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Great Mexican morning: fantastic and cheap breakfast at McAllen, TX's El Pato

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I'm definitely not a traditional breakfast food person and neither is anyone in my family. Pancakes with whipped cream and syrups: you can keep it. When I do get up early in the morning -- and I try not to! -- I'm still crave brunch/savory food.

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That is why I was so happy to be hosted to experience El Pato, a local little quick-serve Mexican food chain in the McAllen, Texas/Rio Grande Valley area. El Pato opens at 6 am, with hearty food available!

I started with a barbecoa "pato", barbecoa rolled in a choice of flour or corn tortillas. I love the rich flavor of corn, so I ordered that. Barbecoa is cow's head meat: very, very rich and tender. I ordered it plain -- though I could have selected from a number of condiments -- to experience its flavor unadulterated. I learned that home cooks would also add tongue and sweetbreads to the mix. For $2.29, it's the gourmet steal of the century! Definitely keep a bunch of napkins on hand, because it's that juicy. It's so special! I wish El Pata was a national chain.

I had tried Menudo once before, at a Mexican restaurant in Hammond, Indiana. I liked it then, so I was excited to try it in McAllen, referred to as "The Tropics of Texas". The climate, palm trees, number of independently owned restaurants and its arts district make it a destination that will change your mind about Texas. Getting back to McAllen's food . . . their menudo -- seasoned beef tripe soup -- only comes in pint sizes and it was breakfast time. So, I ate it up! Add condiments like scallions, cilantro from the condiments bar. Their menudo has an authentic, slightly gamy flavor, but the heat is not overwhelming.

I also tried Migas, an egg and crushed tortilla dish. They come "Rancheros" (with sauce) or a la Mexicana (with chopped, fresh tomatoes). I tried a la Mexicana. If you've ever had matzobrei, this tastes exactly like it.

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