16 Feb 2014
When I moved to Austin, one of the first local quirks I was exposed to was the cult of the breakfast taco. Austin is full of Tex-Mex (queso is probably the second most popular religion of Latin American origin), but breakfast tacos are special in that, like pizza, there is pretty much no inappropriate time for one nor any such thing as a bad one. There are really, really good ones, however, and I was lucky in that some of the best were made right down the street from my apartment.
Nueva Onda's breakfast tacos were made with a generously long list of ingredients ranging from things you might eat for breakfast in Mexico to things you might eat for breakfast in Texas to things you might eat for breakfast if you were part of the massive influx of people moving to Austin from the west coast of the US every day. The variety was a factor in the appeal, but for me the salsa was what clenched it. I will do almost anything for good salsa.
It might seem odd that my loyalty toward Neuva Onda only increased when their salsa began having problems. Even Saturday and Sunday morning I looked forward to those tacos, and a new, weird fishy flavor in the salsa was ruining my weekends. Because I badly wanted to give my continued business to Nueva Onda, I let them know. When they insisted the recipe hadn't changed and it must be a fluke, but the salsa stayed fishy, I insisted there was a problem. I got involved in debugging the salsa, testing different batches and giving the kind of feedback only a true fan usually has the patience for.
You'll be glad to know the salsa issue got sorted out. But shortly thereafter Nueva Onda lost their lease, and they've been closed since.
Initially I was really broken up about this, which might seem silly in a city as full of breakfast tacos as this one, and given that my favorite thing about the place–the salsa–had been screwed up for a not insignificant percentage of the time I'd been a patron. It's not silly, though. It's rare that we truly interact with a business or product in a completely unemotional way. Spending our time or money is still an investment, even if it's something as trivial as a couple of tacos. We care about the things we choose, we need to feel they are deserving of our choice and that the choices we make are correct ones. It's more obvious when we interact with a business or product repeatedly, when we begin to weave it into our routine and think of it as our own.
Nueva Onda was very much my taco place. Not really, though. They closed even though I didn't want them to, and there was nothing my devoted patronage was going to do to keep them open any longer. And it's funny. Four years or so later I have a new taco place. It's also my taco place. They have the world's best salsa. I would be distraught if it were taken away from me and my routine would be ruined.
I'm not a professional chef, though. I can't buy a salsa recipe so it remains available to people who love it. I'm not a landlord with a storefront to offer businesses I love, or an investor with piles of money to bankroll them. The things I'm able to create are different things, websites, and even those I don't get to ultimately determine the fate of. It sucks sometimes, but most of the things we invest our time or money in, if we don't own them, are things we are lucky to have while they last. If they disappear, someone who does own them will certainly feel it a lot more acutely than we ever will. And, disloyal as it may seem, we who've invested so much less will move on. We'll forget. We'll find a new taco place.