Hats off once again to Barry Popick’s food history Web site. It was while reading the “huarache” etymology on Popick’s blog that I discovered that the restaurant I was reviewing this week, Stafford’s “Huarache Azteca Express,” was named after Mexico City’s “El Huarache Azteca,” a restaurant which was opened in 1938 by a woman named Carmen Gomez.
Carmen Gomez started out selling the oval-shaped masa boats called tlacoyos in a small eatery in Mexico City. Tlacoyos earned the nickname “huaraches” because of their resemblance to the thick soles of sandals. When Señora Gomez relocated her new restaurant, she called it by the catchy name, El Huarache Azteca. And instead of calling her speciality “tlacoyos,” she started using the nickname “huaraches” on her menu.
Here’s another historic speculation: It may have been around the same time that huaraches first became thick-soled. Traditionally the sandals were made from plant material, later leather. But at some point in recent history (like around 1938?) pieces of used automobile tires became the preferred sole material and the sandal acquired a thicker bottom.
In 1958, El Azteca Huarache was relocated again due to highway construction and moved to its present location at Torno 154. El Azteca Huarache has become a Mexico City institution and now serves what is considered the definitive huarache. -- Robb Walsh