Love Letter: Dinner Plate at 524May 29, 2014 • By Becky
Look at that cheese blanket on top of the beans! There is nothing like a Mexican-American dinner plate with a hearty cheese blanket.
You may be detecting a pattern that gets at the heart of the point of the Love Letter for me: the comfort dish that I order again and again. I probably started going to 524 around 17 years ago with friends, some of whom have been going there 20+ years. It was a grimy place with flocked wallpaper and a wall unit airconditioner that dripped onto said wallpaper. We were broke (again, another pattern from those younger years) so we usually ordered the lunch plate, even at dinner. When I first started going there I was an on-and-off vegetarian so I always got the chile relleno plate.
The gracious staff will deliver bowl after bowl of as many chips as you can eat, thin red salsa and magical pico de gallo. It’s magical because the tomatoes are the pinkest, grainiest tomatoes you have ever seen in your life yet it’s somehow still delicious, and spicy from diced jalapeno. The limitless chips was how one could be satisfied with the one-item lunch plate. It’s also the only place I ever get iced tea, served in a giant plastic cup with quick refills. It’s just part of the ritual.
Speaking of ritual, another part of it is crumpling some chips onto the funny shell pasta soup that comes with every meal. It’s tomatoey and has chunks of carrot. I can scarcely believe now that I used to abstain from the soup. What a fool. On this night we went in towards closing time and the soup was more flavorful than ever, probably because it had boiled down from simmering on the stove all day.Here’s where my current order stands: a two-item dinner with a chile relleno and crispy chicken taco. The taco is has the same shredded, boiled chicken as Los Jarritos; Los has more drippy orange grease and shredded American cheese. The chile relleno at 524 is unique. It is on the small side and swimming in a thin tomato broth. And then there’s the cheese blanket – so warm that I’d like to curl up inside.