Of tunes and tinga
Wednesday, September 23, 2020
I don’t get out much these days.
I suppose that’s true of most of us when we compare our lives in the BT (Before Times) with our lives now. Before COVID-19, I was a world-champion errand-runner, loved nothing more than eating all of my meals out and was known to spend whole days wandering around downtown Bellingham, popping in and out of my favorite businesses.
As a social creature, such activity was necessary to feed my endless curiosity and ensure my robust mental health. While my curiosity remains firmly intact and has found other outlets, my mental health has suffered slightly—I’m in good company there—due to my largely housebound existence. As someone with a high-risk health condition that makes me extra leery when it comes to potentially catching COVID-19, I err on the side of caution, which means staying home, except for necessary errands.
However, when I do decide to let loose a little, I invariably find myself at the Cabin Tavern.
This is no accident. COVID-19 requires ongoing risk assessment, but one of the things that falls into the arena of acceptable risk for great reward is time spent enjoying the Cabin’s outdoor seating. While the newly built seats in front of the Holly Street bar have their appeal, for me it’s all about the party in the rear.
That’s where the Cabin’s patio is at, a fenced-off area with tables spaced for social distancing. I almost always see friends there, sometimes a dog or two makes an appearance, I can participate in my favorite social sport—eavesdropping—and when I happen to hit up the patio on a Tuesday, someone is there spinning precious gems from their personal record collection.
Probably the best thing about the Cabin’s Vinyl Tuesdays, as they’re called, is that these are not professional DJs. They’re just people with a love of records and a desire to play their favorites for whoever happens to be hanging out on the patio. During a recent night, that person was Chris Gusta, schoolteacher by day and DJ Downer Party (very clever, Chris) for his patio stint. Sometimes my good friend and local musician Bo Stewart lugs a crate of vinyl to the bar for a spell. Other times the DJs come with names like Bunny Rotten, Business Time, and On Parole.
You never know who you might find, which is part of the fun.
If you’re worried about Vinyl Night being in violation of the live music prohibition of Phase 2 (which is where Whatcom County currently lives) of Gov. Jay Inslee’s “Safe Start” reopening plan for the state, rest assured Tuesdays on the patio have far more in common with someone plugging a jukebox than with anything that could be construed as an “event.” The last time I was at a Vinyl Night, the DJ was spinning his records at a low enough volume to allow for conversation at nearby tables and spent the time during songs not hyping the crowd, but eating tacos.
Speaking of tacos, I cannot lie: The main thing that draws me to the Cabin time and again is the Mexican food crafted by Eduardo Santos of Taqueria Los Santos. Eduardo used to have a fairly robust food-vending schedule at the bar, but he’s scaled back in anticipation of hanging up his tortilla press for good at the end of the month.
Needless to say, ever since I heard the news of his imminent departure, half of me has been in mourning while the other half has been cooking up a plot to kidnap Eduardo, confine him to the spare room of my apartment with a hot plate where I will force him to make me his trademark chicken tinga baby burritos every single day until I am sick of them, which will be never.
To say that I’m obsessed with Eduardo’s tinga is an understatement. I know that sounds vaguely dirty, but I swear my love of his baby burritos is wholly innocent—save for that aforementioned kidnapping plot. The baby burritos are just that: miniature burritos that are stuffed full of the magical chicken tinga, along with lettuce, a dollop of sour cream, and a sprinkling of cilantro and chopped onions. That’s it. Simple stuff, but oh so good. Two of those doused in hot sauce and washed down with a margarita served in one of the Cabin’s trademark cowboy boot mugs is my idea of a perfect meal.
Taqueria Los Santos offers more than just the baby burritos that have captured my heart—and everything on the menu is just as delicious, from the mulitas (I like to have one of those as an appetizer before my baby burritos) to the regular and house tacos to the vegan crunchwrap right on down to the side of guacamole you can get with your order if you’re feeling like going all out.
Is your mouth watering yet? Because mine is.
However, with this Mexican bounty comes a catch. As previously mentioned, Taqueria Los Santos is a limited-time-only affair these days. Eduardo and his partner in baby burritos, Leo, have decided to say adios to the food business, and will only be slinging their delicious tacos at the Cabin for a couple more weeks, 4pm-9pm Weds. and Thurs., Sept. 23-24 and Sept. 30-Oct. 1. After that, if you’ve got a hankering for tinga, you’ll have to hit up Eduardo and his hot plate in my spare bedroom. (I’m kidding. Or am I?)
After the departure of Taqueria Los Santos (and my subsequent heartbreak), owner Cabin owner Christian Danielson is looking for someone else to bring a new food program to his bar. It need not be Mexican food. Feel like slinging pizzas? Hit him up. Have an idea for a samosa business? Find him for a chat. Always wanted to mass-produce dumplings or authentic pierogis? Pitch him your plan. Want to crank out a menu in which every dish is doused in queso? In that case, talk to me.
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