Day One featured some excellent seafood and steak, but little did we know that those feasts were little more than appetizers for Day Two, when we really got serious about our consumption. Stop #1: Duranguense, a corner restaurant specializing in the hearty cuisine of Durango.
Duranguense features pastel green walls, plenty of Pancho Villa and Jesus imagery and a giant TV near the entrance. The owner is Blanca Torres, who for the past three years has worked in the kitchen at breakfast and lunch, then leaves to work as a police officer for the Secretaria de Securidad Publica.
At lunch, Duranguense acts as a “comida corrida,” a style of prix fixe named for the three stages in a bull-fight. Every day from noon to 5 PM, a choice of entrée comes with an agua fresca, arroz, frijol and sopa del dia. Prices run in the $3-4 range, making Duranguense a real bargain. At breakfast, it may not be all about chilaquiles, but it might as well be, since they pretty much blanketed our table.
Some of us started with a cup of horchata, which wasn’t loaded with milky (heavy) filler, just soaked in rice and cinnamon.
We ordered both styles of chilaquiles (35 pesos each) – red and green – each pile of drenched tortilla chips topped with snow-white queso fresco, onion and lashings of cream. The crowd favorite was definitely the red, crafted from spicy guajillo chilies. There was plenty of flavor; the only sticking point was that the chile-soaked chips could have been crispier.
Chilaquiles verdes were doused in a tangy tomatillo salsa.
The chilaquiles came with fried eggs that were puffy and dripping with oil.
If anything, the enfrijoladas overshadowed the chilaquiles. That can happen when you infuse refried bean sauce with chorizo and slather folded tortillas with melted Monterey Jack cheese and crema. Given those ingredients, there was flavor to spare.
Duranguense’s rich pinto beans were light years ahead of the low-grade slop you’ll find at some of L.A.’s lesser Mexican restaurants. These cooked-down beans featured an intense, concentrated flavor that would change most people’s perception of pintos.
This is the kind of food that could fortify a former prior to a day in the field. We were just gluttonous L.A. gastro-tourists. It’s a good thing that we did so much walking in Tijuana.