It was the second to last night before we trekked the 12+ hour trip back to Lexington. The majority of everyone at the camp we were staying at in Ocklawaha, Florida went to Disney World for the day. We had the option to not go, so about 20 of us decided to make our own fun and stay at the camp to have volleyball tournaments, swim, and play soccer. Later that night, though, we had quite the appetite from all of the exhaustion from the physical activity. My college, haven’t-played-organized-sports-regularly-since-high-school body was hurting and tired. I had the time of my life, but I needed a good, hit-the-spot kind of meal for dinner. It was decided — MEXICAN.
There was a restaurant about 25 minutes away (which wasn’t far since the camp was in the middle of nowhere) that my roommate Jamisen had reserved for all of us. It was the closest Mexican restaurant we could find. “Tacos N Madre” was the name. The Spanish geek in me giggled at the name. We drove for about 45 minutes instead of 25 and then finally arrived at this little strip of restaurants on the side of a big road. The bright yellow sign shined bright and hung high in the sky.
“The Best AUTHENTIC” it read with clip art of chili peppers, campesinos in sombreros, and cacti adorned the sign as well. This place looked like it could barely fit 5 of us. We crammed in to the restaurant and scattered ourselves among the open tables that were smushed together anticipating our arrival. This seemed like it was not a common place among most Floridians and that majority of white people usually don’t come often considering the stares of confusion.
I was not phased. One of my favorite things is to go to restaurants where Spanish is primarily spoken because the customers are also primarily Spanish-speaking. I love it because since I am able to speak Spanish, I feel as though I can literally feel the stereotypes breaking and a gap being bridged between people. It’s an incredible feeling being able to communicate in a language that is not my mother language with other people who may only be able to speak that language. It’s fun seeing the meseras’ surprised face when they’re about to take my order as I say, “En espanol, por favor?”.
I chose to go with my usual this time — tacos. I was too hungry to spend time looking for another option. The menu had a collection of options — front and back with fairly small font. As my friends and I made small talk to avoid thinking about our hunger and to keep from saying rude things regarding the long wait, we found out there was a mini tres leches dessert cake you could get. My jaw dropped. I remembered helping my sister make tres leches cakes plenty of times when I was younger and being obsessed with it, so all of my nostalgia was being made whole again by Tacos N Madre. There was no doubt in my mind I was ordering one later.
Tacos N Madre was a little understaffed to handle us that night with only about three women serving in the entire restaurant, but it was evident they were working to the best of their abilities to feed us. My table’s server, Sandra — a short, polite woman who knew her stuff. She whisked around our table of about 20 in about 10 minutes. It may have taken a while to drive there, order, get our food, and eat it, but overall, Tacos N Madre had the BEST tacos (truly) I think I have ever tasted. I had never been to a taqueria that wrapped their tacos in papery holders, but this place did. Sided with rice, extra rice, and (my favorite) a pina-flavored Jarritos, I began melting.
This carne asada was to die for. Paired with cilantro and onions, the combination was perfect. A few times in Lexington when I have been to Ellos on South Broadway I have gotten these tacos and they’re amazing, but I think Tacos N Madre outdid themselves. Not too much onion and not too much cilantro, but plenty of carne asada. It’s like Sandra read my mind and knew exactly what I needed.
As we all chowed down, each person was satisfied. We were ranting and raving about how incredible the food was. It was well worth our 2 and a half hour trip there and back.
Next up was the tres leches cake. I was so mesmerized that I forgot to take a picture. This drinkable-looking cake was scooped out and put into a clear, plastic cup about the size of a coffee mug. They topped this masterpiece with whipped cream and an amaretto cherry. A little more liquid-y than the last I remembered eating Tres Leches, but nonetheless downright WONDERFUL. Every single bite it seemed as though it got better and better. The the milks joined together to make the perfect sweet and satisfying dessert. Usually when you have a dessert, you need something to wash it down, but this Tres Leches cake was two in one! Bite by bite I surprised myself that I could hold down that much food considering how full I was.
As we headed to the cash register and headed out, Sandra and I said our goodbyes and she wished us safe travels saying, “Cuidate!” or “Take care of yourself!”. This experience was one for the books and all I could think about was how so many friends missed out because they went to Disney World. Haha!
Tacos N Madre, I love you.