Sabor Latino, 2505 Central Avenue NE

My meager Spanish is clearly not up to the task of ordering at Sabor Latino. The menu is in Spanish, the kind server speaks little English. So I end up eating an anatomically intact fish with MANY bones. This presents a gastronomic challenge on several levels!

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As you can see by the photo, the mystery fish, which my daughter subsequently suggested may have been caught in Lake Harriet, is accompanied by fried plantain, beans, and rice. With the addition of a spicy green sauce, it all tastes pretty good. “Sabor”means flavor or taste, from the same root as “savor” and I’ll give a thumbs up the the flavors. However, my fish-related queasiness casts a bit of a pall over the dining experience.

By noon the place is hopping with diners, most of whom seem to know each other. Many happy greetings are exchanged, all in Spanish, so my ability to communicate and listen in is foiled. The space is long and narrow, with the kitchen area on one side, where there is also a counter for take out orders. Beer is available.

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The view from my booth. Door on left is the restroom.

The biggest excitement comes courtesy of two little girls, ages around 4 and 6, who lock themselves in the restroom. Their dad, realizing their dilemma, stands at the door, attempting, or so I imagine (again the language barrier) to coach them on how to deal with lock. After maybe 5 minutes, during which the father’s mounting frustration is apparent, the door opens and the girls emerge, smiling as if nothing adverse had occurred. Dad commences to address them in a tone suggestive of a gentle lecture on the dangers of locking oneself in a restroom without the requisite skills to complete the unlocking procedure.

Directly above the restroom door is a large television tuned to Telemundo coverage of the world soccer tournament. No game was in progress, but I am treated to many scenes of celebrating fans, mariachi bands, and dancers, which are interspersed with the ubiquitous trio of commentators common to all sports broadcasts.

After lunch I head next door to Holy Land Deli, the site of our next dining adventure, to pick up some of their marvelous fresh pita from which I will construct pita pizza for a family dinner this evening.

Will I return to Sabor Latino? Probably not. Would I discourage you from dining there? Definitely not. Just bring your favorite interpreter and contemplate the wonders of living in a community with such marvelous diversity!

Sen Yai Sen Lek, 2422 Central Avenue NE

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Sen Yai Sen Lek means “Big Noodle, Little Noodle”. Cute. My personal noodle envisioned lunch at Costa Blanca Bistro, the next dining enterprise as we head up Central. But no. A sign on the door informs me that they open at 4 p.m. So much for lunch there! Fortunately, about 10 steps north one walks into the inviting atmosphere of Sen Yai Sen Lek. We (yes, for the first time on this adventure I have a lunching partner, long-time friend and former neighbor Janet who defected to the Pacific Northwest nearly a decade ago) choose the high-top table by a large window fully open to the sidewalk.

Open air dining at its best.

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Janet waits for lunch. Note my bag on the right. Mid-meal I rescue it from an elbow-induced near-fall out the window.

Our server told of us the lunch menu. For $12.99 one can order from a selection of Thai dishes. The special includes a choice of teas or Thai Iced Coffee. Easy choice on the beverage. If you haven’t had Thai Iced Coffee, as much as I cringe at the “bucket list” concept, add this to yours. All the lunch menu items are available with a tofu option, and heat level warnings are included. Janet selects the Pad Pad Taohoo (vegetables and tofu), and I choose Pad Bai Gra Pow, never before having eaten a Thai dish topped with a fried egg. Both are excellent. And I need to give props to the server, who is conspicuously gracious and helpful.

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Pad Bai Gro Pow, with a crisp egg drooping over tofu, green beans, onions, chilies, and holy basil. Spicy good!

Sen Yai Sen Lek fills up with a diverse crowd of diners as the noon hour approaches and passes. This being my first accompanied “blog lunch” I observe that I observe less of the atmosphere and people. What one gains from the great pleasure of dining with a friend, one loses in present-moment awareness of surroundings.

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Street view from the window seat. Khao Hom Thai is just kitty-corner across Central.

Towards the end of the meal, my work phone rings with a call to immediate duty for support to a hospice family whose loved one had just died. Over my years of providing spiritual counseling to hospice patients and their families,  many people have commented on how difficult or depressing such work must be. It is neither.

We are all going to die. Some will go suddenly from a heart attack or stroke, others will linger with dementia or another debilitating disease, some will “battle” cancer. The choice is ours only insofar as we take care of ourselves physically, emotionally, and spiritually while we still have time. Hospice teams make it possible for people to pass with dignity and comfort. Their families have the support to help them come to terms with the reality that is facing their loved one, and also assistance in the tremendously challenging job of caregiving. I love being involved in this respectful process, and am humbled by the trust people show as we are invited into their homes and their lives.

One thing I have learned–joy cannot co-exist with fear.

Until next week from Sabor Latino!