It’s gray. It’s big. It’s blindingly shiny. It’s Señor and Señora Muñoz’s Che Tango Argentinean/Italian fusion trattoria — also known as the desolate food cart outside the Osborne Memorial Laboratories on Science Hill.
Antonio and María Muñoz are Argentinean immigrants. They moved from the city of Mendoza to New Haven about 10 years ago but established Che Tango only recently, in December 2008.
Unlike Pad Thai and Thai Taste, the Che Tango cart has no corresponding restaurant. Che Tango is just a cart, “and that’s how it’s going to be for a while,” María Muñoz said.
Naomi Chou ’12, my second palate, accompanied me on this culinary quest. We were determined to taste as many Argentine-Italian dishes as our appetites would allow. A skipped breakfast and no smoked cigarettes into the day, we were there. Che Tango, Che Destiny.
First impression: bleh. It was 12:40 p.m. and the cart had no one in line. At least it was not exuding potentially lethal fumes right on our faces.
“They don’t look very fit,” Naomi said. “Their food must be good.”
Determined, I approached the cart. To be honest, even after I was close enough to read the menu I was not expecting Argentinean or “Argentine-Italian” gastronomy. I judged the contents of the menu and the faces of the vendors, and I was ready for Mexican — though I’m only allowed to say that because I’m Venezuelan.
We ordered two plates (chicken BBQ and pulled pork), a chicken bacon sub and an empanada. Common factor: meat. Conclusion: no vegetarian option — at least not a legible one in their chalkboard menu. Although I’m sure Señora Muñoz would have spared me the flesh had I asked her. Verdict: I don’t care. I eat meat. Naomi eats meat.
When it came to beverages, there weren’t that many options either. On the other hand, kudos to Señor and Señora Muñoz: no other cart offers warm drinks. In addition to water and three different kinds of soda, Che Tango has hot “coco[a].”
“I want hot cocoa!” Naomi said, “please?” she added, as I looked at her in disbelief.
It was $1, so I complied.
And then I realized something. As my food was being prepared in the tiny kitchen inside the establishment, I realized that I was only going to pay $21 for the entire meal. That is: four items of food, two bottles of water and a cup of hot cocoa.
Then I turned around and saw another sign: “Breakfast $3.” Apparently, in Argentina/Italy breakfast means coffee, bacon, sausage, ham AND cheese. In Che Tango that’s worth three bucks. The best part is that it’s South American coffee that surely kicks Willoughby’s, Starbucks and Blue State’s fair trade ass.
Back to the food: more bleh. It wasn’t sensational. It wasn’t terrible. I can tell that’s what María Muñoz makes Antonio Muñoz Jr. for lunch, which is sweet and makes me feel like a bad person for writing this. At the same time, I can’t imagine why anyone would pay for a plate of rice with vegetables and pulled pork. We already have “Pork Fried Rice” in the dining halls.
I have no idea why my chicken BBQ had carrots. I also ignore the fact that the beef empanada had what seemed to be egg inside. But one thing’s for sure: Next time I go back to the self-proclaimed food fair between SOM and OML, I’m getting breakfast at Che Tango.