Just in case anyone is wondering what we’re driving on our cross-country adventure. (Photo C-M.)
Kandy Kisses, in repose at the Taco Bell parking lot. (Photos by C-M.)
At the behest of the devil-in-my-ear known as Vidalia, today we made the pilgrimage to Española, New Mexico (pop. 9700), the self-proclaimed lowrider capital of the world. Our plan (if you could call it that) was to eat a green chile cheeseburger and look for lowriders. As is wont to happen with this sort of thing, we didn’t see a single tricked-out ride during our first hour in Espanola — despite the fact that we visited the parking lots of every auto parts store in town. We also happened upon a woman who keeps a shrine to Our Lady of Fatima in a trailer hitched to a bus, from which she sells all manner of Fatima merch. I bought two prayer cards. And our supplications were answered, for minutes later we pulled up to the Taco Bell to discover two seriously smokin’ vehicles parked in the lot: a blazing Monte Carlo and a candy coated Cutlass. Mission accomplished.
For roughly three years, on my trips to California, I’ve made regular pilgrimages to a small cafe and truck stop that sits near the border between the inland communities of Chino and Ontario. It’s a small, windowless corner spot with lots of wood paneling, divine carne asada and a zingy homemade salsa dispensed in Heinz ketchup bottles. Belly up to the counter any day of the week and you’re liable to find plenty of local color: dairy farmers, Mexican cowboys dispensing aphorisms and the occasional burnout blabbing loudly about a DUI.
I’m a fan of the place for two reasons. One: congenial co-owner Claudia Reca, who knows most of her customers by name (she’s run the joint for 25 years), and is so badass she can dish out breakfast burritos and tend to the truck scales while maintaining perfectly applied lip liner. Two: The setting. Taylor’s lies in a rural-suburban transition zone where strawberry fields, cattle farms and a handful of state correctional facilities face off against tract housing developments that seem to materialize practically overnight. In fact, it is possible to stand by the restaurant’s main door (which is stenciled with the motto Animals Taste Good) and see cows munching on hay on one side of the street and cookie-cutter condos on another. The old California abutting against the new, in the starkest visual terms.