First Stop: Food Shark.
Any place that describes itself as serving “Mediterranean food by way of Texas” and serves it “between the railroad tracks and the bookstore” has to be good, right? Having studied the menu, I already knew what to order — the Marfalafel — and it didn’t disappoint. Three huge falafels rolled in chickpea flour with a side of greens, some hummus, and what I think might have been a sprinkle of sumac on top (my fav!), were heavenly. Deke had the Pork Pozale Verde with crispy tortilla strips on top and a side tortilla. It’s the kind of place that makes you want to order one of each so you can all share.
In addition to the delicious food, Food Shark now has a converted Blue Bird bus that they use for a dining car… the faux leather seats (they seemed so much bigger when I was 6 and actually riding a Blue Bird bus) were rearranged and small tables were added so you could enjoy your food if the winds were a little too strong to sit on the Donald Judd-designed furniture nearby.
Typically I wouldn’t suggest doing anything museum-related on a full stomach, but the Chinati Foundation is open by tour only from W-Sun, and only has tours 3 times a day, so we had to. The Foundation is outside of town, which means its about 4 minutes from the Food Shark, past El Cosmico, which had a big closed sign hanging up — I hope it’s still open!
The Chinati was started in 1979 by The King of Minimalist Sculpture, Donald Judd, to bring the large scale works of a select few superstars to Marfa as a permanent museum installation — when it opened to the public in ’86 it housed just three superstars (Judd, John Chamberlain and Dan Flavin) but has added a few more in recent years. The location is an old Fort on over 300 acres and the works are scattered around the land. For more info on Judd, check out Artsy.com.
and throughout the barracks, mess halls and out buildings — except for John Chamberlain who has his own separate building downtown on the same street as Food Shark. Having an Airstream, and therefore being interested in all-things-aluminum, I was particularly interested in seeing Judd’s 100 untitled works in mill aluminum, which were really awesome. You’re not allowed to take photos (except for the concrete cubes), or even bring your camera on the tour (they take it from you and give it back when the tour is over) so I can only give you the link and tell you that, unfortunately, it doesn’t do the works justice. They have rivet-like screws that hold them together, just like the Airstream, and you can see streaks from when they’re cleaned during the week. The slabs of aluminum are thick and although they’re all cubes, they’re all put together differently.
After the tour, we headed off in the direction of Tucson, which fortunately took us straight passed the infamous Prada Marfa. On this trip, we’ve seen a lot of tiny towns that have suffered (in many, many ways), but Valentine was truly odd to drive through. It’s almost like there was some kind of zombie situation and you’re the only ones left. The population in 2009 was 188, having declined steadily since the Southern Pacific railroad eliminated its stop there in the 1950s. But then came Prada Marfa, and art installation that went up in 2005, built of adobe that will slowly degrade over time and melt back into the landscape. Note: the cost of the sculpture when built was 3 times the average household income in Valentine.