Macon Texaco

My First Green Tamale

Recently, I discovered a Mexican grill at the Macon Texaco (aka Javier) gas station in Memphis’ Berclair neighborhood. This part of town has one of the highest Hispanic populations in the city, so naturally a lot Mexican restaurants are located there. Normally, I would have chosen a traditional establishment to eat lunch at during the week where I “temped” at a Family Dollar store. Unfortunately, I only had thirty minutes for lunch so my options were limited. To get the most out of my time, I decided to eat at the gas station next door to it. Not expecting much, I planned on eating a hot dog and bag of chips. As I approached the gas station, I saw “Mexican Grill” plastered across the windows of the building. Seeing this raised my hopes a bit, for I know that good food can be found in the unlikeliest of places. Once inside, I saw that the place had a setup that included a kitchen, a serving line displaying a combination of Mexican and Soul Food and a one-table dining area. The menu consisted of a mix of Mexican and fast food items (including Hunt Brothers Pizza), but I was set on getting some Latin flavor. Being short on cash, I got a beef taco with a small bag of Cool Ranch Doritos that cost $2.62. Along with a small cup of water, this had the makings of a nice lunch.

While I waited for my taco to cook, I noticed some green, tubular-shaped items at the end of the serving line. I asked the cashier what they were, and he said they were tamales. I was surprised at first, then one of the “temps” who was with me said the tamales were wrapped in plantain (a fruit very similar to banana) leaves. I had read about this type of tamale while doing research for my review of Tamale Trolley but I didn’t believe I would actually see one. However, I decided to pass on it and stuck with what I ordered. It didn’t take long for the kitchen to prepare my taco, for I got it a few minutes later. While I ate my lunch, another “temp” sat at my table with only a bottle of water. In the past when I made “real money,” I would have bought the guy something. Although my lack of cash prevented me from doing the right thing, the grill’s cashier took pity on this literally poor soul and gave him a tamale. When the guy got it, he placed it on the table and did nothing with it. When I asked him why he wasn’t eating his tamale, he eloquently replied “man, I ain’t eatin’ that shit.” His response didn’t surprise me because he is a bit of a sour puss that seems very unhappy with his life. With this rejection of the convenience store’s generosity, I asked if I could have it. Once he agreed, I grabbed the basket that the tamale was in and unwrapped it. After I got through the first layer of plastic wrapping, I immediately took a picture of it without noticing the other layer of wrapping. With this being the second anniversary of my blog, you would assume that I would be better at taking pictures, but my anxiousness preempted good judgment. Once the tamale’s inner plastic wrapping was removed, I opened it and discovered something interesting. Unlike most tamales that have a combination of chili pepper seasoning and pork mixed with either corn meal or masa, Macon Texaco’s is different. Its version consists of masa mixed with a jalapeño sauce and chunks of chicken (mostly “white meat”). For a tamale, the masa mix was both light on the stomach and satisfying at the same time. The jalapeño sauce made it very spicy, but that was tempered by lime juice that I squeezed from the slice provided. Ultimately, I ended up with a very unique tamale that was one of the best I ever had. My grumpy cohort really missed out on something great.

The other component of my lunch (aside from the Doritos) was the beef taco. It consisted of beef, sautéed onions and cilantro wrapped around two tortilla flatbreads. As you can see in the picture, a lot of cilantro was put into the taco, which resulted in a dominating floral flavor. Fortunately, a squeeze of lime toned it down enough to make it a great tasting taco.

When we finished our lunch (including Señor Sour Puss), I thanked the kitchen staff for both a wonderful meal and their generosity. I was very fortunate to have found this place and I hope more people discover it. It is places like this that makes Memphis a great city to live in.

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