I’d passed it perhaps twenty, maybe even thirty times over the years. But today we were actually going. It was our final and only destination. The restaurant had intrigued me every one of those times we’d passed by. There were more signs outside than in that old Five Man Electrical Band song. With one word that always stuck out. The word was avestruz. Don Day had no idea what it meant. Curiosity not only lured the cat, it lured that old dog Don Day.
Though it’s not close to many people’s San Miguel homes, it’s reasonably close to Don Day’s. Close enough that Don Day’s Wife and I decided to walk. Our planned lunch included coctels de mariscos and on the way we passed two other places with signs advertising mariscos. This didn’t go unnoticed by Don Day’s Wife.
“I don’t really see the need to walk much further”, Don Day`s Wife said.
“But this place is really funky looking”, I pleaded to her, purposefully forgetting that funky isn’t even in her vocabulary when it comes to adjectives modifying places to dine.
“Like a food stand that’s grown roots”, I continued, digging myself into a deeper hole and generating one of her roll the eyes looks. “Besides, you can already see the sign through the trees.”
The restaurant is called Rincon Nayarita and it’s on Boulevard de la Conspiracion (how could any place be uninteresting on a street name like that). Boulevard de la Conspiracion is what Salida a Queretaro becomes after you pass the roundabout where Senor Allende still has his head and is still riding his horse. In simpler and more exact terms, it’s just down a bit from being directly across the street from San Miguel’s Tuesday Market.
The first thing you notice when you walk in across the rough cement floor is nothing. Because this place is dark with the only natural light coming through the door behind you. The seating is on mostly blue plastic tables and chairs advertising Corona beer. It’s not a lot different from the white plastic tables and chairs advertising Corona beer that are the standard in most other low-end Mexican restaurants. The blue Corona furniture though doesn’t so much advertise the beer as pour it down your throat.
The word Nayarita obviously pays homage to the State of Nayarit on the west coast of Mexico. It’s a state famous for long stretches of beaches dotted with corrugated metal and bamboo shacks selling fresh seafood. Rincon Nayarita brings memories of quaint weather-beaten places in Sayulita except for the lack of sand between your toes.
The servers have that mischievous innocence that we all mourn the loss of, no matter how old we get. But they have enthusiasm and they’re obviously proud of the restaurant that employs them. As soon as we arrive one brings the menu; the other is quickly there with pad and pen in hand.
Don Day’s plan for a simple shrimp cocktail is thwarted by the fact that the restaurant has more enticing starters like crab, oysters and clams. But shrimp was the plan so all we do is mix in a little octopus, choosing the cocktel de pulpo y camaron. It comes in three sizes. CH, M and G. They’re priced at 55, 65 and 75 pesos. This is the Starbucks theory of pricing. How can you order a small when for very little more you can get something that’s twice the size. Don Day ordered the grande (isn’t that what Starbucks calls it?) with the plan that Don Day`s Wife would share in its delight.
Now Don Day promises not to tease you too much longer because, unless you’re far more familiar with Spanish than Don Day, you have absolutely no idea what the hell avestruz is. But Don Day did know before he got to the restaurant. For, though he may not be among the best of food writers, he does believe he is amongst the better of food researchers. And he did his homework before he left the house.
Your diligent researcher had discovered that an avestruz has three pairs of eyelids over the largest eyes of any land animal, plus two toes and one toenail.
I also discovered that those photos of avestruces (yes I had to do more research to spell the plural) with their head in the sand (yes, now you’re finally figuring out what Don Day has been talking about) are probably doing it because they are rotating the eggs that they’re incubating. I also learned that an avestruz can stick its head up its own ass. Which drives me crazy because I’m dying to know why they’d want to.
Yes, Rincon Narayit specializes in ostrich. And if you’ve ever driven on the road to Queretaro and wondered where the meat from those emu and ostrich farms goes you now know at least one place.
All of his life Don Day has had a passion for chicks with long legs but I never thought it would come to this. But I just can`t help myself from trying everything at least once. Rincon Nayarit serves its ostrich as either tacos de avestruz for 13 pesos each or as fajitas de avestruz for 100 pesos. We chose the fajitas.
OK, first the shrimp and octopus cocktail. It was definitely grande. Very grande. There were about 15 medium size shrimps and at least two sliced octopus tentacles. Don Day liked the consistency of both. Don Day`s Wife though the octopus was a little too “chewy”. They weren’t so much decorated with the sauce as they were swimming in it. But the sauce was more chili than cocktail and didn’t overpower the seafood. The cocktail came with corn chips, limes and virtually every local hot sauce known to Don Day.
And the ostrich?
Don Day expected the ostrich to taste like poultry. Maybe not chicken, perhaps more hearty, more oomphy, like duck or goose or maybe like turkey. Don Day was wrong. It was the color of red meat; the texture was just like skirt steak; and, at first, I thought it also tasted like beef. A couple of bites later I closed my eyes and thought again. The ostrich tasted like something Don Day rarely eats these days…something almost everyone seems to rarely eat these days…it tasted like veal.
Now veal is not a bad thing but, a few years ago, Don Day decided that almost every cut of veal that came from a calf had more taste when it grew up and came from a cow.
The fajitas were prepared nicely with tomatoes and onions but, much to Don Day’s dismay and not so much to Don Day’s Wife’s dismay, no peppers. There was a serving of fluffy and lightly spiced rice and an OK iceberg lettuce salad on the side.
So what about the nutritional benefits of ostrich? Ostrich meat is very low in fat…maybe the lowest in fat of any meat. With three grams of fat per 100 grams of meat, it has less than half that of chicken at 7.4. Now I know that some people think that fat is a bad thing but Don Day likes fat, especially when it’s marbling meat and making it more tender and tasty.
So will Don Day eat ostrich again? Well I thought I might until I went online and checked the price. If ostrich was cheaper than beef maybe there would be a reason to eat it. And what about ostrich being a little bit better for you than beef? Well Don Day got over that way back when he surprised everyone, including himself, and lived past the age of fifty.
And will Don Day go back to Rincon Nayarita? Well Don Day’s not sure about himself but he thinks there’s a reason you should. It’s that bucket list thing that old guys like me think are so damn important. Because I think everyone who hasn’t tried ostrich should. At least once.
There’s another reason Don Day might go back. Rincon Nayarita advertises music on weekends. Now I didn’t confirm that the sign was current and I’ve been fooled before so don’t ostracize (was dying to use that word) me if there’s not. But if there isn’t live music, there’s one of the best sounding jukeboxes I’ve heard in San Miguel.
Rincon Nayarita is located on Boulevard de la Conspiracion in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. They are open every day except Wednesday from 10:00 am to 6:00 pm.