In early November I had the opportunity to eat at Barrunda's in Marfa, Texas while on the road to Terlingua to cook in the International Chili Cook Off. I had read about this place in Robb Walsh's recent Tex-Mex cook book, and, along with my travelling companions, was eager to take a meal break here for some of the featured enchiladas.
Barrundas is currently housed in a pre fab steel building that looks more like a biker bar than old school Tex Mex joint, and on Thursday night the four of us had the place to ourselves. We declared our quest for enchiladas at an end when the waitress informed us that they were only served on Friday. Que Lastima!! She apologized and suggested a nacho platter for an appetizer which turned out to be magnificent. Nothing unexpected, typical nachos, but all of the ingredients were very fresh, all of the components really sang. I can recall thinking of the shredded lettuce on top that this is what lettuce is supposed to taste like.
As we resigned ourselves to the enchilada disaster and looked over the rest of the menu, Pancho Barrunda himself came over to introduce himself and chat. He seemed very pleased that we had read the Walsh book, and was eager to discuss the restaurant, his family, (who have been running the place since the 30s), as well as chili, football, BBQ, etc. He apologized about the enchiladas and said he'd only been serving them on Fridays for a while as the sauce is very labor intensive. We forgave him completely when our entrees arrived. Barrundas features a rolled chicken taco that is stuffed, rolled then fried. These were very good, perfectly fried and crispy without being greasy in the slightest. The brisket tacos were, to me, the true test of excellence. I feared the typical dry, tough, boiled tastless kind of beef typical in to many burritos and tacos. Wrong, wrong, wrong. Extremely succulent meat that was tender, and loaded with flavor.
During our meal we also asked for a bowl of chile verde share among us. This was surprisingly mild, but loaded with flavor with chunks of potatoes and pork. Pancho also brought out a bowl of the salsa that his family makes and uses at home after he saw us scarfing up the table salsa that really had a nice bright heat. He advised us to try just a little as "anglos" usually don't like things too hot, but we seemed to be enjoying the heat of the other. He brought enough to fill a coffee cup about 2/3 of the way. We didn't leave a drop. It was very spicy, but the burn didn't linger for too long, and again it was full of very fresh ingredients.
As we paid our tab ($35 for about 8 beers, nachos, 3 entrees, and the chili) Pancho brought us a dozen tamales to take with us. He apologized again about the enchiladas and told us the tamales were made with some of the same sauce. We heated them for breakfast the morning of the cook off, and they were great and lend some South Western authenticity to our eggs and sausage.
Barrundas was a truly wonderful experience, and I personally recommend it as first class road food if you ever find yourself hungry in Marfa.
Vayo con Queso