(BlatherMunch is our Sunday foodish respite from political bias, media dish, snotty intenuendo, and liberal glee. For more essays on food & dining click here or 'BlatherMunch' in Categories).
3829 S. Edmunds St.
Villa Victoria was once a Madrona neighborhood gem, known only to the neighbors, the slavering critics, and to foodies who flocked from wherever it is foodies hang when they're not eating on something.
It was a little take-out window through which was pushed food that was unexpectedly good, and unusually Mexican, a sort of creole with tortillas. You know -- burritos with collards.
That's because owner Naomi Andrade Smith is Afro-Mexican, and descendant of freed slaves who escaped the injustice of the American South by emigrating near the Mexican Gulf city of Tampico.
The daily changing menu items are unusual and ready to be microwaved, the traditional cooking method of the post-Columbian (City) peoples.
This ain't Tex-Mex. Her food's got more color, bananas, and the beans are the black tropical kind. There is the whole roast chicken adobo; or chicken tamales with with Oaxacan molé or cheese/jalapeno. There are meat-and-bean burritos; rice, black beans and spicy collard greens; or caramelized beef with red mole; caremelized plantains; and cotija and salsa negra, a Veracruz-style mixture of chipotle peppers and garlic.
She's famous for empanadas are filled with cinnamon-scented beef and raisins.
It's a feast with dishes and ingredients that cross a lot of borders.
At the onset of the Jim Crow era around 1910, Smith's family started relocating to Mexico. There was plenty of work there with oil fields, mines and ranching -- and most important: opportunities to own more than 40 acres and a mule and to prosper without worrying about segregated toilets, fried pies, and flaming rednecks wearing bed sheets.
The Smith clan became ranchers, and retailers, cowboys, bakers, and candlestick makers in the much less racialized environment and therefore a very different economic reality than did their family left back in Oklahoma and Texas.
Smith's parents (her mother has no African blood and is from Michoacán) moved to Southern California after WWII where Naomi was raised speaking Spanish,sand English, and eating tortillas and collard greens.
She traveled to Tampico a few years ago on a familial anthropological expedition.There she met an old man with the Smith name, the spitting image of pictures she had of her grandfather.
"I found family, she says, "we didn't know we had."
Villa Victoria reflects Naomi Smith's diverse cultural roots, and even better for us, its a unique and tasty stop. "That these people, just up and left the unjustice situation they were, learning a new language changing their culture, I find an amazing story," she says.
For foodies only: Enjoy this brief video of a woman named Rosa chopping greens at Villa Victoria. (Warning: this is for the only rarefied foodish few who might enjoy a brief video of a woman named Rosa chopping greens.)