by Jordan Green
High Point bills itself as “North Carolina’s international city.” And true: It’s the only place in the state where wholesale furniture buyers from Tunisia, China and Paramus, NJ rub shoulders twice a year in the central business district.
You would imagine that such cosmopolitan patronage would create demand for the kind of cuisine found in places like New York and San Francisco, but of course the fact that the showrooms ply their visitors with catered feasts wipes out the market. A couple unspectacular eateries aside, there is only one place to eat in downtown High Point — the fabulous Penny Path Café, a European-style creperie where proprietor Miro Buzov holds court in a nonstop stream of commentary as he moves from behind the grill to a seat at the counter, and finally to a café table outside where he lights up a cigarette in the final session with the departing visitor.
Penny Path Café is wonderful. But if you want to try something else, you’re not in the mood for the Dog House (as implied, the fare is hotdogs) and you don’t care to make the trek to Uptowne, your options are few. In a small city with marked income inequality, there’s an elegant solution. As a rule of thumb, places with significant immigrant populations and working people tend to have good food at affordable prices. So, when hunger strikes among the towering showrooms, cast your eye to the southwest.
Heading out West Green Drive, the tony showrooms fall away two blocks west of Main Street, replaced by plywood manufacturing and other industrial facilities. Dubbed the “Southwest Renewal Area” by community leader Dorothy Darr, Census Tract 143 is among the poorest and most diverse in the city, with a median household income of $13,949 and almost a quarter of its estimated population of 2,885 being people of Mexican nationality.
Only a two-minute drive from the International Home Furnishings Center, Taquitos to Go has the feel of a modest country storefront, albeit lovingly adorned with a large pot of geraniums. Inside, the establishment is cool and spacious with new parquet flooring — presumably for dancing — booths lining the back wall and a formidable wooden bar.
When I visited on a recent Wednesday at 1 p.m., the only other customers were a young couple happily tucking into their lunch.
The specials listed on the white board included several kinds of tacos, quesadillas and pork cracklings with green chili sauce. But I went for the cheapest option — the XL burrito with steak (chicken is the other option) for $5.
With melodramatic mariachi and pulsating salsa emanating from the kitchen, a crispy fried burrito with a glaze of cheese soon materialized. Filled with steak, refritos, rice, lettuce, tomatoes and cilantro, along with a dish of sour cream on the side and two kinds of salsa, it made for a meal that was more than satisfying.
There’s no reason why this place shouldn’t be jammed every day with city workers and year-round designers holed up in their showrooms. The next time someone says there’s nowhere to eat in downtown High Point, tell them they haven’t looked hard enough.