I knocked off for 15 months because of the plague, but I guess a plague is just something we had to get used to.
The good news is that AMLO, the President of Mexico, claims that 80% of the people in the state of Chihuahua are vaccinated. Almost everyone I talk to in Juarez has been vaxed. All the waiters, and the bartenders, and the people tending the kiosks in the markets.
But Juarez is still enforcing COVID protocols, like temperature scans before you go into restaurants, and limited capacities.
And I am fully vaccinated (Moderna).
Of course, Juarez has changed. Nothing ever stays the same. El Recreo has closed. Don Antonio passed away in March, 2020. El Recreo opened in 1921, and it was probably my favorite bar on the planet, but there are a handful of bars on the planet that I haven’t been to. Yet.
But it’s still Juarez. And the history hasn’t changed, except as much as history changes.
And there are still cantinas and restaurants and mercados that I’d love to show you.
So drop me a line. Let’s do this.
Mostly. It depends on where you are and when you’re there.’
Downtown Juarez, the centro historico, is heavily and discretely patrolled by uniformed police. I have never had a problem there, and I’ve been going to downtown Juarez for 45 years. I speak fluent Spanish, and I know a lot of people in downtown Juarez, and they know me.
Yeah, the outskirts might be a little dicey, especially at night. Let me remind you that there are dangerous neighborhoods in American cities, too. I only know what I read in the papers, and the papers never say, “No one was killed in Juarez last night.” Because that’s not news.
Juarenses are beautiful people. The Mexican sense of humor is legendary. Juarenses want you to love Juarez, and they’ll go out of their way to make sure you have a good time in their city.
That’s why I love Juarez. For the people.
Come with me. I’ll make sure that nothing happens to you, except maybe a good time.
Despite Mexico’s reputation as a culinary destination, downtown Juarez lacks an abundance of great street food. Mostly the street food in Juarez is cheap. So it’s got that going for it.
Notable exceptions are the relleno burritos they sell out of this storefront on Avenida Juarez. El Mariachi is almost directly in front of the Baptist Church, close to where the tunnel erupts. And the burritos are excellent, and, at 20 pesos, pretty cheap.
Check it out.
Or so they say.
La Pila #2 is down there in La Chaveña, south of downtown, west of the tracks. Take 5 de Febrero a couple blocks past a Del Rio and it’s a block to the right.
During the week the flautas are slathered with a tomato sauce. On the weekends it’s guacamole.
The menu is simple, so the waiter only asks ‘Cuantos?’ Then he asks you ‘Cocacola o manzana?’
Like that time I saw my neighbor Dave walking to his house with a plastic grocery bag. I could tell by the shape the bag held a quart.
‘Hey Dave,’ I said, ‘what kind of beer do you drink?’
‘I drink both kinds,’ he said.
‘Yeah. Natural Light and Busch.’
That’s the kind of choice you get at La Pila #2.
I ordered a double and an apple soda. They don’t serve beer. This is a family joint. Bring a flask.
I got a stack like a cord of tacos, splashed with an unexciting tomato sauce, served with a big salad. Cabbage and onions. Carrots and tomatoes. The salsa on the table was dark green and mild. A yellow squirt bottle held vinegar.
Mexican vinegar is better than American vinegar. Richer flavor. I put it on my salad.
This is a nice joint. Nice bathrooms. Nice sinks. Clean. Good food.
Were they the best flautas in Juarez? They were plenty good. The flautas and soda set me back 75 pesos, and they were taking the dollar at 18.
La Pila #2. Check it out.