They say respect is earned more than given, and as this concept is the basis of a meritocracy, it’s a belief I firmly subscribe to.
Beyond the basics of the social contract (do no undue harm, assist the needy where convenient, confirm a group picture with every participant before posting, etc.) respect is a recognition of someone´s unique value. An acknowledgment of individual worth, a lens through which to see the best in people.
It is respect that brought me to La Chingona, aka Heavy Taco Metal, for the first time after living in the general proximity of the restaurant for about a year and a half. A social media picture posted by Madeline–you know her from the editorial in the front of the paper–and tagged to the establishment was all I needed to see.
Behind this burger there was clearly someone who I had not given the proper respect.
The Vibes: Emrah, a German immigrant who shares my enthusiasm for experience, earned my respect almost immediately by ripping into my a–um, offering unvarnished feedback about a recent entry into this space: “There are a million locations of that place in Guadalajara, it´s like Starbucks. They don´t need your help, man…I pick up the paper almost every week to see what you´ve found now, it’s usually always something cool. I expected better from you than that.“
Hey, it was new to me, but I’m confident enough to take some constructive criticism.
We continued to chat over a few frosty bottles, and at some point I made an offhand comment about the convenient location…convenient for me, anyway, with my apartment complex located a 5 minute walk from the table. I made note of the streetside seating–always dig that configuration–and the short 2-block walk from Francisco Madero, the main town thoroughfare.
“Don’t bullshit me,“ Emrah snorted in response. “A good location is down where all the tourists are, or at least directly out on the main road.“ I found it difficult to dispute the objective benefits of these positions, even though I was able to provide several examples of highly visible and easily accessible local dining and entertainment venues in which I have no interest whatsoever.
We don´t have to talk about them in this space tho.
Feeling hunger begin to creep up after a few brews, I perused the menu. Burritos stuffed with seafood and chicken called out to my inner fat kid from the page, as did interesting possibilities like the fajita burger, bacon-wrapped burger, and chili cheeseburger. Decisions, decisions.
Emrah made my choice much easier in his signature style: “Oh, you don’t need that…I mean, sure, go ahead, look at it, but I know what you want. I´ll get you the best thing I make.“
Well then. Challenge accepted, good sir.
The Vices: Eventually Madeline herself made a surprise appearance at the table, apparently in the mood for a side of crispy fries. The anticipation of my mystery meal was almost too much to handle, and just before I risked my employment with the Tribune by seizing several golden sticks of crinkle-cut temptation from her plate without warning, the secret came out.
A burger it was, good guess…but not just any burger. Oh no, this was a different animal entirely…several, in fact. The freshly prepared beef patty was bedecked with caramelized onions and enveloped in gouda cheese before being coronated with bacon and shrimp.
The burger was called the “Mar y Tierra,“ and you should be able to translate that phrase yourself by now. I thanked the old gods and the new that I had not been cursed with any dietary restrictions as I took a second chunk out of the sandwich. Emrah looked on in satisfaction as he asked if I was enjoying it…rhetorically, I imagine, as I had temporarily become unable to speak.
“It’s important to me that the things I use are of a high quality, you can´t make really good food with garbage. We use the freshest stuff available, I make everything I can in-house, I went out of my way to find the biggest wings in town….it’s not even about the money, I found a better beef supplier and dropped the prices on my steak dinners…I just want people to enjoy what I make.“
Good news, Em…I will damn sure do that from now on.
The Verdict: As far as I can tell, respect stems from a sense of authenticity, a belief that one can trust what he sees, and can even be a reflection of self-image in that it demonstrates that one can trust his own evaluations. You can´t fake the kind of honesty that comes out of Emrah, and as a result, comes out of his kitchen at La Chingona. I left that evening with a healthy respect for both his vision and the place where he brings it to life…maybe I’ll catch you there.
Info: La Chingona, Lucerna 142, Versalles, 48310