Sunday, October 26, 2014

MOVIES THAT SUCK -- And Some That Should Have But Didn't!

MOVIES THAT SUCK approaches the art of film criticism from a unique and highly qualified
perspective – the author is an established independent filmmaker whose credits include at least one
feature motion picture that Linda Lovelace could have put her lips around. has called Robert Nowotny “the most dangerous cultural commentator in
captivity,” and this collection of film reviews and commentary is written with a shameless
sense of humor and an unbridled disregard for political correctness. Insightful, entertaining
and wickedly impertinent, this is a FUN read for anyone who loves the magic projected on a
silver screen.

MOVIES THAT SUCK is now available from in both a full-color printed edition and as a Kindle e-Book.

----- To order the full-color paperback edition, click on this link:

----- To order the Kindle eBook edition, click on this link:

Friday, September 27, 2013

THE SMACKDOWN -- Rush vs. Grand Prix

For my money there is nothing more viscerally exciting than Formula 1 auto racing. As you may know, F1 is defined by and regulated by the Federation Internationale de l'Automobile (FIA). The “formula” refers to the set of specific rules to which all teams must conform. The “1” stands for the undeniable fact that this is the most prestigious, most dangerous, most exciting form of motor sports in the world – period.

Unfortunately, F1 is relatively unknown in the United States due to the fact that there have been very few American drivers, with Mario Andretti, Phil Hill and Dan Gurney being the major exceptions. In addition, all of the exotic, immensely expensive cars are made overseas. This makes the USA about the only industrialized country in the world that doesn't feverishly follow the fame and fortune of such teams as Ferrari, McLaren and Williams. Then again, what would one expect from a country with the unmitigated gall to call a major sporting event “The World Series” when the only teams eligible to play are located within its borders? Thus, it is a bit surprising that American Directors and American Studios have, on occasion, risked millions in bringing F1 racing to the screen.

Our Challenger is Ron Howard's Rush, a highly publicized, ambitious production based on the true story of the 1976 F1 season and the bitter rivalry between the handsome playboy newcomer James Hunt (Chris Hemsworth) and established driver Niki Lauda (Daniel Bruhl), a past champion whose methodical approach to driving is in stark contrast to his British counterpart.

Setting the gold standard for all previous auto racing films is our Champion, Grand Prix, directed by the visionary John Frankenheimer. Set ten years earlier, Grand Prix follows a fictional set of characters during the 1967 F1 season focusing primarily on Pete Aron (James Garner) as a hard-charging American driver desperately seeking a comeback.

In a documentary about the making of Grand Prix a voice-over announcer states, “Because of the cost and complexity, it is unlikely that a film like this will ever be made again.” That statement held true for over 45 years. Can Ron Howard's brand new, true story Rush score the victory? Or does James Garner's fictional battle for the F1 Championship still possess the winning formula?

The Challenger

The closer you are to death, the more alive you feel.” This is the tagline for Rush, and there's no denying that dying in an F1 racing car in the 1970s was an all-too-common occurrence, with twelve drivers being killed that decade alone. Two-time Academy Award winning Director Ron Howard teams with two-time Academy Award winning Screenwriter Peter Morgan to present a spectacular big-screen re-creation of the 1976 F1 season, focusing on the sport's two leading drivers at the time and the sizzling trifecta representing the women in their lives -- Gemma (Natalie Dormer), a nurse who knows how to dispense medicine as well as formalities, Suzy Miller (Olivia Wilde), Hunt's drop-dead gorgeous first wife, and Marlene (Alexandra Maria Lara), Lauda's refined and faithful wife of 15 years, a soul mate who's loyalty and devotion to a difficult husband may only be equaled by Sharon Osbourne.

The events of this historic season reach a flash point, literally, with Lauda's horrific crash in the German Grand Prix at Nurburgring, leaving him with a severely burned face and lungs and extremely close to death. Confined to an intensive care room, Lauda watches Hunt as he continues to win and slowly challenge his once insurmountable lead for the season championship. Against all odds, Lauda makes an inspirational and astonishing return to racing which climaxes at the final rain-swept event in Japan.

Bolstered by the use of high-quality, compact digital cameras, Howard and Cinematographer Anthony Dod deliver heart-pounding action sequences that not only puts the audience in the stands, but in the race cars themselves. It's a hell of a ride, and the logistics of capturing all of this on the big screen was clearly a massive undertaking apparently requiring the combined skills of 6 Producers and 5 Co-Producers. Then again, Rush may have simply raised the bar for the further dilution of what once were meaningful screen credits. Credit issues aside, Rush is a powerful, engaging and highly entertaining movie.

 The Defending Champion

Oscar-winning Screenwriter (All That Jazz) Robert Alan Aurthur's fictional script focuses on the top four drivers during the 1967 F1 Season – both on and off the track. Behind the wheel we find Pete Aron (James Garner), an American who loses his ride, only to be hired for the final few races by a wealthy Japanese industrialist (Toshiro Mifune) who desperately wants his car to win its first F1 race. The reigning world champion is Jean-Pierre Sarti (Yves Montand), a Frenchman who is the leader of the legendary Scuderia Ferrari team. Providing additional competition is the Englishman Scott Stoddard (Brian Bedford) and young Nino Barlini, Sarti's teammate. Behind the bedroom door we find three beautiful, but dispassionate women – Louise Frederickson (Eva Marie Saint), a semi-frigid American journalist who gets involved with the married Sarti, Pat Stoddard (Jessica Walter), Scott's high maintenance, self-centered wife, and Lise (Francoise Hardy), Nino's latest nubile squeeze.

The tagline for Grand Prix was “Sweeps YOU into a drama of speed and spectacle!” Shot in 70 mm 6-track Super Panavision and released in Cinerama, Grand Prix is one film that truly utilized all of the state-of-the-art production techniques of the day. Sitting in front of a theater screen over 100 feet wide, the audience literally felt the exhilarating speed and the ear-shattering sounds of high revving, 400+ horse power engines. Next to being at an actual F1 race, Grand Prix comes as close as anything for the average person to “experience” the inherent danger present on every lap, every turn. (Of the 32 drivers who participated or were seen in the film, five died in racing accidents within the next two years and another five in the following ten years.)

The Scorecard

There are a number of ways to assess the merit of a motion picture project. In the case of these films two criteria are paramount for a winning formula: 1) Is the off-track storyline fully developed, engaging, well-acted and powerful enough to stand alone, sans any racing footage whatsoever? And 2) Do the racing scenes capture the inherent danger, the incredible speed, the earth-shattering sound, the complexity and the beauty of F1?

Rush has the advantage of being based on a true story. Niki Lauda, whose nickname was “The Rat” because of his ungainly appearance and bucked teeth, was, by all accounts, a cold, arrogant, calculating Austrian obsessed to be the best. He was clearly the exact opposite of the flamboyant Hunt, a highly charismatic, reckless playboy whose lifestyle included lots of booze, drugs and women (he is said to have had sexual relations with an NBA-worthy 5,000 young maidens before dying of a heart attack at the age of 45). These two bigger-than-life, divergent personalities, each desperately seeking to become the premier global name in F1 racing, are captured perfectly by the complex, insightful screenplay by Peter Morgan who has a history of pitting head-to-head real-life, powerful personalities, including the Howard-directed Frost/Nixon, as well as Blair/Brown in The Deal and Idi Amin/his doctor in The Last King Of Scotland.

Lauda and Hunt are compellingly portrayed by the remarkable Daniel Bruhl (in what some are already declaring to be an Oscar-worthy performance) and his counterpart Chris Hemsworth. Lauda's story is one of unparalleled dedication, perseverance and outright will power. In a strange twist of fate, it may have been his bitter rivalry with Hunt that actually drives him, both spiritually and physically, to drive again. Audiences come to love Hunt as the dazzling, dashing dandy he is, but it is Lauda's vulnerability and bravery that will resonate deeper and longer. In fact, there are many who believe what Lauda does in the last race of the season is “among the bravest decisions in motor racing history.” Clearly there are no villains here, only two remarkable, highly talented, highly motivated adversaries who are not as black-and-white as the checkered flag found at the finish line.

While the off-track scenes provide an insightful, captivating look at the behind-the-scenes lives of two historic racers, Rush will also be remembered for its exhilarating on-track footage. One must assume that Howard screened Grand Prix prior to undertaking this project; his challenge is to at least equal, if not exceed, the cinematic spectacle brilliantly brought to the screen by our Champion. He comes close.

Cinematographer Anthony Dod Mantle, supplied with three dozen Arri Alera Plus digital cameras, deserves much of the credit, especially for having so many actually mounted inside the race cars which provide a staggering visual immediacy. The extreme close-up of Hunt's eyes behind the wheel captures the incredible focus needed to pilot a 180 mph F1 car as well as any camera technique previously employed. And the overhead shots of the blazing inferno engulfing Lauda's blood-red Ferrari will not easily be forgotten.

All of these amazing images are enhanced by the cello-driven score by Hans Zimmer providing a surprising and unique counterpart to the speed of the cars and the sound of their screaming F1 engines. Additional kudos must go to Editors Daniel P. Hanley and Mike Hill who manage to condense a complex, multi-faceted story into a mere 123-minute running time. Opie and friends have done well.

Howard's counterpart, John Frankenheimer, is probably best known for directing, Birdman of Alcatraz and The Manchurian Candidate, but his ability to overcome the immense challenges of shooting Grand Prix may be his most significant cinematic accomplishment. Without doubt, Frankenheimer's biggest challenge was the screenplay penned by Robert Alan Arthur, which at times is little more than a soap opera. Nonetheless, the entire cast does an admirable job with the material, with the lone exception being “newcomer” Francoise Hardy who, at the time, was a popular singer in France. While she definitely provides pleasing eye candy, her lack of acting ability can best be summed up by simply pointing out that she never again appeared in a major film anywhere.

Clearly the best parts in Grand Prix didn't go to the actors, they went to the cars, and when the action moves from off-track melodrama to on-the-track mega-drama, our Champion's fortunes take a bigger turn than the famous Grand Hotel Hairpin Curve at Monaco thanks to Director Frankenheimer's outstanding directorial, editorial and technical achievements when the pedal hits the metal. As the tagline declares, Grand Prix “Sweeps YOU into a drama of speed and spectacle!” If there ever was truth in advertising, consider the fact that many young film goers would become mesmerized by sitting in the very first row through repeated screenings while stoned. Now that, my friend, was a hell of a rush in 1967.

Using every Super Panavision camera in existence, the ultra-wide screen images benefitted from Frankenheimer's occasional use of split screen (in part to overcome the inherent distortion problems presented by Cinerama in close-ups) as well as employing the additional use of multi-image sequences.
And keep in mind there's no CGI – (thank you very much) – everything you see is real. Just as impressive was the meticulous attention paid to capturing the ear-splitting sounds of the various race cars, garnering Grand Prix two well-deserved Academy Awards. (Each car was carefully miked and recorded so the screaming sounds made by the Ferrari engine would be 100% accurate and discernible from those made by the engine powering the McLaren – it is this attention to detail that racing aficionados cherish the most.) All other technical aspects of the film were top notch as well, with everything skillfully blended by Oscar-nominated film editors Henry Berman, Stu Linder and Frank Santillo and further enhanced by the moving score by Maurice Jarre, who had recently completed Laurence of Arabia. All things considered, the 176 minute running time maintains its pace remarkably well.

The Decision

Both John Frankenheimer and Ron Howard began their careers in television. Frankenheimer started out behind the camera; his experience with employing multi-camera production techniques, meeting rigid deadlines and needing to get things right on the first take amid the chaos of live TV made him an ideal choice for Grand Prix. Howard on the other hand, began his career in front of the camera. His transition to directing single-camera feature-length motion pictures is both remarkable and undeniable. Given these backgrounds, one might give Frankenheimer the edge when it comes to the challenges of capturing the turbulent and tempestuous world of F1 racing. Then again...

Decision time – which of these two highly talented filmmakers brings home the Smackdown trophy? Let's do a quick recap: Cinemascope vs. Conventional Projection. Academy Award Winning Sound Effects vs. Potential Academy Award Winning Sound Effects. 176 minutes vs. 123. Eva Marie Saint/Jessica Walter vs. Natalie Dormer/Olivia Wilde. Robert Alan Aurthur's Screenplay vs. Peter Morgan's Screenplay.

One film is Bigger, and even though it has nothing to do with Niki, it is Lauda! The other is Faster. Hotter. And Better!

Pop open the champagne Mr. Howard, taking the checkered flag is our Smackdown Winner – Rush.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Book Review

by Bryce Zabel

Alternative history fascinates me, as it fascinates all novelists, because “What if” is the big thing.
(Kate Atkinson)

Yes, life is full of “What ifs.” Some are of little consequence. Some are quite big. And some are very, very big – like the one posed by seasoned screenwriter and professional journalist Bryce Zabel in his latest book, “Surrounded by Enemies: What if Kennedy Survived Dallas?”

This is heady stuff, indeed, and to be a successful writer of alternative history one must accomplish several things: Is the book Meticulously Researched? Is the storytelling Thought-Provoking? Plausible? Provocative? And a non-stop Page-Turner? The answer in this case is yes, yes, yes, yes and hell yes.

Zabel elects to cleverly present his vision by way of a commemorative retrospective by the journalists working on the staff of a fictitious newsmagazine. After all, it will be 50 years since the tragic events in Big D snuffed out the life of one of America's most beloved Presidents. Fifty years since the hopeful, optimistic days of Camelot. And five decades for the majority of Americans who still can't help but wonder what really transpired at Dealey Plaza and then, just a day or so later, at the Dallas Police Station.

Clearly President Kennedy had enemies, powerful enemies within the Secret Service, the FBI, the Pentagon, the Mob, the Federal Reserve, as well as Pro and Anti-Castro Factions, Texas Millionaires and, of course, the Vice President himself, Lyndon Baines Johnson. All had motive and means to remove JFK from office, whether it be, initially, by bullets, or, by resorting to exposing the scandalous, emotionally-charged dark secrets of the Kennedy administration to an unsuspecting and naive nation.

By expertly balancing historical facts with plausible and insightful fiction, “Surrounded by Enemies” takes the reader on a logical, inventive, credible narrative that is clearly the work of a master storyteller. And from among all the possible conspirators, each examined separately and in detail, we do get a reasonable, albeit hypothetical answer to who was most likely responsible.  Speculative fiction at its best -- this is a bold, highly satisfying conclusion that places "Surrounded by Enemies" among the top “Never was but might have been” books in contemporary literature.

Robert A. Nowotny

Monday, January 7, 2013


Review by Robert A. Nowotny

Writer/Director David Schmoeller showcases his exceptional versatility in his latest feature film, a riveting drama inspired by the true story of the senseless, horrific murder of three-year old James Bulger in the United Kingdom. While this event occurred back in 1993, and only one child was killed, the recent events at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut make LITTLE MONSTERS one of the must-see movies of 2013.

Yes, the body count is just one innocent pre-kindergarden youngster vs. 20 elementary school students and six adults (not counting Adam Lanza and his mother), but one key facet of the story is that the perpetrators of this unconscionable act were children themselves, each only ten years of age.

Carl Withers and James Landers were not especially bad boys. We learn that Carl felt tormented by a dysfunctional mother, but nothing in his past nor James' would suggest that one day these boys would decide to randomly kidnap a child on a whim. And nothing in their past would forewarn that shortly thereafter the toddler would be bludgeoned to death, his corpse left lying on a railroad track outside of town.

The kidnapping and murder occupy only the first few minutes of this film. The emphasis, instead, is on the release of both killers once they have turned eighteen years of age. Given new names and identities, Carl and James are released back into society with the goal of both, totally independent of one another, to become productive, law-abiding citizens. But society deems that nothing is more heinous than the murder of an innocent child, and there are those who will devote themselves to track down both teens with an eye toward extracting unfulfilled “justice.”

What makes LITTLE MOSTERS such a relevant and compelling film is the remarkable insight Schmoeller provides regarding the two parolees, those who are devoted to tracking down their whereabouts, and the American public in general.

For Carl, the transition to freedom is a difficult endeavor. James copes better, but he also continues to harbor demons which may never be fully overcome. While each embody a radically different point of view concerning the past and their present circumstance, the most surprising development is that, once reunited, they are destined to battle each other more than their pursuers.

Schmoeller's script and direction are once again top notch, as is the casting of Charles Cantrell, as Carl, and Ryan Le Boeuf, as James – both are extremely convincing in difficult roles. In fact, all of the actors are excellent, as is the Cinematography of Craig Boydston, the Editing by Ben Zuk and the Art Direction by Maricela Caballero and Kelly Schenk.

Several years ago Worldfest-Houston, perhaps the only truly independent film festival remaining in the continental United States, declared, “See what films are made of when they aren't made of money.” With a reported budget of only $15,000, Schmoeller once again confirms the power of cinema to enlighten as well as entertain when, in skilled and determined hands, passion trumps pennies.

Unlike the bulk of American Cinema, LITTLE MONSTERS does far more than merely indulge; it asks questions. Important questions. Questions that weigh heavily on the mind of most Americans, especially now. Questions that are not limited to the killers, nor the indefensible act of murdering helpless children, but also questions regarding society in general and the legal system in particular.

But one question remains paramount: Will you make the effort to see LITTLE MONSTERS?

Thursday, September 6, 2012


(This will be short and to the point -- two things you will not find in 2016: OBAMA'S AMERICA)

Indian Producer/Director Dinesh D'Souza has managed to create a brand new motion picture genre.  Let's call it "BOLLOCKSWOOD."  While one would not expect a documentary of this type to change the opinion of hard core Democrats or Republicans, I am sure that Mr. D'Souza intended to at least influence those who are Undecided and/or Independents.  Alas, for anyone sitting on the fence, he simply comes across as a post turtle and nothing more.  Let me add that the film fails to paint any kind of specific, lucid picture of what 2016 might actually be like if Barack Obama were to be elected.  Instead, I believe the only reference point within the title is the interminable running time -- once the end credits appeared I honestly believed 2016 had already arrived.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Introducing Restaurant Reviews by Jerry L. Nelson -- First Up: BLANCO ROAD BAR AND GRILL

The intrepid staff at Needtovent's Intergalactic Headquarters is always on the search for a good meal. In fact, it can be safely said that we endeavor to literally have a banquet every night of the week. That's why we have secured the services of Jerry L. Nelson, our very own Captain of Culinary Candor, to discover for us and our loyal readers new gastronomic delights. Alas, Mr. Nelson's recent foray into the local restaurant scene failed to make a favorable impression. We hope you will enjoy Mr. Nelson's initial installment anyway. If so, please let us know...


Restaurant Review by Jerry L. Nelson

Let me introduce myself. I am a foodie...that is, someone who likes and appreciates good food...usually no matter what kind it is. There are reservations, of course…liver should not be eaten by human beings...apparently this goes back to my childhood (for which I will blame a lot of things). My taste runs from steak to burgers and all of the stops in between. As a quick side note, steaks and burgers should only be eaten medium-rare. I challenge you to find a good burger place that will cook a burger medium-rare. The customer more often than not will be told it is against the law to serve a hamburger rare or medium-rare. To this I say Crap of my father’s favorite expressions. I’ll explain just what it is some other time (no, it isn’t what you might think). The restaurant is just trying to avoid a suit for starting an e-coli outbreak to which I say, if they had good sanitation and food handling practices in their kitchen, that would not be a problem. If a restaurant refuses to cook a burger the way the customer wants it, don’t walk, run from the place. They don’t deserve your money.

While my parents were both good cooks, they had their limitations. About fifteen years ago I sought to overcome some of my limitations by indenturing myself to a Master French Chef for nearly two years in order to become a better cook. Let me define “indenturing” as working six nights a week in the kitchen of a four star French restaurant for free. I learned a hell of a lot. Now I can ruin food in at least three different languages.

In my quest for knowledge and gluttony I have read thousands of restaurant reviews and marveled at the glowing prose the reviewer spews forth in an effort to apparently win some kind of award. Are most of these people pompous? bet your ass, always using phrases like “velvety smooth sauce” or “light-as-air buttercream”. My position is, it’s either good or it isn’t and there are reasons for both. I will try to convey to you what was good about a food or restaurant or what was bad and why you should not waste your time or money going there.

There are certain words and phrases used in cooking...most of them come from the French. I will avoid these whenever possible, but when I must wear the mantle of a food snob at least you’ll get fair warning and some kind of definition. For too many years restaurant reviews have been written to appeal to the kind of people F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote about...the rich. Supposedly he thought they were different from you and me. Well, let me assure you, the Donald probably doesn’t have any more taste for fine foods than I do. Yes, he does have a bit more money but we all know money won’t buy any amount of taste, as evidenced by his hair style...but I digress.

This first installment begins innocently enough with a friend and a coupon for a free appetizer with the purchase of two entrĂ©es. Lesson learned up front. Avoid any place that has to give away food in order to sell food. If it’s any good at all, it will sell itself. You can sell steak in an outhouse if it is properly prepared.

The establishment in question is the Blanco Road Bar and Grill located at 30690 Blanco Road in Bulverde, Texas. The coupon was a slickly designed mailer with great color pictures making one think this was a place of quality. Bar and Grill -- brings up images of a highly polished wood bar with mirrored back bar full of the finest spirits and wines available in the area and an array of imported beers chilling in the back room just waiting to be brought forth from the tap. Guess again, Jesse. When we walked in we were greeted by a woman who had a deeper cigarette and whiskey voice than any radio announcer could ever hope for. Had I not been aware of my surroundings I would have thought I had walked onto the radio set of the old Buster Brown Show and Froggy was getting ready to plunk his magic twanger. Lined up at the bar were five likely locals sucking down your basic Coors Light and Miller Lite. Madam cajones grande' spotted our coupon right away and commented we must be there for the free appetizer. We couldn’t deny it.

We were seated at your typical Lucy and Ricky kitchenette (Formica table top and chair with chrome and thinly padded seat). Miss Sharp Eyes came over to us and proceeded to tell us what was no longer on the menu...most of what was listed on the coupon. It seems they discontinued most of the entrees a few weeks ago. She said they weren’t selling very well. No steaks of any kind...the very things that brought us there. (Bad sign). Basically, the only things left on the menu were burgers, fries and, oh, the appetizers...nachos, fried mushrooms, jalapeno poppers of three or four different kinds, fried cheese sticks and chicken get the picture...whatever Ben E. Keith or Sysco Food Service sells.

Friend and I opted for the Bean and Cheese Nachos with the addition of ground beef and jalapenos...they can’t be real nachos without jalapenos. Friend also wanted an order of Onion Rings and we agreed to share both appetizers. We had not yet made up our minds which of the remaining entrees to have...perhaps I would throw caution to the wind and order the Ruben Sandwich if it was still on the menu. I hadn’t yet mustered up the nerve to ask, fearing disappointment.

I’m not much of a beer drinker so my snobbishness peeked out from beneath Lucy and Ricky’s table and I perused the wine list. Yes, they had a printed wine list...more than likely left over from their brief attempt to sell steaks because the first two wines I requested they did not have. Hell, I wasn’t asking for a ’47 Bordeaux from Chateau Lafite-Rothschild, all I wanted was something drinkable. They finally managed to find my fourth request...a simple Pinot Noir at a very inflated price of $36 bucks. My friend had a beer...he has much simpler tastes. The nachos were deposited on our table. Right away I could see this was a mistake. The cheese was beginning to blacken where it had been left under the broiler too long and dried out. The hamburger/beef was probably left over from that day’s lunch tacos, although I didn’t see them on the menu, the beans that were spread on the chips were from a can...nothing you can do about that unless you go to the trouble of mashing your own and I just didn’t see the Blanco Road Bar and Grill doing that. Friend and I choked down what we could. Friend even had another beer in an effort to wash away some of the edges of the place. At this point we were waiting on the onion rings. Maybe they would be our salvation. Well, the rings never appeared nor did our salvation. We quickly dumped the idea of entrees and I asked for the check...$48 and some change...tipped way too much and headed for the door when Raspy asked me for my number. I slipped her a business card and wrote a fictitious number on the back of it. I definitely did not want her calling the house. Had I thought was probably the wine that dulled my reaction time...I would have given her Friend’s number, instead. After all, this place was his idea.

I must say, though, in defense of the Blanco Road Bar and Grill, the highlight of the evening was when frog in her throat’s daughter came in with her new puppy...a miniature something or other. She prefaced introducing the puppy to us with “I know this is against the law but I just couldn’t leave her outside alone. She’s so tiny." Had the daughter not been clutching the animal next to her rather ample cleavage I wouldn’t have looked twice...or maybe it was three times...I lose count when I drink wine. Unless you enjoy wasting your money on bad food and overpriced wine, don’t spend a dime at the Blanco Road Bar and Grill. They did have a slick marketing piece, though. It brought us in.

Sunday, July 24, 2011


Review by Jerry L. Nelson

A food revolution is sweeping the nation….in the form of a new version of meals on wheels. Now don’t confuse this with the charitable version, good thing that is. This is one being fostered by the food industry in the broadcasting world and a lot of chefs who apparently can’t get a gig in a regular restaurant….so they go out and create a restaurant on wheels….lots of “done over” Airstream trailers outfitted with restaurant quality kitchens instead of the sleeping and living areas and then gathered into one locale and serving up to the, often giddy, public, a variety of ethnic choices….My, what a wonderfully new idea….to this, I can only say balderdash.

Trust me on this, folks. We’ve had this idea around for years here in south central Texas….and I do mean years. The taco wagon has been a roadside fixture for longer than I care to think about at my age. I challenge you to travel the outlying roadways and non-major highways around any town or city of size and NOT see some enterprising soul trying to make a buck on the side of the road selling all manner of TEX-MEX delights from some form of kitchen on wheels. New idea?....crap salad…..but I digress.

Having grown up in the shadow of San Antonio and, even as a teenager, made the required pilgrimage to the border and sampled street food at three in the morning when all you could think about was solid food in your belly regardless of the absence of neighborhood dogs, nothing compares in taste, quality and plain ol’ goodness to finding your own personal roadside taqueria. Now you don’t have to agree with me on this, for I do want you to seek one out and make it your favorite, but I have serendipitously stumbled across one I feel is unmatched in the area of Canyon Lake….and there are several to choose from….Tacqueria Paty….with one “T”. Her real name is Patricia, but I asked one of her erstwhile assistants one day why the one “t” and was told Paty just liked the look of it….so….Taqueria Paty, just south of F.M. 306 on U. S. 281 in the parking lot of the Spring Branch Bowling Club, open Monday through Saturday from 6:30 a.m. till 1:30 p.m. Breakfast fare is the big rush, but at any time during those hours you will see a parking lot variety of pick ups filled with construction workers to Mercedes filled with tourists needing sustenance before a day of tubing.

No matter what your want, she and her head cook, Lupe, will crank out some of the greasiest, drippiest, tastiest tacos you could ever wrap your mouth around. The menu isn’t just limited to the ubiquitous breakfast taco either. You can find a selection that will rival any seated service restaurant, from crispy tacos to mini-tacos to tortas to combination offerings. Paty offers eight different kinds of meat tacos with picadillo being my personal favorite along with carne guisada (there’s a big difference between Guisada and Asada….I learned the hard way), plus Chicharron’s, Migas, Papas Rancheras, Machacado and more. Saturdays see Barbacoa by the pound and for Pete’s sake, when you’ve had too much cerveza the night before, Paty and Lupe offer up some of the best Menudo around. Oh, you can be a weenie and get the Gringo version of Tex Mex by ordering a bean and cheese or potato and egg taco, but until you have had her chorizo and egg with salsa verde, you haven’t lived. Some of her extras include guacamole and pico de gallo with more cilantro in it than I’ve ever seen served on one taco. Next time you find yourself tooling down 281 just south of F. M. 306 and you have a “hankerin” for the original “meals on wheels,” pull on over into the Spring Branch Bowling Club parking lot and check out Taqueria Paty. As she says….if you want an order to go, have a compliment or even a complaint, give her a call at 830-885-2034. Try her offerings and you won’t really care what they’re doing in the big city with their fancy Airstreams….Paty’s been doing it for years, simply and fantastically.

Taqueria Paty
281 North
1.6 miles south of F. M. 306