Mexican Breakfast at Merida

Merida on Navigation has a sign hanging outside the restaurant these days, advertising its new breakfast specials. I had thought that Merida always served breakfast, but stopped in last weekend anyway to check out the "new" stuff.

In honor of Rodeo season, all of the waitstaff were wearing their somewhat matchy-matchy rodeo finest on that early Saturday morning. The effect was one of being served by a Tejano version of the Partridge family. It was a gleefully disorienting sight before my first cup of coffee.

I didn't see any "new" stuff on the menu, however, so my friend and I went for some old classics: migas and huevos moltuleños, with a Route 66-size glass of jamaica (if the caffeine in the coffee won't wake me up, the sugar rush from the jamaica always does the trick).

The waitress was very sweet, but kept forgetting to bring my sweet, sweet sugar water jamaica. Each time she came by the table, I'd ask for it again, she'd apologize and then bustle off, presumably to retrieve it. "What's the deal with the jamaica?" I finally asked my friend, more of a rhetorical question than anything. "She remembers everything else!"

"It's because you're white," he replied, half-joking. "That's a weird thing for you to order."

Annoyed at this idea, I ignored him and plowed into my huevos moltuleños when they arrived. The black beans served in a scoop on the side would have been better were they actually under the fried eggs, and the chorizo had a funny, slightly metallic taste to it. I pushed stuff around on my plate, disappointed at what I'd hoped would be a filling meal.

Even the flour tortillas were overly thick and chewy. I ate them anyway, dipping them into egg yolk and salsa to moisten them a bit. My jamaica finally arrived and I took huge gulps of it, washing down the lumps of tortilla.

I took a bite of my friend's migas; they were much better, tasting just like my dad used to cook up at home on the weekends. But they needed something.

"Ketchup," I told my friend. "They need ketchup."

He laughed. "God, you are white."

I countered, "You put ketchup all over your tamales and you're Mexican."

He blushed slightly. "Well, all right, yeah." It's a grand tradition here in Tex-Mex land: ketchup in place of salsa, just like ketchup was used in place of marinara sauce where Italians and/or folks trying to emulate Italian food couldn't afford or obtain the correct sauce. Hey, it's got tomatoes in it, right? It's all the same...

The two of us can't be the only ones who grew up using ketchup in place of salsa here in Texas. And from the taste of the homespun, divey, all-day breakfast at Merida, I'm willing to bet they use ketchup from time to time there too. I just wasn't going to ask for it.

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Katharine Shilcutt