Saving the Best for Last
Well, I've noticed it now, taking particular note of their fresh, authentic quesadillas, fried half moons of thick, hand-made corn tortillas (don't even think flour) filled, in early fall, with seasonal huitlacoche (corn fungus) or flores de calabaza (squash flowers). Huitlacoche--a black, sooty, earthy delicacy that deforms ears of corn--was clearly fresh, not canned, dotted with tender corn kernels and paired with queso fresco (fresh cheese) and shredded lettuce. Even tastier was the squash flower filling, sauteed with a bit of jalapeno. And they're incredibly cheap: those specials start at $2, while the everyday options (cheese, chicken, chipotle chicken, steak, chorizo, pork with poblanos, and picadillo, a ground beef concoction) are all just $1.75.
Though the waitress's astonished face should have warned me, I paired each special quesadilla with a bowl of caldo tlalpeno, not knowing the soup came large enough to be a meal in itself or that the two quesadillas would have sufficed for lunch.
It had been years since I'd eaten caldo tlalpeno. Dipping my spoon into the fragrant soup, I didn't regret over-ordering. La Casita's version overflowed with two whole chicken drumsticks; substantial chunks of zucchini, cabbage, and carrot; and spoonfuls of rice and garbanzo beans in a chipotle-flavored chicken broth. I enhanced the soup with liberal squirts of lime juice, avocado slices, and minced cilantro and onions from the accompanying plate of garnishes. With effort, I managed not to stuff myself silly, eating every crumb of the crispy quesadillas but carrying home half the soup to savor the next day.