La Roca in downtown Laredo has always been one of my favorite restaurants. I can't really place my finger on the reason. Indeed, I seem to go out of my way to brave the downtown infrastructure: dealing with the traffic, the guy hovering in the parking lot (waiting to see if we are actually going inside the restaurant), and the distance just to order my usual plate of seafood at the restaurant.
I met a friend for lunch there recently. It seems like it was yesterday (which, in fact, it was) that I was cursing a driver that pulled out in front of my as I made my way past Jarvis Plaza bound for La Roca. Regardless of that minor setback, I found a parking space and gave the parking lot attendant a friendly nod as I turned the corner--via the non-ADA compliant sidewalks in downtown Laredo--and made my way inside. I quickly spotted my friend sitting in the back and I pulled out a chair and joined him.
We drank a few birongas and caught up with one another as the restaurant patrons conversed around us. In the midst of my conversation I tried to pay heed to the crowd and the waitresses around us. Our server brought us some crackers while we waited for our order. I noticed that some City of Laredo workers were having a loud conversation a few tables down from us. As hard as I tried, I couldn't quite tell if they were discussing Mayor Raul Salinas or the City Council. Nevertheless, they seemed rather engaged in their discussion.
Once our main entree arrived, the conversation in our table shifted to other things such as baseball and the NBA. We inhaled our shrimp plates and enjoyed another cold brewskie before we made our way back to the parking lot and the ever vigilant parking attendant. (I did not tip, like a true Laredoan.)
As I drove away, I wondered what it is that always brings me back to the same restaurant over and over. I've taken friends and family to the other La Roca restaurants on San Bernardo and McPherson, but it's just not the same. I always want to come back to this joint no matter how inconvenient it is for my lunch/dinner partner. Perhaps it's the ambience--the darker, quieter features of this location compared to the others in Laredo. Or, maybe its the clientele, most of whom, like your faithful narrator, are more humble than the rowdy crowds who make their way to the other joints. Regardless of what the true reason is, I always give the downtown La Roca a positive review.
Maybe one day you can buy me a beer. Or two. Or three.