Three tables, topped with blue boomerang-pattern Formica, provide a fine view of vehicles being soaped, scrubbed, and towelled just outside the H&H dining area, but despite the undeniable interest of the automotive scene, we recommend counter seats. Here you have a view of the pint-size food-prep area: the grill, the wash sink, and the half-dozen women who cook and assemble plates of food. They are busy peeling chilies and tomatoes, brewing sauce, stirring refried beans, and chattering among themselves and with customers in a language that is approximately 2/3 Spanish, 1/3 English.
They give us a once-over, confer about the heat level of the huevos rancheros, then inquire if we want ours “Muy caliente.”
“Si,” say we, and as the eggs fry, one brings out a plastic cup filled with salsa along with a couple of warm-from-the-griddle flour tortillas, each folded into quarters. The salsa is olive green, chopped fine. It is made of jalapeno peppers — muy caliente, indeed! — and has a zest that plays reveille on the tongue.
Huevos rancheros are smothered in a cheese gravy flecked with incendiary bits of green chile pepper. Hot as they may be, though, their beauty is their balance. The peppers’ buzz is cushioned not only by the eggs’ elementary white and yellow parts, but also by the pad of a soft tortilla underneath, as well as by the mound of smooth refried beans and starchy discs of griddle-fried potato that share the plate.
Amused by the tears of hot-pepper joy in our eyes, a waitress turns to a cabinet and fetches a plastic bottle, like those used for squeeze margarine. It is filled with some house-brewed pink salsa, and she carries it towards the counter as cautiously as a pyrotechnician toting pure nitroglycerine. She sets it before us and whispers with conspiratorial glee, “¡Mas Caliente!”