Saturday, May 30, 2009

In praise of a truly great meal (from an unexpected source)

So there I was, driving down a lonely highway in central Mexico, less than a gallon of gas in the tank and a five-dollar bill in my pocket. Falling asleep behind the wheel and starving from a hard day's drive, I pulled over at a shabby roadhouse with a flashing neon sign: "COMIDA." The inside of the place was just as dilapidated as the outside. I sat at one of only three stools at the bar and ordered a cerveza as the bartender shoved a handwritten menu toward me. I couldn't understand any of the writing, so I pointed at something on the menu, and the bartender grunted and walked into the back room.

Minutes later my dinner arrived. It was a huge cast iron bowl filled with meat. Lots of meat - pork, steak, chicken, even shrimp. The bowl was topped off with a thick, dark, spicy broth that could have been a meal by itself. On the side was a splash of dirty rice and a fist full of tortillas.

I ate and ate and ate until I could eat no more, then looked down at a bowl still nearly full to the top.

It was the best damn thing I ever put in my mouth.

Only this meal wasn’t served at a Mexican roadhouse. It was a restaurant in Independence, Missouri, called the Salty Iguana. The dish was called Iggy's Hot Pot, and it was so good it deserves a story like this one.

--Matt Kelsey

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