I’ve been read-skimming The Tex-Mex Cookbook by Robb Walsh, an excellent compendium of recipes, history, anecdotes about one of my favorite things: food. And Tex-Mex food in particular, something I grew up with in Houston, TX and wish southwest Ohio had more of.
I was reading the section on the Armadillo World Headquarters. The Armadillo, as it was called, was a music hall that closed New Year’s Day 1980, which was just after the first semester of my sophomore year at the University of Texas. I went to the Armadillo only three or four times. Concerts I remember were Shake Russell/Dana Cooper, Saint Elmo’s Fire, and Head East. The Wikipedia entry has a list of some of the acts that played there,
Apparently it was also known for the food. Walsh relates an anecdote about how Van Morrison played three nights there and then went on, but after Jerry Garcia told him he shouldn’t have missed the shrimp enchiladas, his agent called to schedule another performance on a night that they were served. But what matters to me is this bit: “Big Rikki was known for her nachos, which were actually whole tostadas spread with refried beans, piled high with jalapenos, and loaded with melted cheese; they were three for a dollar.”
When I read that, I remembered them. Remembered discovering them one of the times I was there, and ordering them each time I returned, sharing the pile with whoever I was with. I want them now, but I think my kitchen is too clean to reproduce the correct flavor.
The club closed after the landlord sold it so it could be torn down and replaced with an office building. A situation that formed another part of my education aside from college.
3 thoughts on “Food Memory”
You know, I don’t really remember the food at the Armadillo, though I ate there fairly often. I remember the music. I was living right up the street when the Armadillo opened — walking distance — and I went the first weekend it opened and saw Shiva’s Headband. And the first time I ever saw Joe Ely he was playing the beer garden at the Armadillo and he sang Butch Hancock’s “She Never Spoke Spanish to Me.”
The fact that they tore it down even as Austin was becoming the Live Music Capital of the World tells you a lot about the Houstonification of Austin. I drive past the site regularly, but I couldn’t even tell you what’s there. There’s still a lot of real Austin left — here in South Austin you can get plenty of real Tex-Mex, for example — but the city shows the wear and tear of having continuously been one of the fastest growing cities in the country for the past 25 years.
(Don’t tell anyone else who lives in Austin that I said something critical about the place. Austinites are worse than New Yorkers about assuming that no one would ever want to live anywhere else.)
I never ate there except for the nachos at the few concerts I went to while it was still around. Unfortunately it was just one of many closings and demolitions. I’m glad I had a chance to eat at Las Manitas after World Fantasy. At least some places still exist. I think the only Austinites who can’t abide criticism are the ones who moved there in the last decade (and are too young to remember anything else anyway).
I was just thinking about those AWHQ beergarden nachos and your description is perfect. At what temperature did they melt that cheese? Surely somebody knows. I used to hang around backstage and in the kitchen and I can’t believe I didn’t get the entire recipe for those tasty dudes.