Thursday, October 9, 2008

Progesso Tamale Parlor

The Progresso Tamale Parlor on Third Street is definitely a part of Hollister’s history. It has been around since 1939. For many old-time and once-upon-a-time locals, it is the restaurant to go to for Mexican food. For me, it was the first sit-down restaurant that I ever dined at. I was probably in sixth or seventh grade. My brother was taking my parents and me out—his first treat, of many.

Being a rather shy kid who stressed out when in public, I don’t remember much of that first restaurant outing, other than small tables, night fall, and lights that reminded me of Christmas (maybe it was around Christmas). Last Saturday, after a fun day at the county fair, Dick and I decided we’d eat at Progresso. All I can say is: What took me so long (over 40 years) to go back to eat there?

Right off, we got a basket of chips and salsa. My first chip was a flour one. Nice surprise. Never had that before. Several chips later, I came across a corn one. How cool to have both. The salsa had just the right amount of heat.

I ordered the chile relleno dinner, one of my standards for testing out new restaurants. The dinner came with rice, beans (refried or whole), and either salad or soup. The choice that night was cactus soup. Dick’s order was a combination of chile relleno, cheese enchilada, and beef taco. A lot of food, but he managed to polish all but a bit of rice.

The cactus soup was double yummy. The beef broth was rich and tasty with cactus bits in every spoonful. I’ll be sure to have that again. The refried beans were the kind I like. Thick and flavorable. They would be perfect to wrap in a tortilla and then deep-fry. I don’t normally like the rice that comes with a Mexican meal. It usually tastes bland and I think it shouldn’t because it’s red. Progresso's rice was yummy. To top it off, the cook had put a black olive on top of the rice. That made me feel warm and comforted. Black olives were treats when I was a kid, and my Auntie Virginia always put black olives in her tamales.

The chile relleno was mild, did not ooze of cheese, and tasted more of the egg batter than the chile itself. The dark sauce, my favorite part, reminded me of my Aunt Virginia’s cooking. The chile relleno was not one of the best ones I’ve ever eaten, but I would order it again if I’m in the mood for a chile relleno when I’m at Progresso.

Yup. I’ll be going there again, and I won’t wait another 40 years to do so. I have heard raves about their tamales for years. That’s next up to try.

Be sure to check out the Progresso web site. Along with seeing a menu and reading about its history, the owners posts recipes for tamales and other foods.

For another Hollister restaurant review, check out: Happy Cafe.

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