Monday, August 06, 2007

Travel Journal (20)--When in Sighnaghi, Eat at Pancho Villa's!

Pancho Villa's Restaurant has the best Mexican food in Sighnaghi. Let me re-phrase that. Pancho Villa's has the best Mexican food in Georgia. Let me re-phrase that again. Pancho Villa's has the only Mexican food in Georgia. On this tour, it sometimes seemed as though we went from one feast to the next. Even so, this meal stands out.

I can't exactly explain what a Mexican food cafe is doing in this remote, mountaintop village, with a view of Dhagistan in one direction, and Azerbaijan in the other. All I can say is that Shalva Mindorashvili, the owner, must be a man of rare genius. He teaches languages, works with liturgical renewal at Bodbe Monastery, is a co-founder of the Zedashe Ensemble, and is John Wurdeman's brother-in-law. And in his spare time, he opens a Mexican food cafe.

As a Texan, I am pretty serious about my Mexican cuisine. I had certainly enjoyed the food of Turkey and Georgia. But by this time, I was 18 days into my trip, and to see a table laden with Mexican-style dishes, chips, hot sauce, and pitchers of real Sangria...well, it brought tears of joy to my eyes!

Shalva Mindorashvili

A purist might quibble about whether this was true Mexican food or not. The "chips" were chewy rather than crispy and what looked like guacamole wasn't, but was a close approximation. But the salsa was spot on--as good as any in Texas. And a good hot sauce will cover a multitude of sins, you might say. A Mexican food cafe might be a tad ahead of the curve here, but my hat is off to Shalve, and I wish him all the success in the world.

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