My beloved Gringo

Wow. It’s been awhile since I sat down to write… so here goes. Feels good, though I’ll admit I’m a bit distracted. 🙂 I’m excited to share GringoAGoGo with you guys. It’s such a special place that I am lucky to have in my neighborhood for the past five years. I’ll not forget the first time I set foot inside Gringo. I don’t remember what I ate or who I was with, but I remember how at home I felt. It actually felt like I escaped downtown Raleigh and transported to Mexico for a split second. I love that about Gringo. Eclectic as hell, with a disco-western Mexican vibe going on. The building is an old auto service station, hence the verified lubrication signage that was preserved. The other thing I really dig about this place is the tropical vibe with the vegetation on the patio. Benjy, Gringo owner, has a mega-green thumb and transforms the patio into a lush jungle-taco paradise in the summer. In winter months, he pulls out these fake cacti for the effect.

What most people may not know about this place is that everything is made from scratch and locally sourced, from the corn tortillas, to all the salsas, and the margarita mix, which is fresh citrus. After all, friends don’t let friends drink sour mix. Part of this may be because of how conscientious of food ingredients Benjy is due to his own food allergies. Just look at this cranberry margarita. He makes these from fresh cranberries when they are in season, which are the winter months around Christmas– ummm, now!  Go get one!  Not too sweet, kinda tart like you would expect from a cranberry, and absolutely perfect.


Something else that isn’t well known about this place is that it’s a vegan/vegetarian paradise. Listen, I was a Mexican in my former life. If there’s one thing I could live off of, forever, it’s Mexican food. And not the Americanized, I’ll have the #7 enchilada and taco combo, I mean real Mexican food. It’s hard to come by in NC. In downtown Raleigh, you’ll get as close as you can here or at Taqueria el Toro.  See my April, 2018 post about Toro, if you haven’t been there.

One thing you should know is that, unlike other Mexican restaurants, they won’t bring chips and salsa to the table by default. You have to order them. Since that’s the case, just order guacamole. Or better yet, chorizo con queso. This is served with warm flour tortillas and roasted chiles on top. So good, and if you’re needing comfort food, you for sure need this.

chorizo con queso and salsas

I am such a creature of habit when it comes to Gringo. I had the vegan chorizo tacos once, and well, I just kinda never looked back. Haha. Granted, I am not vegan (but I would be really impressed if I were), but I just feel better when I am not in a meat coma. And when I eat fake meat and I don’t even miss the real thing, I feel like I won. 🙂 So, I tend to always order the vegan chorizo taco and the vegan carnitas taco. I challenge you to do the same and I promise you will not miss it. One thing I will add, if you are ordering tacos of any kind on this menu, you MUST order a condiment tray. It’s a plate with onions and jalapeños served three ways (pickled, raw, and caramelized/roasted) also some shredded cabbage and radishes. This is a must have with the tacos. Pro tip: you will have leftovers of the condiment tray. Take it home and put it on top of huevos rancheros for breakfast.

Do not sleep on anything else on the menu, though. The green enchiladas are amazing. I am not usually one to think about quesadillas, but this steak quesadilla has turned me into a person who thinks about quesadillas. The fish tacos are so good (condiment tray non-negotiable when ordering this). My time spent in Southern California brings something very specific to mind when I think of fish tacos. I have planned entire vacations around those things. A lifeblood, a love affair, a magical little succulent treasure wrapped up in a fresh corn tortilla brimming with memories of salty summers and beaches. I am not talking about Gringo’s style of fish tacos, though. They are different. I asked Benjy before, pleaded more like it, “how come you don’t make your fish tacos like the kind you’ll find at the fish taco joints in Southern Cal?” He tells me, “Because those are tourists tacos! They don’t eat that in Mexico!” Hahahaha fair enough. But either way, you can’t go wrong. Benjy uses fried catfish in his. They are great, but different from the Baja style fish tacos. What I have come to realize is the fish tacos I fantasize about were probably invented by some surfer named Chad on a surfing trip to Baja, Mexico.

green enchiladas

I had to remind myself that I named this blog Come Eat With Me. For me, this isn’t just about the food, but the company with whom it is shared. I have so many memories at Gringo with different friends over the years. One memory that comes to mind is that time I had several girlfriends come to stay with me for a weekend and we went to Gringo for dinner and just took over the bar. I love these ladies, and I am so lucky to call them mine. Man, that place didn’t stand a chance that night! Haha!

The last time I ate at Gringo, I was accompanied by a very dear group of friends who I’ll refer to as my barn family. Our horses brought us together, and our friendship has kept us together. We have laughed together, we have cried together, we have shared some of the most incredible moments on horseback (and challenging moments on horseback) or around the picnic table at our famous barn picnics, and we have been there to lean on each other and support one another in such a way that is, well, overwhelmingly amazing. I love you girls and am beyond grateful for you!

It’s kind of melancholic finishing this post. I started it in summer of 2019 and then put it on the back burner for a while. A week or so ago, Benjy announced he was looking to sell Gringo. So, I am not sure how the future may change it, but it sure has been great. Aside from the stellar food, there’s just always something totally interesting and ever changing inside. I really appreciate that. He keeps it weird, and I am just not sure a new owner can or will want to replicate that, sadly. In the meantime, if you haven’t been here yet, I am not sure what you’re waiting for. Better hurry.

Taurus women and oyster po’ boys.

I faced what I would call a “champagne problem”as I sat down to write this blog post.  I have had so many awesome dining experiences lately, I have a backlog of inspiration.  I had to pick one for now, though.  And you know it wasn’t hard to do given the memories of this past weekend.  I dedicate this blog post to some of my closest and longest female friends.  And oyster po’ boys.  The month of May for me is a nonstop celebration of life of some of the greatest friends I have.  I started noticing it about 5 or 6 years ago.  I am undeniably drawn to Taurus women.  They make up about 90% of my closest girlfriends!  I can certainly draw a parallel between them all.  They are grounded.  They are women of substance.  They are determined, self-reliant, and perseverant.  They believe that if it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing well, and I deeply revere that about them.  I am drawn to their strength and loyalty, and I am thankful that somehow, I stand back and notice that I am surrounded by them.  Just like I am pictured below.  You ladies are such a treasure and I love you.

There are some friends in life (if you’re lucky) who have known you through your best, your worst, and everything in between.  And they still love and respect you unconditionally.  You can put thousands of miles and several years between you, and when you finally connect again, it’s as if no time passed at all.  You meet each other right where you are, with love and gratitude, and in our case, raucous laughter and strong cocktails.  So, when Andrea flew in from D.C. for the weekend, I knew where I needed to take her.  It’s funny–not knowing that I had picked Andrea up from the airport and was planning the day, Maribeth sent me a text that read: “Hummingbird?”  Great minds.  Hummingbird on a Saturday afternoon is kind of our thing.  What a pleasant realization to arrive and see the Queen of Hummingbird, Coleen, sitting on the patio enjoying a snack and a cappuccino.  She’s also a Taurus, naturally.  She and Maribeth actually have the same birthday.  Two of my best friends born on the same day.  Imagine that.

Maribeth and I always know what we will be having when we go to Hummingbird on our Saturday visits.  I remember our first Hummingbird Saturday distinctly.  I had the muffuletta and Maribeth had the oyster po’boy and we split them.  The muffuletta was damn fine, but that oyster po’boy…  Just wow.  Greg Cox, local N&O food critic who hands out praise sparingly cannot help but agree.  You know those Saturdays when you sleep in, make a French press, start your day at a gloriously leisurely pace, then decide you are hungry and call your best friend to go out for a little hair of the dog and some lunch?  Hummingbird is our special place.  Being single, childless, and thrilled about it in your 30s is rare, but y’all need some vicarious lifeforms, right?  I’m fairly certain that Maribeth and I are on a solid path to becoming Patsy and Edina from Absolutely Fabulous.  I first saw that show when I was a teen, and I immediately admired them and wanted to be just like them when I grew up.  Wild and free, with lots of champagne.  So far, so good!  I like to add extra hot sauce to my Bloody Mary.  Hummingbird serves pickled shrimp in theirs (yum!!).  Depending on my mood, Aperol spritz is my other favorite day drink.  That’s what I had this time.  I was trying to stay on the lighter side since we had a big day ahead.  We had already had a bottle of sparkling rosé during our pedi/mani right before lunch immediately after Andrea’s touchdown in RDU (yes, I know how to host a friend who rarely gets away from her young children for girl time;)).

Y’all already know how I feel about oysters.  I like them anyway I can get ’em.  I have a secret.  I never really paid much attention to a po’ boy sandwich my entire life until now.  And I know why.  It’s the bread.  I’ve tried a few po ‘boys here and there in my day.  They are usually served on some dry-ass hoagie roll passed off as a french loaf.  Nope.  Nope. Nope.  I don’t even really care for bread all that much.  The secret to Coleen’s po’ boy is Leidenheimer French bread and that Duke’s mayonnaise, baby.  If you are from the South, then you know that Duke’s mayo is a standard.  Miracle Whip is a sham that should be banished.  I once ordered an egg & cheddar with mayo bagel in some Midwestern U.S. airport and they put Miracle Whip on it…  Much to my chagrin after a bite, I noticed that it was not mayo at all, it was the bogus sham spread.  I scraped it off and tried to forget about it.  Alas, I have been scarred.  People seem to be pretty passionately divided on this topic.  Either you love or hate Miracle Whip, or you love or hate mayo, or you are a vegan.  I believe that Duke’s mayo is the finest thing to ever happen to a tomato… A summertime homegrown tomato sandwich with Duke’s mayo, and salt & pepper is a delicacy.  Clearly, I am passionate about mayo.  It’s my favorite condiment.  Duke’s or bust, baby.

Coleen gets it–despite the fact that she’s from the Midwest.  She orders the bread for her po’ boys from New Orleans, where the Leidenheimer family has been making it for over 100 years.  They invented the po’ boy sandwich, so it is proper that she insists on this standard.  I’ll tell you that there simply isn’t any other way.  Check out the history of the po’ boy, born in NOLA.   Her po’ boy is simple, it’s fresh, and the fried oysters on top of ripe tomatoes layered on a slathering of Duke’s on that bread with some shaved iceberg and a few shakes of hot sauce… dayum.  Is your mouth watering yet?  Mine sure is as I lay in bed typing this.  I crave this sandwich at least once a week, and I am so glad it’s become our Saturday tradition.  Move over, Bojangles.  There’s a new hangover cure in town.  And it’s served with Zapp’s New Orleans kettle style potato chips.

Meet you at the ‘bird around 1pm on Saturday, MB?