Tag Archives: tamales

REVIEW – Bit & Spur Restaurant

Great restaurant with an incredible view.  Id love to go back when its warmer and eat outdoors.

Great restaurant with an incredible view. I'd love to go back when it's warmer and eat outdoors.

Bit And Spur

Restaurant

1212 Zion Park Boulevard

Springdale, UT (just outside Zion’s national park)

http://www.bitandspur.com/

4 out of 5 stars

Last weekend I broke away from Salt Lake and cruised down to Southern Utah for two things :

1 – Zion’s National Park… or more importantly for the Angel’s Landing hike

2 – Hunting for ghost towns

I wasn’t particularly searching out great food down there but I did come across recommendations for a place which serves inventive, if not authentic, Mexican food.  This place is called the Bit and Spur.  I learned that not only did this place have a reputation for good food, it has a long musical tradition as well.  Taco enthousiast Jon Bray tells me that many bands have been known to play the Bit & Spur as they travel through Utah.  With a history of over 20 years, there have been many musical acts which have played there including Jon’s band which played there in 1991.  I looked around and found that several artists I knew and loved had played there.  Check out the picture below and see if you recognize the gentlemen.

Yup, thats Jon Avila from Oingo Boingo and frequent visitor Nels Cline of Wilco fame.

Yup, that's Jon Avila from Oingo Boingo and frequent visitor Nels Cline of Wilco fame. Just playing some playing some music at the Bit & Spur. How is it that I have never heard Nels Cline play while eating a taco? Who is to blame here?

I was pleased to find that this place was located right across the street from my hotel so I was able to stroll across Highway 9 to have a little bite to eat.  The interior is great, but most impressive is the lighting of the place.  It’s fairly dark inside which I like but each table has some fantastic lighting over each place setting.  This provided perfect lighting for a taco journalist like myself who did not bring a flash.  I hunkered down and after looking over the menu, I decided to check out the Bit and Spur tamales.

A happy little sweet potato and pork tamale.  Looking up at me.

A happy little sweet potato and pork tamale. Waiting to get eated.

Let me paste down the description of these delicious (and filling) tamales :

Bit and Spur Tamales
Two sweet potato tamales with pork carnitas or sauteed mushrooms, roasted tomatillo salsa, queso fresco, black beans, and salad

Again, this is not an authentic Mexican joint but I love inventive recipes like this one and I was not disappointed.  The queso fresco was lightly browned over the entire tamal and the pork was savory so it was a welcome match against the sweet potatoes underneath.  Each bite was a little bit of greatness.  It was a bit like being a king.  A tamale king.  Plus, with the lighting being low, no one could see me stuffing my tamale-hole.

While I was full from these tamales and the polenta appetizer, I could not resist the dessert which was about to destroy me…

This is a cheesecake cream between crispy wafers.  Topped with blueberries.  Befriended by the god of fertility in powdered chocolate dust.

This is a cheesecake cream between crispy wafers. Topped with blueberries. Befriended by the god of fertility in powdered chocolate dust.

Needless to say, this meal resulted in a serious food coma.  It’s a good thing I did the Angel’s Landing hike before all of this or else I would have never made it beyond Mile 1.

This place is great.  It’s not worth a trip of its own but if you’re around Zion’s I think it’s worth a little trip.  And check the event calendar.  You never know who might be making a musical appearance at this place.

Finally I leave you with a picture of why I love Utah.  I cannot help but be overwhelmed by vistas like this one.  Fingers crossed that I can enjoy more of it this summer.  Arriba Utah!

Scenic views around Springdale, UT.  Near Zions National Park.

Scenic views around Springdale, UT. Near Zion's National Park.

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REVIEW – Rey de los Tamales (Mazda pickup truck)

Reys silver Mazda pickup truck parked facing the truck docs of M. Flores productos

Rey's silver Mazda pickup truck parked facing the truck docs of M. Flores productos

Rey de los Tamales (Mazda pickup truck)

600 S 558 W (see the Taco Map)

(facing the truck dock of M. Flores productos)

Hours : Saturdays from 7am to 10am (sometimes the truck is there other days and hours, but expect the truck there at this time)

4.5 out of 5 stars

For over two years now my friend Ruben has told me about a couple who sell the best tamales and champurrado in town.  Finally everything worked out so that yesterday Ruben and I were able to finally go together to have a delicious early morning meal down by the truck docks.

Ruben has family and friends who work for M. Flores produce so this is where he learned about our friend “Rey” who serves delicious tamales from his pickup in front of the truck docks.  If you’ve ever wondered where great restaurants such as Red Iguana get their products like fruits and vegetables, they come through M. Flores.  Many products are imported directly from Mexico and are then made available via delivery or direct pick-up.  We will talk more about M. Flores and the delicious things I found another day.

Ruben and I meet up at 9am and we drive along 600 W since it is the easiest way to navigate under the spaghetti mess of on-ramps and off-ramps of Salt Lake City to reach our destination of delicious truck tamales.  As we arrive we see the activity of many trucks getting loaded and nearby a small silver Mazda.  But no one is near the truck.  Ruben calls out “Oye!  Tamales!” but no one responds to his cry.  We look near the tailgate and we see the buckets containing bags of steaming tamales.  For a moment, I thought Ruben was going to help himself.  Then he walked around to the front and punched the steering wheel to let out two looooong honks.  Finally, Rey came out of a door and we were in business.

Ruben enjoying a hot pepper along with his tamales.

Ruben enjoying a hot pepper along with his tamales.

Rey is an incredibly nice guy from the state of Guerrero in Mexico.  He has a wide smile and has some impressive bling in the form of a cross hanging from his neck.  He told me that he and his wife (she might be there when you go) have been selling Tamales in Salt Lake for over 10 years now.  While there are many places to buy tamales in Salt Lake, Rey tells me that they has lifelong customers because they tell him that he and his wife’s tamales are made with corazon.

Rey tells me that today he has cheese, chicken and pork tamales and asks me what I would like.  Immediately I tell him that I want to try all 3.  Immediately Ruben stops eating.  He points at me and it’s clear I’m about to get a lesson.

  1. Never order more than one tamal at once since you first need to try them to see if they are good. If they are not rico, you do not pay.
  2. Tamales are best eaten steamed, so let them stay steamed in their bag as long as possible.  Order them one at a time.

I start with the cheese and it is divine.  I’m usually not a fan of cheese tamales, but it was hot and melted and a delicious morning treat.  Rey also served me up a warm cup of champurrado which was the best I’ve ever tasted.  On some days he and his wife serve champurrado (chocolate flavored) but on other days you get normal atole which is not sweet.  On those days he brings along a delicious candy which we will talk more about another day.

After devouring the cheese, Rey reaches into the back of the truck and gets my chicken and pork tamales (one at a time of course).  As we eat, several people come and go.  Half of them are regular customers arriving in minivans to pick up their daily batch of tamales for lunch or dinner.  Others clearly have heard of the reputation and show up in search of the truck.  One man from Guadalajara arrives and tells me that these tamales are certainly different.  He had heard the legends of these tamales and agrees that they are certainly made with corazon.  I ask Rey if his is his real name and he says yes.  So myself clever I ask him if I can call him Rey de los Tamales (King of Tamales).  He smiles and says “You will not be the first person to call me that.”

30am meal.

Drinking up the last bit of my champurrado. What a delicious 9:30am meal. Behind the trucks are loading to deliver delicious fruits, vegetables and abarrotes to markets and restaurants such as Red Iguana.

So go meet Rey and his wife and try these out.  If you need a batch of tamales, the prices are incredible.  So if you need his phone umber, send me an email.

Also, the only guaranteed hours are Saturdays at the location listed above are from 7am to 10am.  At other times Rey could be anywhere around the city filling its tamal needs.  Later that day as Ruben and I were driving around the city we saw Rey in his truck.  He honked and waved as we passed him on 900 W.  I have no idea of the other locations where he vends his tamales, but I know at least one stop along his Santa-like route.

In closing, my friend Ruben is having a very difficult time finding work in Salt Lake.  If anyone has any leads or any help for this at all please let me know. He’s a hard worker and one of my favorite people.  Thanks!