From the menu at Reposado restaurant in Palo Alto, under PLATOS TRADICIONALES:

Adobo marinated grilled hanger steak [flap steak on the current menu], goat’s eye bean chile relleno, cactus tomato salad, arbol chile demi-glace


(Photo by diner Chris S.)

Later I’ll get to adobo; hanger and flap steak; goat’s eye beans; the chile relleno; and árbol chiles. My focus here is on a la parrilla, a designation I’d seen before on menus at Mexican restaurants but never thought about as anything other than an arbitrary name. But it’s not; it means ‘(charcoal) grilled’.

A parrilla is a (barbecue) grate (in another use, it refers to a grillroom, grill bar, or steak restaurant). So carne a la parrilla is meat grilled on a grate over hot coals. Alternatives would be carne a la brasa (a brasa is a live or hot coal), with the meat suspended (on a spit, say) over the coals; or carne a la plancha (a plancha is a plank or plate), with the meat on a metal plate over the coals.

Note: carne is ‘meat’ (rather than fish, shellfish, or vegetables, though they too can be grilled), but ordinarily it would be taken to refer specifically to animal meat (rather than poultry meat, though it they too can be grilled), and in fact specifically to the prototypical animal meat, that is, beef (rather than pork or rabbit etc., though they too can be grilled), and specifically to the prototypical cut of beef for grilling, a steak (rather than, say, a roast or ribs, though they too can be grilled). So carne a la parrilla is a grilled beef steak.

For other grillings, there are more specific names:

conejo a la parrilla ‘grilled rabbit’
cerdo/puerco a la parrilla ‘grilled pork’
pollo a la parrilla ‘grilled chicken’
pescado a la parrilla ‘grilled fish’
camarones a la parrilla ‘grilled shrimp’

Note: there doesn’t seem to be a prototypical fish for eating, so menus in English will offer pescado a la parrilla, but then specify the type of fish. Similarly, the Reposado menu offers pescado a la cazuela, and then tells us that the fish in question is red snapper. (The cazuela here is a cooking pot, and in various countries a dish a la cazuela is a soup or stew. The Mexican use is harder to pin down; sometimes it refers to something served in a broth, other times, as in the dish at Reposado, something with a sauce or gravy: the fish has an ancho and olive oil sauce.)

On to other items in the entry for carne a la parrilla.

adobo.We start with the verb adobar ‘to marinate’ and the related activity noun adobo ‘marinating, marination’. The Wikipedia entry for adobo is more than a little confused about parts of speech, but it’s reasonable for it to start with the description of a cultural practice,

the immersion of raw food in a stock (or sauce) composed variously of paprika, oregano, salt, garlic, and vinegar to preserve and enhance its flavor.

… The practice is native to Iberia, namely Spanish cuisine and Portuguese cuisine. It was widely adopted in Latin America and other Spanish and Portuguese colonies, including the Azores and Madeira.

In the Philippines, the name adobo was given by the Spanish colonists to an indigenous cooking method that also uses vinegar, which although superficially similar had developed independent of Spanish influence.

From there we get to a concrete noun adobo that refers to

a marinade or seasoning mix. Recipes vary widely by region: Puerto Rican adobo, a rub used principally on meats, differs greatly from the Mexican variety.

This is the adobo in the menu entry. First, a mixture of herbs and powdered chiles (“dry adobo“) used as a seasoning (you can make your own, or buy a commercial mix), then combined with vinegar to make a marinade.

Steaks. Two Wikipedia entries, for hanger steak:

A hanger steak is a cut of beef steak from the plate [the front belly] prized for its flavor. Derived from the diaphragm of a steer or heifer, it typically weighs about 1.0 to 1.5 lb (450 to 675 g). In the past, it was sometimes known as “butcher’s steak” because butchers would often keep it for themselves rather than offer it for sale.

Hanger steak resembles flank steak in texture and flavor. It is a vaguely V-shaped pair of muscles with a long, inedible membrane down the middle. The hanger steak is usually the most tender cut on an animal and is best marinated and cooked quickly over high heat (grilled or broiled) and served rare or medium rare, to avoid toughness.

Anatomically, the hanger steak is said to “hang” from the diaphragm of the steer.

and for flap steak:

Flap steak, or Flap meat … is a beef steak cut. It comes from a bottom sirloin butt cut of beef, and is generally a very thin steak. The flap steak is sometimes confused with hanger steak … as they both are thin.

Goat’s eye beans. This starts with the Spanish name ojo de cabra beans for a variety of heirloom beans favored in Mexican cooking. Translated into English as eye of the goat beans and widely sold under that name by seed companies and (as dried beans, see below) by culinary sources.


The beans in #1 look a lot like black-eyed peas rather than proper eye of the goat beans. From Wikipedia:

The black-eyed pea or black-eyed bean, a legume, is a subspecies of the cowpea, grown around the world for its medium-sized, edible bean.

The common commercial one is called the California Blackeye; it is pale-colored with a prominent black spot.


In the South there are literally countless varieties, many of them heirloom, that vary in size from the small lady peas to very large ones, as may be seen in the state and municipal farmers’ markets. The color of the eye may be black, brown, red, pink or green. All the peas are green when freshly shelled and brown or buff when dried.

… Other beans of somewhat similar appearance, such as the frijol ojo de cabra (goat’s eye bean) of northern Mexico, are sometimes incorrectly called black-eyed peas, and vice versa.

Chile relleno. From Wikipedia:

The chile relleno (… literally “stuffed chile”) is a dish of Mexican cuisine that originated in the city of Puebla. It consists of a stuffed, roasted, fresh poblano pepper (a mild chili pepper named after the city of Puebla), sometimes substituted with a non-traditional Hatch chile, Anaheim, pasilla or even jalapeño chili pepper. In its earliest incarnations, it was described as a “green chile pepper stuffed with minced meat and coated with eggs”. In current cuisine, it is typically stuffed with melted cheese, such as queso Chihuahua or queso Oaxaca or with picadillo meat made of diced pork, raisins and nuts, seasoned with canella; covered in an egg batter or simply corn masa flour and fried.

The chile relleno in #1 is certainly non-standard. Composed of several kinds of beans, fresh corn kernels, and more, and not coated and fried.

árbol chiles. In the demi-glace. From Wikipedia:

The Chile de árbol (Spanish for tree chili) is a small and potent Mexican chili pepper also known as bird’s beak chile and rat’s tail chile. These chilis are about 5 to 7.5 cm (2.0 to 3.0 in) long, and 0.65 to 1 cm (0.26 to 0.39 in) in diameter. Their heat index is between 15,000 – 30,000 Scoville units. The peppers start out green and turn a bright red color as they mature. Chile de árbol peppers can be found fresh, dried, or powdered.


[added 10/4/15: I had the Reposado item yesterday. The chile relleno was in fact a big pobano pepper stuffed with stuff (not the unpacked item in the photo), but the stuff was quinoa and what were clearly black-eyed peas. Yes, the details will vary from time to time.                                                     ]

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