In flamenco, duende is the thing that makes you cry, or dance, or play at all—sort of the gypsy version of what James Brown meant when he said "soul." It's this spirit that inspired Andalusian food cart Duende, which offers up the recipes Kenez "Thorne" Mata was served, while growing up, by his Spanish grandmother.
The selection is small but diverse—though olive oil is dominant in everything served—with tortilla de papa ($8) buttressed on the menu by a pleasant spinach salad ($8) with pine nuts and oil-swollen raisins, and a terrific salteado de rebozuelos dish ($8) consisting of chanterelles on fried bread with a runny soft-fried egg. What made the latter dish pop was the lovely balance of acids and fats, as well as the freshness of spicing: herbs, lemon and Spanish paprika.
Photos by Bethlayne Hansen
The healthy-sized prawns ($9) were cooked in sherry and oil and spiced with a gobsmack of roasted garlic and arbol chilies that had me sopping all of the sauce with the bread side. In the Spanish-menu casual standby migas ($8), however—a hash of fry-bread chunks and chorizo—the combination of sausage fat and frying oil created a Gulf spill in the mouth.
But while the cart may look like a set piece for a soused-up Gogol Bordello show, the mood in the cart's covered seating area is Old World gentility. Mata and his wife, Jennifer, might come out of the cart to serve orange-and-cardamom-spiced coffee brewed on the stovetop, or share photos of their last visit to Granada. Duende is a little bit of warm Spanish soul, out there on the side of Hawthorne Boulevard.
EAT: Duende, 3207 SE Hawthorne Blvd., 208-1288. Noon-8 pm Wednesday-Sunday.