! Amazingly-marinated pork topped with pineapple, cilantro & onion. Mmmmmm....

...though if their tacos al pastor are even half as good as the ones I've had in DF, they should definitely be at the top of your list! Amazingly-marinated pork topped with pineapple, cilantro & onion. Mmmmmm....

Copa de Oro will definitely have to get added to the list for a happy hour next time 'round, if solely to check on the existence of any actual Cups of Gold...

Copas de Oro will definitely have to get added to the list for a happy hour next time 'round, if solely to check on the existence of any actual Cups of Gold...

As soon as I saw this trailer parked in someone's driveway on "main drag" aka South Locust Street, I knew I needed to confirm whether El Taco Naco was the real deal. We stopped for a snack about 2:00 (narrowly arriving within their operating hours of 11AM-2PM and 4PM-12PM)...

As soon as I saw this trailer parked in someone's driveway on "main drag" aka South Locust Street, I knew I needed to confirm whether El Taco Naco was the real deal. We stopped for a snack about 2:00 (narrowly arriving within their operating hours of 11AM-2PM and 4PM-12PM)...

Marcia & I gave a thumbs up to the spicy barbacoa taco topped w/onion & cilantro. El Taco Naco also get points for their trendy name ("naco" in Mexico City is a word that used to mean "unfashionable, ordinary" that has been adopted by DF's hipsters to signify their alternative style so now it's kinda hip... or at least that's my vague interpretation)

Marcia & I gave a thumbs up to the spicy barbacoa taco topped w/onion & cilantro. El Taco Naco also get points for their trendy name ("naco" in Mexico City is a word that used to mean "unfashionable, ordinary" that has been adopted by DF's hipsters to signify their alternative style so now it's kinda hip... or at least that's my vague interpretation)

The crown jewel of my photo safari in Grand Island had to be this gem:

Nope, folks; no photoshopping at work here. That is the hispanic division of Alcoholics Anonymous located strategically next to Ed & Nets bar. Alcoholicos Anonimos must have gotten a smoking-hot deal on that real estate...

Nope, folks; no photoshopping at work here. That is the hispanic division of Alcoholics Anonymous located strategically next to Ed & Nets bar. Alcoholicos Anonimos must have gotten a smoking-hot deal on that real estate...

While I’m at it, let me pass along two final central Nebraska dining tips of restaurants that my parents frequent.

#1) Bullwinkles sports bar. While “gourmet” might be a stretch, their Wednesday night special of a $3.00 burger-and-fries is a pretty damn good deal & the burger is solid. They even have individual TV at each of the booths. But be aware– we are talking like “Beat the Clock Special” kinda hours in order to get a table for this firesale…I think we were there by 5:45PM. 😉

Uncle Glen even made the trek in from the farm to join us for some beef & 'taters! Glen & I went bold with an extra $0.50 for a cheeseburger. ;)

Uncle Glen even made the trek in from the farm to join us for some beef & 'taters! Glen & I went bold with an extra $0.50 for a cheeseburger. 😉

#2) The Farmer’s Daughter. This place is an institution in Grand Island, open every day but Sunday for breakfast & lunch only. We met my Dad for lunch between the math classes he’s teaching at CCC, but he’s also there every Thursday AM to meet a buddy for breakfast where the coffee flows like wine. The owner Deb is your classic diner proprietress who knows the name of 90% of the clientele at any given time. The day we went, specials include some fine-looking Fried Chicken, Clam Chowder, and classic meat salad sandwiches (i.e. chicken salad, beef salad, etc.). But the top draw here (outside of general food, friends and fellowship) is their amazing pies, particularly the meringue-topped options (as confirmed in the Boston Globe back in 2007!). The Farmer’s Daughter makes a mean banana cream, coconut cream, lemon cream, etc. Word on the street is get there before 12:30PM if you want a slice of the best ones.

On your next road trip through Nebraska, jump off Interstate 80 & hit the Farmer's Daughter for a quick breakfast & caffeine boost for the rest of your trip. And no one will look at you askance if you pick up a few pie slices for the road at 8:00AM....

On your next road trip through Nebraska, jump off Interstate 80 & hit the Farmer's Daughter for a quick breakfast & caffeine boost for the rest of your trip. And no one will look at you askance if you pick up a few pie slices for the road at 8:00AM....

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...