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Blue Margaritas and Picadillo Sandwiches

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Picadillo is ground or minced seasoned meat. Colloquially, many of us refer to it as "taco meat" but picadillo is a more accurate term. Tacos can be filled with all kinds of stuff and picadillo can be used for much more than filling tortillas. The name comes from the Spanish word picar, which means "to mince."

Everyone who makes picadillo probably has their own recipe. The ingredients, proportions and seasoning can vary. A Cuban version might include raisins and sliced green olives, but the picadillo that most often shows up in Tex-Mex cuisine usually hold the line at tomatoes or tomato sauce, onions, peppers and spices.

El Real Tex-Mex is using it for a hearty, fun sandwich called the Taco Torta that is only available at happy hour between 3 and 7 p.m.. They put it on a toasted bun, drizzle it with queso, add crunchy Fritos, bean spread, lettuce and pico.

The result is an interesting North-Meets-South amalgam. It's as if the Midwest's beloved Maid-Rite loose meat sandwich headed to Houston and had a spicy epiphany.

(Many people have never seen a Maid-Rite. It's a small fast food chain found only in the Midwest. What's a Maid-Rite sandwich? Imagine a sloppy Joe without the sauce. Sadly, the chain seems to be diminishing. A Wikipedia entry says that 70 locations existed in 2006. There are only 46 locations on their web site today. Alton Brown visited one during his "Feasting On Asphalt" series.)

El Real's Taco Torta is super filling, too. It can be either dinner for one or a hearty snack for two. Now get this: it's only $4.95 at happy hour.

It's not the only new item likely to stir up some nostalgia. Other memories will well up from a source closer to home. El Real is paying homage to the Club No Minors blue margarita with its own rendition: the True Blue margarita. There's nothing too crazy going on with this $8.95 margarita. It's just a twist on the classic, the blue color coming from Curaçao, just as you might expect. I tried one on the rocks. It was strong but proved to be in balance, with sweet, cold and tart getting along just fine.

What if you have both the new items together? Well, maybe that could be called the El Real Adult Happy Meal. It beats the heck out of the other kind.

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