Let me tell you all the unexpected benefits of spending a Tuesday in Tatum – you get to hang out with some incredibly fun folks, you get to see places you didn’t know existed, and if you’re extremely lucky, you get to have a plate of steak fingers at Dorado’s Steakhouse Cafe. I drove to Tatum this past Tuesday morning, thinking that I was just a little nuts to drive three hours to talk to my cousin about jewelry, but I had the promise of a great lunch in hand, and I was excited about seeing Cindy and Bethe. So I drove on.
Cindy is my cousin, the third to the youngest of the Ayres cousins. We have a long history of Sunday dinners at Grandma’s, being tortured by our older brothers in someone’s backyard, Christmases where Santa Claus actually showed up, and even singing for my Aunt Ruby’s induction as the Grand Matron of the Eastern Star in 1972. One of my first memories is dancing to the Beach Boys “At the Drive-In” in her living room. She’s a San Jon girl and Bethe is her best friend. Bethe is. . .well, honestly, there are few words adequate to describe Bethe San Terry (now Cunningham). She’s an artistic bundle of positive energy every minute of every day, and she’s beautiful to boot (boys used to act interested in me, only to then ask me to introduce them to my cousin. They didn’t know we weren’t kin. . .). And now, Cindy and Bethe get to live in the same town and spend every day together, just like they did in high school in Quay County.
I had the chance to shop the Tatum Food Market, owned by Cindy and her husband Gary Stamps – I came home with jars of gourmet salsas and quesos and barbecue sauces (you know me and salsa – there’s never enough and I’m always ready to try another brand). I got to see Bethe’s house, which was built by the legendary Dessie Sawyer (a whole ‘nother post), and then I was fortunate enough to get to spend the afternoon there, hanging in the kitchen around the island, discussing jewelry and Bethe’s new venture (jewelry wedding bouquets -see at www.bethesan.com), talking about old times, trying on hairpieces (you had to be there – it’s a girl think. Let me just say that Tralee is the cutest little girl in the world and she looks amazing in a curly hairpiece. Not my normal Tuesday routine, but Bethe had bought a pile of them as a birthday gift for Tralee) and watching a twirling routine (you can take the girl out of the pageant, but. . .). It was a Tuesday Tatum adventure – old friends full of new ideas laughing with each other and all talking at once.
But I digress. What you REALLY have to do when you’re in Tatum is have a meal at Dorado’s Steakhouse Cafe! It’s smack dab in the middle of town, on the northeast corner of the intersection with the traffic light. According to Judy Dorado, the owner’s daughter, it’s been in that location since 1954. Before that the building was a drugstore – the counter remains to this day. Herminia Dorado went to work at the Cafe in 1970, working as a dishwasher on the morning shift and a cook in the evenings, saving her money. Finally in 1981 she was able to buy the Cafe, and it became Dorado’s.
The advance press I got from Cindy and Bethe was right on target. The steak fingers were absolutely the best steak fingers I’ve ever had in my life. Thin cut pieces of steak perfectly battered on a bed of cream gravy with a side of french fries – this is Food Network Guy Fieri food – Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives could show up here and be totally blown away. Amazing beautiful plates of food in the middle of nowhere! But that’s how it works in New Mexico – you never know what you’re going to find just around the next corner.
The girls had chicken fajita burritos full of chicken marinated in some secret sauce that was, predictably delicious. There was a pie case full of tall meringue that was calling my name, but there was no room for more food once I finished the steak fingers (AND I had a half order). So I took a picture instead. I’ll be back for some of that pie sometime soon. I’ll eat dessert first.
Loved my Tuesday in Tatum. Loved seeing my friends. Especially loved my meal at Dorado’s. And then I started home and the nearly full moon rose and followed me home. I was very happy to be a New Mexican traversing the east side of the state. Life is good!