If you read Washington Post reporter Joshua Partlow’s play-by-play of last week’s taxi adventure, you already know that the voyage to Tía Margarita had an unfortunate ending.
Despite the crowd gathered on the sidewalk, the aroma of fried calamari that greeted us when we walked in, the sight of fresh basil, and a menu that teased us with smoked trout and oysters, our dinner at taxista José Luis’ recommended restaurant was a flop.
Ernest Hemingway might have been describing this particular cab escapade when he said, “It is good to have an end to journey toward; but it is the journey that matters, in the end.”
In fact, the journey to Tía Margarita was the highlight of the adventure. Our conversation with José Luis – whose family fled to Argentina to escape the Franco dictatorship in Spain – was where we found the real flavor.
Right off the bat, the taxista made it clear that despite living 57 of his 59 years in Argentina, he was born in Galicia and would die a Spaniard.
Paradoxically, he had plenty of pride in his adopted country, “Argentina is different from every other country in Latin America. Did you know this is the only country in South America with three Nobel Prize winners in science? If you work hard here, you can get somewhere. And the only thing a Galician knows how to do is work.”
It was thanks to hard work that José Luis had been able to put his daughters through college – even after his garage door manufacturing business went under in the 80s and he started driving a cab. All three of his girls had gone on to professional success.
“You must be very proud,” I said.
“I am. But you know what I’m most proud of? The fact that they’re good people.”
Cars and motorcycles whizzed by us as we scooted down Avenida Carlos Calvo at 25 miles per hour. Once we got José Luis talking about his family, every other topic – food, politics, our destination – took a back seat. He busted out a picture of Lola, his curly-haired 3 year old granddaughter: “Just look at her!”
Eventually, we steered him back to our food quest. After rejecting his initial suggestion to go to El Español (a place that we’ve already established as a cabbie favorite), he dropped us off at Tía Margarita, a Mediterranean restaurant several of his friends had recommended. There was a line out the door.
“Why is it good? Because so many people are waiting outside,” he said.
It was a good hypothesis that we were happy to test. I was heartbroken when the mealy mussels, tough scallops, and strangely seasoned sautéed mushrooms at Tía Margarita proved it wrong.
As I digested my disappointment, I thought maybe we should’ve gone to El Español. Maybe I should’ve let go of my search for a new place, forgotten about the fact that it would’ve been my third time at the taxista-recommended restaurant in the last four weeks, and ordered José Luis’ favorite: the milanesa de pollo suprema (breaded chicken cutlet).
Photo credit: Joshua Partlow