When I really knew-- when I was sure of it-- was when she asked me if I wanted onions and cilantro. It was the way she asked. She was singing.
Onions and cilantro?
The same way David Spade sang, you want mint for pillow? through the motel room door in Tommy Boy.
This is happening a couple of years ago inside an old Taco Bell. Except It's not a Taco Bell anymore. It's a new mom and pop taqueria inside the old Taco Bell in Overland. Same fake stucco walls. Same cyan, magenta and lavender stripes. Same bolted down prison booths and tables. The bathrooms are still outside and around the back.
The service counter is still there, but the perfectly adorable Mexican grandmother behind it lilts for you to sit anywhere. She brings you a 32 ounce hard plastic soda cup of ice water, the menu, warm chips and smokey red salsa. Then you order and she sings your taco topping options.
Her serenade erases all doubt. You know for sure, your new favorite restaurant lives inside the shell of your ex-favorite restaurant.
Imagine a perfect world.
There is no war. No one is suffering. And instead of Taco Bell there is Taqueria La Pasadita.
You can pull off the interstate at just about any exit and get the best chorizo taco you've ever had for $1.89. The chorizo is vibrantly red, like the grilled pork at Pho Grand, and slightly crispy, like the edges of a burger at Carl's Drive In. Squeeze on a lime, and a squirt of bright, green salsa and prepare for lift off. Or, for $5.99 on your meal card, the Taqueria La Pasadita Express in your college lunch room sells an al pastor torta that will force you to rewrite your Favorite Sandwich List. Life is amazing.
We may not live in a perfect world, but at least we live in St. Louis.