Thursday, August 10, 2017

Chuck's Corner: Random Asides and Irrelevant Tangents of a Yinzer

Hi once again, folks -- regular folk and jag folk alike. Today, I want to veer briefly from my stints of unadulterated competitive "fire and fury," to borrow a term, and instead direct you to a place of equal worth, albeit thematically divergent.

That is to say, have you experienced something so profoundly satisfying that you want to yell it out to the world around you, so that it, too, can partake in whatever furnished this glory or, at the very least, feed from the aura it has projected upon you? No doubt you have, and I as well. 

Of course, certain chemical reactions in my brain have caused me to shout about said wonders at ungodly hours at night and uncomfortably close to the bedroom windows of any adjacent dwelling. I have attempted to explain to the police that they, as representatives of the City of Champions, should understand and sympathize with my cause to support the superlative. But alas they have been to this point unresponsive, and the judges rather obstinate, particularly when it comes to upsetting this tragic precedent that 3 a.m. is not an appropriate hour to be firing off flares and pounding on people's doors to tell them about something superb. It's a shame, really.

At any rate, as this legal battles pushes onward, it has been suggested to me in the meantime to take to written word to keep the world informed, and while I brush up on my former law studies, this outlet will have to suffice. The genesis for my present euphoria is the fine people and food at La Palapa, Cocina Gourmet Mexicana.

La Palapa has a restaurant (1925 E Carson St, Pittsburgh, PA 15203) and food truck ("buggy").
I had the blessing today, because "pleasure" falls far too short in emphasis, of passing the food truck while walking around the neighborhood. To be sure, this visit was not my first, nor will it be my last, but I couldn't help but to feed into those endorphins demanding that I spread the word of their good work as far as I could manage.

As was discussed in my first post in the dive bar exploration series, it is oftentimes a greater virtue to keep to a simple goal and knock it the hell out of the park. La Palapa meets its purpose with expert care and goodwill: namely, to provide high-quality Mexican cuisine to its patrons, even when these patrons stumble upon such services only after grabbing a case of Duquesne Pilsner. 

To this end, the menu is simple: tacos or quesadillas, packed with (usually) a choice of chicken, beef, or chorizo, but sometimes also potato or poblano and potato; and empanadas, the fillings of which rotate from time to time. By not tying themselves down to a ridiculous menu, the food buggy can churn out great, uncomplicated Mexican food in a matter of minutes, and it only costs you $3.50 an item or $10 for three. Couple the quality of the food and service with the additional homemade pico, sour cream, and other such sides on hand, and it's clear why the food truck succeeds.

We aren't here to talk about succeeding, however; we are here because La Palapa can excel and surpass. Yes, I've had Las Palmas, I've had Edgar's, I've had Casa Reyna, and plenty more. But, simply put, I don't give a shit; La Palapa is the only one capable of (re-)igniting my intrepid fight against the powers that wish to suppress the voices of those who condone exceptionalism.

The true champion fighter, of the food buggy and restaurant alike, is the empanada. For those perhaps unfamiliar with its glory, an empanada looks much like a turnover, pie, or "mini" calzone, i.e., anything stuffed, that gets put into a fryer and is bursting with immense flavor. Call it, if you will, the great fried pierogi of Latin American cuisine. The empanada benefits from a wide array of possible stuffings, all of which, when covered in a wonderful flaky dough, causes faculties to fail and incites the same feelings experienced during one's most meaningful victories and warmest moments in life. 

On this auspicious day, the buggy had beef, Cuban (ham, pork, cheese, mustard), and plantain and cheese empanadas available for purchase. The first two, fit for carnivores, are beyond reproach, and the plantain and cheese offering manages to satiate every need, whether as a main course or dessert. Ultimately, the empanadas are like one's children: no, not because you love them all equally; of course you like one of your children better than the rest, but you're not foolish, so you know better than to announce it outright in a public forum. Nevertheless, they all have individual quirks about them that you hold dear -- and that is something these empanadas have without limit.

My darling empanadas and one chorizo quesadilla. Yes, you are correct: I did start munching on my food before I got home.
Before I close this rendition of Chuck's Corner, I would like to take a moment to tackle any doubt that may surface, especially the idea that $10 can acquire better food. While Pittsburgh does have a wealth of other fantastic restaurants, pubs, food trucks, stops, etc. to fulfill your hungry, I ask you to think of every godforsaken "Pittsburgh crap pie" (I admit to having found this description on Grubhub once) that you've had the misfortune of tasting in your lifetime; think of every sandwich with a cut of beef or chicken breast you could've cooked better at home; think of every order of Chinese food where you were hungry seven minutes later and it was indistinguishable from any other spot in the city. I'm telling you, folks, that there is more out there, so support it when you can.

To conclude: let it be said, if somehow there were a wall built between here and Mexico, I will single-handedly demolish that motherfucker in a show of solidarity with La Palapa. Foremost, because all people deserve a chance at opportunity and a changed life, but also because don't fuck with my food or the people who make it or anyone they may be associated with, even if on a vaguely ethnic level.

Anyway, visit the website for their restaurant menu and hours of operation. No, I didn't get paid to post this shit; I did it because their food is absolutely incredible and the people are extremely welcoming.

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