After last week’s inaugural edition of What’s For Lunch? Wednesday, I thought we needed to try something a little more unusual. The answer was clear: Navajo Hogan. I’ve been driving past this place for ten years, always intrigued (I lived for two years on and around the Navajo reservation as a Mormon missionary) but always a little reticent (in those two years, I learned something important about Navajo cooking: while it can be very tasty, it is generally not).
So, with a stout heart and a skinny, food-hating sidekick (Joel, once again), I made my way to Navajo Hogan.
Sidekick? Man, you let your laundry pile up just once so you have to wear a Robin costume to work, and you never live it down.
When Rob told me he wanted to go to the Navajo Hogan, I was excited. No, wait. The other thing—unenthusiastic. It looked like a weird little hole-in-the-wall place, which in my experience always have a disproportionate amount of insect life present. But still, it’s all in the name of adventure, right? There’s nothing we won’t do for the loyal readers of Rob’s blog—both of you.
As we discussed Navajo food prior to lunch, Joel asked me what he could expect. My answer was that, in my experience, 98% of Navajo food consisted of two things: frybread (which can serve as a base for the Navajo taco) and mutton stew. So, it was to my great delight that we entered the restaurant and discovered the menu consisted of only those things. There were about eight different varieties of Navajo taco (such as traditional, blue corn, chicken, beef, etc). I chose the green chile, because New Mexico green chile is probably my favorite food in the entire world.
The Navajo taco, for the uninitiated, is a big piece of frybread (definition: fried bread) with a pile of beans and meat and lettuce and tomatoes and cheese mounded up on it. While living on the reservation I ate quite a few of these. I also ate not-quite-cooked liver and something that was described as intestine stuffed with lard, but I think those were some kind of prank.
Sadly, the proprietor of the establishment had noted that the lard-stuffed intestine was all sold out. Disappointed though we were, we could not scrap the experiment for lack of this delightful treat. Our resolve firm, we pressed on. I ordered the shredded beef variety of Navajo taco (mutton stew is apparently served on Saturday only).
As we waited for our food, Rob noted that the décor was authentic and reminded him of an actual eating establishment one would see on the reservation. I cried a little at the thought that our Native American brothers are denied kitchy street signs and alligator heads sporting cowboy hats in their restaurants. We truly had entered another world.
The food arrived, and our two plates looked exactly the same (which is why Joel only took one picture). Once we dug in, however, we discovered the food to be fantastic. So delicious, in fact, that I went back and ordered the only dessert item on the menu—a piece of frybread drizzled in butter, cinnamon and sugar. It was absolutely divine.
Indeed, the food was disappointingly awesome. It was my first Navajo taco experience, and it was very ut-zah-ha-dez-bin—successful, as the code-talkers used to say. And the sweet frybread Rob got was delicious beyond my ability to describe. Therefore, I award the Navajo Hogan a surprising 75 belt loops, in a come-from-behind win.
And I’m giving it a 4.25 ApB rating, which, if you’ll recall from last week, means I think it’s 4.25 times better than Applebee’s. Navajo Hogan will definitely be added to my regular lunch repertoire.