Rating: * * * *
Every system has that unique jewel of a restaurant that all the locals rave about, spacers tell their friends about, and reporters like me get messages about over the Spectrum. Now I'm a particular sort when it comes to places I go to when I'm traveling from system to system, because you can get a good meal anywhere but there are certain things l look for: it can't be a chain, it must be a place where the locals go, and the prices must be reasonable. After all, you can go to Stanton, Terra or even Croshaw and get some damn fine meals but they may make your bank account cry, or they are for off world folks who are just visiting. The real gems are those that deep space haulers stop at between offloading cargo, refueling, or on long planet side layovers. I got interested in these spots when I was doing a 15 system tour across UEE space with a Starfarer crew a few years back. Between jobs we'd only have a few hours dirt side so we'd look for something quick and local to chew on before we go under way again. Sometimes the best thing we could find was a local branch of Terra Burger, and other times one of us would spent the next leg of the trip glued to the toilet. Every once and a while though we'd get a tip from the ground crews of a spot that they go to for lunch that would completely blow us away.
There were spots like that on Saisei where you can get a damn fine spicy hand roll and a beer for practically a song, or on Cassel where you can get a hot and fresh pizza delivered to you once your ship touched down, but there will always be a special place in my heart (and stomach) for Pedro's on Terra. Located outside the main spaceport in Terra's capital city, Prime, Pedro's is built out of an old hydroponics dome, giving guests an unimpeded view of space traffic at the port. I got a chance to sit down with the current owner, Manny, the son of the original Pedro who had founded the eatery after he served his time in the UEE fleet.
"Well, Pop always told me that when he was serving on a UEE cruiser that the cooks didn't know the difference between eggs over easy and chipped beef on toast. So after his service term was up he used the money he had saved and bought this old dome so he could watch the ships going back and forth. He figured that most spacers were in the same boat as he was; spending most of their days with protein ration packs and freeze dried, unidentifiable food stuffs. Our family has a long tradition of cooking going back to our roots in early California, on Earth, so Pop decided to open up a restaurant and teach these greasy space monkeys what food really is (chuckle)."
The menu at Pedro's is a mix of old world slow simmered sauces, pit roasted meats and Terra style odd couple matches that just work so well. It's not unusual to order a plate of Huevos rancheros served with a Naan bread instead of tortillas and curry spiced rice, or tacos filled with poached Thorshu Grey crab meat and Banu glitt spice. The most famous dish on the menu is the legendary extra spicy combo, known as the Madre del Diablo.
"Well, once Pop retired I took up the spatula and started to experiment with spices and chilis, being a bit of a fire eater myself. I ended up making a spice rub and a sauce that was so hot it just made my eyes water thinking about it. One of the local haulers that came in regularly saw me testing them one day and some how convinced me to make a plate for him with both. I swear to you he turned bright red and looked like he was going to hit melt down stage, but he just wiped his brow, smiled and ordered a beer to cool the flames down with."
Among long haul spacers the 'Madre' as they call it, has become a minor legend. One of the classic hazing rituals is to have a rookie hauler scarf one down after their first successful out of system hauling run. Most don't finish it, but those who do earn their picture on Pedro's 'Reactor Meltdown Club' wall. So far only about 72 people have made the club, but there are always new challengers who step up and try their luck.
Back in the kitchen Manny showed me what makes up this radioactive gut buster. "We start with a homemade sopa, topped with barbicoa that we dry rub with our secret spice blend and then roast for 6 hours in our smoker. We top that with our red 'Madre' sauce made from, well, let's say it's a cultivar of the Naga we grow ourselves, some cojita cheese, and pickled red onion. Next we'll make a taco with free range Terran lowland hen, breast meat of course, that we slow simmer in the 'Madre' sauce, topped with a chili lime slaw, and fresh avacado. Lastly we do a carnitas tamale that we mixed with roasted habenero peppers and sweet corn, and give a generous ladle of the 'Madre' sauce. Serve with black beans, our sweet chili rice, and a side of yogurt, mango and cilantro salsa we call 'reactor coolant'."
Manny let me try a toothpick tip of the sauce, and just getting it near my nose cleared my sinuses down to my toes. However once I got past the initial burn, with help from a glass of cold milk, I could appreciate the sweet notes along with a low, smokey under tone from it that made me think of a weekend bar-b-Que. When asked if I'd like a second taste, I politely declined, causing Manny to laugh a bit. Apparently that's a common reaction from most sane people, he told me. He even has a waiver made up for anyone that orders this plate stating that they will not hold Pedro's accountable for bowel discomfort once they leave the premise. Apparently after 3-6 hours it feels like the equivalent of doing an anti-matter reactor flush through your colon; screaming may or may not be involved.
Because Pedro's caters to the cargo hauler crowd it is open all hours and it's not unusual to see someone ordering breakfast in the late evening, or a plate of his famous 'street flair tacos' shortly before dawn. What you can expect is a damn good cup of coffee, cold beer on tap, and a home-style meal while you wait for your ship to be loaded/unloaded, or for carry out if you are in a rush. If you bring in your own thermos they will even give you a fill up for when you are on your next run; unfortunately they won't do the same if you ask for beer.
The current hot seller is the Thorshu Grey crab tacos, at least until the end of the season. Pedro whipped me up a plate of these beauties, which I must admit are pretty damn good. After poaching the crabs they get shelled, cleaned, tossed lightly in Banu glitt spice and a twist of lime, then wrapped in corn tortillas with his chili lime slaw and cucumber mango salsa. These border on ambrosia for the pallet, with the sweetness of the mango salsa, and the tangy bite of the slaw blending perfectly with the low earthy flavor of the glitt spice and a tender Thorshu grey meat. Toss back one of Pedro's locally brew beers and take in the sun through the dome and you'd swear you were on vacation at some beach resort.
I know that with all the traveling I do there is one spot I always return to when I come to Terra. After going through customs I make course for Pedro's, get a cold beer, some hot food, and sit back and watch the ships passing in the sky.
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