saltworks | serial eater

Sope: Mi Sabor Favorito

By Jason Frye

Take a seat, Taco Tuesday, a new alliterative dinner day that’ll tickle your taste buds is here: Sopes Saturdays. I declare that, henceforth, El sabor del sábado se sope.

Yes, Saturday’s flavor is sope.

Think of sopes as the out-of-town cousin to the tortilla. Both are made with masa — a tasty ground corn dough — but where the tortilla is flat and thin and pliable, the sope is a thick little cake with raised edges. Supposedly, those raised edges help keep the fillings and sauces from slopping out all over your shirt when you go to take a bite, but if you’re like me, you’ll forgo lifting your sope and eat it with a knife and fork (earning you the taqueria equivalent of going at a slice of New York pizza with a knife and fork: enduring disgusted looks from the fold-and-eat crowd around you), damn the stares and spare the shirt.

I had my first sope at La Tapatia (on College by the Harris Teeter and the vape shop, which I know describes the location of one-third of Wilmington, but what can you do?) a few years ago, and since that first bite, I’ve only varied my order twice (once for huevos rancheros and once for a huarache, a sandal-size sope that was a fascinating, but inferior, lunch choice).

That day, in a fit of boldness, I decided to veer away from my typical order of three tacos and go for one taco and two sopes. The way I figured it, if I didn’t like the sopes I only had to eat two, then I could end lunch with a taco, never a bad thing. I took one single knife-and-fork bite of my carnitas sope and told my wife that the extra taco I had was all hers, I was done for good with tacos. (Note: I cannot pass up a taco — unless sopes are an option — and we did have a taco bar at her birthday party in the fall, but I meant it when I said it, so that counts, right?)

She stared at me. Utter nonsense had just poured out of my mouth and a forkful of sope had gone right in. Who willingly gives someone their third taco? Not the man she married, that’s for certain, but here I was, foreswearing one of the greatest foods known to mankind, giving it up for something I’d eaten one solitary bite of.

I tried to explain, tried to say that the bottom of the sope was a little crispy from the grill; that the texture was toothsome and corny and delicious like if you doubled — no, tripled — your tortillas to make a gargantuan taco, but there was still a little pillowy softness inside; tried to explain that the pile of lettuce and the pile of meat and the splash of salsa and the crumble of cheese were the perfect commingling of salt, fat, acid and heat, the holy grail of what we crave.

But I couldn’t speak. I was chewing. In bliss I was chewing. I chewed with my eyes closed. I chewed fast and slow and never wanted it to end. So I ignored her unasked question. Ignored her look. Pretended no one in the restaurant was staring at the güero eating his sope with a knife and fork and making low sounds one doesn’t typically hear in a restaurant. I let it all fade away because, Dios mio, ese sope es perfección.

La Tapatia, 820 S. College Road, Wilmington; (910) 397-7707.

Jason Frye is a regular Salt contributor. You can keep track of what and where he eats by following him on Instagram: @beardedwriter.

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