Initially, it was the signs that attracted me. Okay, actually it was the proximity to the Office Depot at the corner of Mufreesboro Rd. and Thompson lane that attracted me, but it was the signs that drew me across the parking lot. "Honduras Restaurant. Centro America Food."
Two signs, five words, no adjectives. I had to check it out. Since that fateful day the old Hondo has become a fairly regular lunch break for me and a few of my more adventurous amigos. Entering the glass front door in the strip mall next to the darkened Honduran nightclub is like stepping off the edge of the continent. Between the utter lack of English-speaking staff or patrons and the blaring telenovelas, Spanish variety shows and regional fútbol games on the ancient Magnavox, I can pretty much completely check out of reality of the daily work day grind for a half hour.
The smiling server always hands me a dinner menu and then inevitably forbids me to even look at it in favor of the daily lunch special. With my rudimentary high school Spanish I can usually identify the order and family but not necessarily the genus and species of the main protein. Yet I have never been disappointed.
Most times I am presented with a small plate of complimentary nachos topped with creamy frijoles and powdered Honduran cheese. Is this a special amuse-bouche just for me or do they offer it to every gringo? I don't know because I've never seen another one that I didn't bring with me. Would I be as welcome at dinner as the staff makes me feel at lunch? I'm not sure, but I imagine when the lights go up in the attached Honduran honky tonk it might get pretty rough in there for a yanqui.
Usually, the lunch special is a quarter chicken roasted with carrots and potatoes simply seasoned with lime, red pepper and salt. It has rapidly become my second favorite thigh in town behind Jimmy Carl's smoky chicken. Well, third favorite if you count that hot Musica chick with the tambourine. Rowr.
The accompanying pinto beans and white rice definitely benefit from a healthy helping of the red jalapeño hot sauce provided on each table. Knife and fork are necessary, but mainly to render the ingredients of platter into convenient size dollops to eat with the delicious grilled corn flatbreads served with every meal.
Eight bucks buys you the whole platter plus bottomless glasses of sweet fruity aguas frescas. I prefer the maracuja (passion flower), a sweet/sour flavor sadly overlooked for the most part here in the States. I'd tell you to say Bites sent you if you drop by for a visit, but unless you're muy fluent, it would probably get lost in translation anyway.
So where are the joints where you're willing to step outside of your comfort zone for a totally foreign experience? Testify!