“He’s an Eatin’ Lad”
March goes all Jethro on y’all at Kap’s Coffee Shop
• The title for this review comes from something Granny told Jane Hathaway on the teevee show The Beverly Hillbillies. She was referring to her nephew Jethro’s propensity for consuming home-cooked chow. But Hathaway thought Granny was referring to the double-naught agent’s supposed education at Eton, an error which set the ground work for much hilarity during the show’s initial run.
• My old man used to drive all around este país on the lookout for cool places to eat. He kinda looked like Jethro Bodine, but instead of ham hocks and collard greens, he dug enchiladas and tortillas a lá Nuevo Mexicana—as well as the occasional pit stop at this or that diner situated somewhere on the Mother Road between here and El Lay.
• I’ve always felt that diner fare and New Mexican cuisine were somehow related. They’re both a sort of comfort food available in America, after all.
So without further ado, here’s a review of two visits I made to Kap’s Coffee Shop & Diner, a for real Route 66 joint right out of 1975, sitting smack in the middle of our beloved town.
The first time I hit Kap’s, it was with two mates from work. We needed a quick place to douse our hunger after a long morning of building meaningful things with text and ink and then delivering that papery stuff all over this dusty military outpost in the desert. I had heard through the grapevine that the place offered some decent enchiladas and wanted to know for myself.
Geoffrey, the fellow sitting to the right of me, took the traditional route and ordered the huevos rancheros plate ($8.25) while his tall, bearded colleague, Jesse, went with the S.O.S plate ($5.25)—which is a toast, beef and cream gravy thing dreamed up by the US Navy and served up by sailor dads to their impressionable kids throughout the latter half of the 20th century. I enthusiastically decided on the carne adovada enchilada plate ($9.75).
The carne adovada was succulent; the red chile seemed to seethe aromatically from it. The rolled enchiladas were full of this slow-roasted and tangy pork concoction. Coated in a sumptuously piquant sauce and sharp cheddar cheese, the three enchiladas proved to be a gut-buster when combined with the hearty refritos and rice that came with. I was a bit disappointed to see that the sopaipillas were oily when they arrived at the table. But after they cooled a bit, they were decently delicious and scrumptiously supportive of the heaps of beans, sauce and honey I laid upon them.
Geoffrey reported the best thing about the huevos rancheros was the homemade tortilla underlying the whole schmear. Fresh, delicate of flavor and solid in composition, it made eating the rest of his meal memorable. It helped that the eggs were cooked to perfection, he added between bites.
As for the S.O.S., how can you go wrong? If you grew up with a sailor dad, you know what I mean; there is nothing as comforting as the combination of lean ground beef, creamy gravy and white bread toasted to perfection. Kap’s does this rarely offered but tasty treat justice, said our graphic artist to me with a mouthful of nautical heaven muffling his words but adding gravitas to his obvious epicurean wonder.
The second time I went to Kap’s this past week, I took my beloved wife along. She went for the Nuevo Mexicano cuisine; I went for diner food. She reported the green chile available at Kap’s as part of their green chile enchilada plate ($8.25) had a real summertime sting to it. She said it tastes just like it came straight outta the garden of Eden—it was hot, heavenly and very possibly sinful in quantity, effect and presentation.
Meanwhile, I indulged in the biscuits and gravy plate ($6.95), a sentimental move that turned out to be both eye-opening and belly-filling. As my heaping helping of steaming vittles approached the table, my partner asked me why I hadn’t ordered something more New Mexican than that.
At that moment I envisioned my father, sitting in a diner in Bakersfield in 1971. Glen Campbell was singing something about Galveston in the background. As his server approached, the sailor grabbed a bottle of Tabasco sauce from the table and went to work, saying to me in the process, “Don’t worry, it’s kind of like red chile, but from the Southern lands, sabes?
I awoke from that brief reverie, smiled at my sweetie, hauled over a bottle of Tabasco sauce from the next table and dug into one of the crispiest, creamiest, meat-laden meals I had been served in many a day.
On the way out my wife said, “Wow that was something.” I burped loudly in the parking lot and gravely intoned, “Well, I like to eat.”
If this had been a story, then the closing theme to The Beverly Hillbillies would have begun to play at that very moment. It wasn’t though and instead I went home and began to write.
5801 Central Ave NE
Hours: Mon-Sun: 7am-3pm