by David Cecelski
My brother-in-law and I enjoy cooking Mexican dishes together when he’s here, but we also like to visit a little restaurant in Durham called Los Comales. It’s one of a dozen taquerías, cafes, and bakeries in the city’s old Braggtown neighborhood that cater mainly to Mexican and Central American immigrants.
Braggtown is also home to many other Latino businesses, including grocery stores, clothes shops, video stores, car lots, and beauty parlors. There’s also a botanica/natural food store where my daughter and I once got a potion to end an ancestral family curse that was afflicting my fig bushes. (But that’s another story.)
At Los Comales, the proprietors are three ladies from a town in Guanajuato that’s only a 20-minute drive from my brother-in-law’s hometown. I think that’s why he likes Los Comales so much: for him it’s a taste of home.
His favorite dish at Los Comales is either the mole verde or the tacos lengua, tacos made with beef tongue. My favorite is one of the weekend specials: mole de olla, a stew that’s very traditional throughout central Mexico. It’s made with chunks of beef, carrots, and potatoes, pieces of corn on the cob, and other vegetables, too, all simmered together in a rich chile broth for hours in a pot (una olla).
As much as I like the food at Los Comales, I think I enjoy seeing the pleasure on my brother-in-law’s face when we’re there even more. I see the same kind of joy in the other diners’ faces, too, whether they’re also from Guanajuato or (like so many of Braggtown’s Mexican immigrants) from the little indigenous villages in the Sierra Norte de Puebla. They’re all so far from home, and so happy to discover a place like Los Comales.