The question usually comes after the bowl is empty.
Or, sometimes, it comes after the customer takes a bite, contorts his or her face and pushes the bowl away.
It goes something like this: "So, um, what exactly was in that, anyway?"
By that time, the cow stomach is already in the customer's stomach.
"Normally people don't want to know what it is ahead of time," Angel Alvarez says. "They just eat it and then ask."
It's at this point that Alvarez, owner of Tortas Jalisco restaurant, fills them in: Menudo is a soup made of beef tripe, or the lining of a cow's stomach.
And then, like clockwork, the inquisitive customer recoils.
"Yuck," he or she says. Or something to that effect.
So there's one side of the menudo story.
Maritza Sanchez would like to tell you the other side.
She's a freshman at Kansas University and a second-generation Mexican-American. She now considers Plano, Texas, home.
Growing up, her family would lug home a bucketful of menudo from a local restaurant for Sunday dinners. On special occasions, her mother would buy tripe from a butcher shop, wash it for 10 minutes to rid it of its stench and cook up a pot of menudo.
For her family, like many Mexicans, the soup is as much a tradition as celebrating Cinco de Mayo.
"Personally, I like the menudo," Sanchez says. "It's like gum - you have to chew it, the cow's stomach. You have to keep chewing it until it's in little pieces."
Menudo, for Mexican families, is the rough equivalent of spaghetti sauce for Italian families - everybody has their own recipe, and everybody has their own preferences.
Alvarez, whose restaurant is at 534 Frontier Drive, cooks the tripe with a whole garlic bulb, whole onion, cilantro, oregano and salt for three to four hours.
"If it's not cooked enough, it's rubbery," Alvarez says of the tripe, which he gets from a food distributor in 10-pound packages.
Then, he adds adobo sauce (made from guajillo peppers) and, for half of the four gallons he makes weekly, he adds hominy.
He tends to have repeat customers who know exactly what they're asking for. Occasionally, there's the newcomer who just wants to try something new.
Sanchez's family usually adds lemon juice, tomatoes and baby corn to the mix.
"It can be spicy, but ours is not spicy," she says. "It's basically up to you."
When Sanchez has friends over for menudo at her parents' house, she doesn't tell them what they're eating.
Jorge SoberÃ³n had a similar experience when he was introduced to menudo. SoberÃ³n, a fellow KU student, grew up in Mexico City but didn't eat menudo. He first ate it at a friend's house in the United States.
"I didn't know that I was eating cow stomach until I asked," he says.
"The idea is horrible," he adds, "but it was eatable."
1 calf's foot (about 1 to 1 1/2 pounds)
2 pounds honeycomb tripe
1 large onion
3 cloves garlic, peeled
2 teaspoons salt, or to taste
4 quarts water
A comal or griddle
3 large ancho chiles
A spice grinder
A large poblano chile, peeled, or 2 canned, peeled green chiles
1/2 cup canned hominy (1 pound) drained (see note below)
Salt as necessary
1 scant teaspoon oregano
Have the butcher cut the calf's foot into four pieces. Cut the tripe into small squares. Put them into the pan with the rest of the ingredients. Cover with water and bring to a boil. Lower the flame and simmer uncovered for about 2 hours, or until the tripe and foot are just tender but not too soft.
Meanwhile, toast the chiles well. Slit them open, remove the seeds and veins from the chile poblano, cut it into strips, and add to the meat while it is cooking. Remove the pieces of calf's foot from the pen, and when they are cool enough to handle, strip off the fleshy parts. Chop them roughly and return them to the pan.
Add hominy and continue cooking the menudo slowly, still uncovered, for another 2 hours. Add salt as necessary. Sprinkle with oregano and serve (see note below).
This amount is sufficient for seven or eight people. It should be served in large, deep bowls with hot tortillas and small dishes of chopped serrano chiles, finely chopped onion and wedges of lime.
3 pounds tripe
3 pounds hominy (frozen, not canned)
3 pounds pigs feet cut into quarters
1 large onion, diced
1 bunch green onion, cut in 1/4-inch pieces
1 bunch cilantro, chopped
2 tablespoons oregano
1 tablespoon black pepper
1 tablespoon red pepper flakes
1 head of garlic
2 tablespoons salt
Wash tripe thoroughly, remove excess fat and cut into bite-size pieces. Wash hominy and pigs feet well and combine all ingredient in a large pot with enough water to cover. Bring to a boil and simmer slowly until corn opens and is cooked (not overcooked). Skim off grease. It is best if you can refrigerate it in order to remove all grease. Serve with fresh cilantro, chopped green onion, chiltepin, limon and toasted bolillos.