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South of the Border, Down East Naples Way: Part 1

Updated: Mar 21, 2022

A Flamingo Driving a Taco With Wheels? That's Bonkers!

The origin of this food site/blog/opinion dump was because of the overall anger and animus that I was finding on the local social media group on the site whose name rhymes with LaceHook. No matter what was posted on the site, whether about pizza, steak, or bringing your children to certain places, invariably the fangs came out and things got politically, or personally ugly, or as is most common these days, both. I grew weary of being told to go back to NY when pizza was discussed, or back to California when sushi was mentioned or called a socialist, communist, libtard, etc when factual statements went the way of the dodo. In fairness, some of this was my fault, as I was taking the bait and being lured into these kerfuffles and much in the same way those folks turned into vipers because of my words, I had the same reaction back to the red-hat crowd. My fight or flight mechanism is set to "hit you with a kendo stick" so I wasn't going to let keystroke marauders of the internet prevent me from what I thought, was setting the record straight. Turns out, all that does is fan the flames of fury and leave both parties even further apart.

(Warning, slight political reference and yes, I'm aware I'm breaking my own rules) Far prior to our current division, I have always thought and been taught (Thank you, PoliSci minor UAlbany) that politics is The Art of Compromise. Somehow we have lost that in both our nation's capital and around the country in things far more common than just law-making. I've noticed anger, myself included, over things people would normally be polite or benign about. Parking spaces, dog parks, waiting in line at the grocer seem to all have an extra bit of antagonism when someone feels wronged in those venues.

Division makes Mr. Bites sad.

It used to be different. When I held a door open for someone, or showed some micro-act of kindness, and was met with surprise, I used to always say "We're All In This Together" as my little way of reminding people that we are all the same and as a society, country, planet, need to do those small little things to help each other out. I'm not suggesting I was some sort of happy little troll constantly chirping about togetherness, but as someone who has reacted poorly to a lot of division, this was my way of trying to leave things a little bit better than I found them.

With this in mind, I launched this page under the caption and ethos of "Deliciousness Unites." I truly believe that no matter the views of the people getting together over a meal or over a drink (ok, a few least), a camaraderie of compromise is possible. With this in mind, I embarked on the Driven Foodie Tour, through the Hispanic Dining culture of Naples

Sadly, a person, not a flamingo drove us around.

Four of us, of all disparate backgrounds but with a shared love of food, piled into the back of proprietor Liz Valdez's sweet ride. Despite her last name, Liz is not Latina. She started this tour because she wanted to showcase the true hidden gems of East Naples' finest Hispanic food offerings. When people think of Naples, they think of 5th and 3rd, maybe Mercato and some other parts, but they rarely think about what is a very vibrant authentic food vibe in Golden Gate City, just a few minutes away (unless it's season, then it's like..a lot longer. Hey snowbirds, totally cool with you being here and spending money to boost the local economy, but please know where you are driving before you get in the car. Waze works. Apple Maps works. Google Maps works. Use them!).

The first stop of our this merry gang of omnivores was a market/restaurant hybrid La Oaxaqueña at 2795 Davis Blvd in Naples.

This extremely festive and bright place is both taqueria and Hispanic market, our target for stop one was sopes. Sopes are somewhere between a street taco tortilla and a crumpet (no, really) topped with delicious meat and of course the required crema, pico de gallo and bits of queso fresco. They are (I think) crisped up on the flat top prior to added all the toppings. The ones we sampled here with topped with al pastor, which for those of you who may not be familiar, is a spit-roasted pork prepared in a shawarma style brought over to Mexico from Lebanese immigrants. See..deliciousness unites cultures you wouldn't think have much in common. Let's be like the Mexican and Lebanese, please.

While I appreciate a soft shell taco like any other normal human being, what I loved about these sopes was the crunch on the outside of the shell meeting the soft inside. The sweet/savory flavor of the al pastor is gonna be the pow-flavor star but it's the little subtlety like that crunch that really drives home the dish and makes it a full mouth of joy experience. While I opted for a beer, because...well, beer, my fellow tourists enjoyed a hibiscus iced tea that I need to get Boogs into. Sweet, tiny bit sour but with a hint of flower, it's a lovely refresher, especially for those SWFL summer days that loom ahead.

Who says you can't use an entire Crayola box as design inspiration?

Speaking of my fellow tourists, as is common with tours like this, initially I think we eyed each other with that standard "who is this person I'm going to be locked in a car eating Hispanic food with for the next four hours and I hope they use Dial." As soon as we took that first bite of the sopes, our hesitation turned to nods of approval towards each other..because you know..deliciousness unites and if you have nothing else to say to each other initially, taking a bite of something tasty usually leads to a lot more words between you all...

(To be continued...)

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To be clear… no one was ever locked in the car… and I definitely don’t use Dial 🤣

I think seeing my tour tthough your eyes is even better than I was hoping! Can’t wait for the next part 😂🤩


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