Jo Spanglemonkey and I made a pact to eat fish tacos at every possible place in Deadwood City, and to blog it thoroughly. We started with her favorite one, Al’s Fish and Chips, on Roosevelt near Alameda de las Pulgas, in a humble neighborhood strip mall alongside a liquor store, a decrepit Ace Hardware, the cafe that used to be Nancee’s Coffee (entertainingly run by Nancee who liked to tell you all about how she only had one lung), and the Italian deli.
Al’s is unique in being a fish taco place with a “fish and chips” slant to it. There’s vinegar on the tables along with four flavors of bottled hot sauce, but the fish tacos come with rice and very home-style Cuban black beans.
So! I took notes, but they’re in HER notebook. What I can remember is this: The fish is delicate and bland, battered with excellent crunchiness. The cabbage is nice and fresh, the creamy fish-taco-sauce creamy yet pleasantly spicy. There was a dab of salsa in there, separate from the creamy sauce. Al’s used to have limes – AS IT SHOULD BE – and yet on this visit, looked at me like I was insane for asking, and could only provide extra lemon slices.
The rice is spanish rice, unspectacular but good, and the black beans extremely good, kind of like soup, with large chunks of green chile pepper and lots of cumin.
Unfortunately, the corn tortillas were somewhat… stiff and stale. I love, love, love a tender corn tortilla. As I bit into my otherwise delish fish taco, I thought with longing of Las Manitas restaurant in Austin, where the tortillas are always superfresh – they’re like melting snowflakes.
But back to Al’s. I enjoy their unpretentious, yet not squalid, atmosphere. Soda is in cans. Tacos neatly wrapped in foil. The radio is always tuned to 91.something, which is the funk/soul station. Big windows look out into the scenic strip mall parking lot, which baked and shimmered in the sun, and if you go in the afternoon for a teatime taco, you are entertained by loitering teenagers who come to get ice cream from the Baskin Robbins.
Our conversation was of meds and moods, friends and partners, novels, poems, conferences, and blogs. We took photos of each other looking very full of fish.