The Man in the Woods

There isn’t a sign. No balloons on a mailbox. No bright marker to let you know you’ve arrived. There’s no handicapped parking. No health department permit, no indication that you’ve even paid sales tax.

Nestled on the edge of the Appalachian Mountains, in the midst of the apple orchards and packing plants where much of our Latino population earn their living, at the crest of a long, steep hill, is the Man in the Woods.

The hill-crest is the only landmark. A white gravel driveway on the left spills onto a flat lawn encircled by ropes and covered by a moderate canopy of trees. Park where you can, unpack your cooler of drinks—usually beer on ice—and step over or under the rope. The faint sound of Mexican folk music greets you as you head downhill to the rustic patio carved into the hill.

I don’t know about the name. The Man in the Woods is what my friend Kim calls it. It’s not really even *in* the woods, more on-the-edge. A food-truck permanently parked in a  backyard gully. Gravel, flagstones and a bit of decking create the restaurant.  Seating for fifty at the picnic tables lined up under the canvas tent roof. The menu: Tacos, burrito or quesadilla. Beef, chicken or pork. That’s the whole operation. On Friday night it was packed.

Kim works close by. She’s an administrative employee for one of the orchards. She heard about it from the work crews. Over a year ago, she proposed this outing. An homage to the culture of those neighbors who don’t live in town. A chance to eat some really good food.

I wish we had gone when she first mentioned it. Before it caught on. Before it was anglicized. That would make it feel even more authentic, if that’s possible.

Saturday night we returned. We came back with our kids. Eager for them to enjoy this experience. It’s become too popular, too successful. If we know about it, the authorities will too. It will be shut down. Or worse, sanitized. Brought in line with regulations and code. Americanized.

I had the seasoned pork burrito, Adobada, for the second night in a row. Sophie and Eli had chicken. A burrito and a quesadilla. Susan had shrimp. I didn’t even see that on the menu. Not sure how she wound up with that.

We told stories, we laughed, we tested hot sauces, and we experienced a totally different culture at the edge of the woods.

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