El Paso has Chico’s Tacos. Juarez has tortas de cola de pavo. Turkey tail sandwiches.
Of course you can only get Chico’s tacos at Chico’s Tacos, even though facsimiles are widely available. In Juarez, tortas de cola de pavo are everywhere.
Well, not everywhere. You can’t order tortas de cola de pavo at the Kentucky Club, or Martino, or Ardeo, or La Esquina de Chihuas, or any of the steakhouses or taco joints that dot the city like freckles on a redhead. But if you looking for tortas de cola de pavo in downtown Juarez, they’re not hard to find.
I found mine at No Te Levantes Honey, a hot sandwich shop that opened in 1962, located close to where Mariscal and Melchor Ocampo converge close to the Paso del Norte bridge.
No Te Levantes Honey does a brisk business, with patrons lining up outside the door to pass through the ordering line, waiting by the counter while the cooks on the other side work the grill. The inside is clean, with brown ceramic tile on the floor and wainscoting, and a lighter shade reaching the ceiling.
It’s nicer on the inside than I expected from the outside.
Sandwich meats are cooked on a griddle in the open kitchen, a la Wolfgang Puck, while waiting customers stand at the counter that separates the kitchen from the dining area.
The colas de pavo at No Te Levantes Honey are served minced on a francesito, with or without fresh jalapeños.
In the downtown meat shops further south, the turkey tails are whole, and usually dyed an unnatural red.
The word on the street (literally, I heard it from Tony who runs a used book kiosk on Avenida Juarez) is that these days the colas comes pre-minced from the United States. Of course. Whole turkey tails leave space between them, and chopping them up makes logistical sense. Why ship air when you can eliminate the gaps with by mincing meat stateside?
Statista.com says that in 2020, Mexico received 67.8% of the United States’ turkey exports. “In 2019, the volume of turkey exported from the U.S. amounted to about 639 million pounds based on a carcass weight equivalent.”
That’s a lot of turkey.
Oddly, I never see turkey sold in Mexico. Except for colas de pavo.
Do you imagine Mexico is buying 639 million pounds of turkey tails?
They’re everywhere. Or almost everywhere. Street food, from sidewalk vendors with mobile carts, to the little storefronts on street corners downtown. And in some of your better fast food joints.
Like No Te Levantes Honey.