A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006. Now a Popeyes fast food restaurant on Google Maps.

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Entry from November 21, 2007
Shrimp Enchiladas

Enchiladas form a central part of Tex-Mex cuisine. The origin of the “shrimp enchilada” is unknown.

The Armadillo World Headquarters (1970-1980) in Austin served up famous shrimp enchiladas. Robb Walsh reports (below) that Jan Beeman cooked up the dish for the Grateful Dead on Thanksgiving Day in 1972, but another source (below) credits Betsy Ricketts for the famous ‘Dillo shrimp enchiladas.

“Shrimp enchiladas” is first cited in print in 1950 and recipes were printed in newspapers in the 1960s, so the Armadillo World Headquarters could not have invented the dish that it helped to popularize.

1 lb. med. shrimp
1 pkg. tortillas & oil
1 lb. cheddar cheese, grated
1 lb. Monterey Jack cheese, grated
1 can cream of shrimp soup
1 can green chilies, chopped
1 onion, chopped fine
2 tbsp. butter
4 oz. sour cream
1 can beer
Water for boiling shrimp

1. Peel shrimp. Heat water and can of beer to boiling. Place shrimp in boiling water for 2 1/2 minutes only. Drain and refrigerate.
2. Saute onion in butter. In bowl, mix soup, onion, sour cream, green chilies, salt and pepper.
3. Heat oil. Dip tortillas in oil until soft and set aside.
4. Roll enchiladas. In each tortilla, place 5 or 6 shrimp, cheese, spoonful of shrimp mixture. Roll and place in large pan. Do not place enchiladas too close together.
5. Save some shrimp mixture and thin slightly. Spoon over each enchilada. Top with grated cheese. Garnish with a shrimp on each one.
6. Bake at 350 degrees until cheese melts and is bubbly. Makes 7 enchiladas.

Handbook of Texas Online
ARMADILLO WORLD HEADQUARTERS. During the 1970s the Armadillo World Headquarters, a concert hall in Austin, became the focus of a musical renaissance that made the city a nationally recognized music capital. Launched in a converted national guard armory by a group of local music entrepreneurs, the “Armadillo” provided a large and increasingly sophisticated alternative venue to the municipal auditorium across the street. This venture, which capped several years of searching by young musicians and artists to find a place of their own, reflected the emergence nationwide of a counterculture of alternative forms of music, art, and modes of living. The name Armadillo World Headquarters evoked both a cosmic consciousness and the image of a peaceable native critter, the armadillo, often seen on Texas highways as the victim of high-speed technology.

The Armadillo opened its doors in August 1970, and quickly became the focus for much of the city’s musical life. With an eventual capacity of 1,500, the hall featured a varied fare of blues, rock, jazz, folk, and country music in an informal, open atmosphere. By being able to host such top touring acts as Frank Zappa, the Pointer Sisters, Bruce Springsteen, and the Grateful Dead, the Armadillo brought to Austin a variety of musical groups that smaller clubs or other local entities might never have booked. 

BJB Productions News Page
Jan Beeman 1954
(December 1934 - April 11, 2007)

Austin American-Statesman (obituary)
Jan Beeman was the “earth mama” of the Armadillo World Headquarters concert hall in the mid-1970s. She was the soul of the Armadillo kitchen, a mentor to young artists, and “the face of hospitality” to touring musicians such as Frank Zappa and Van Morrison, who loved the ‘Dillo for its home-cooked meals.

“If there was an important meal to cook, Jan cooked it,” recalled Bruce Willenzik, an Armadillo alumnus who now runs the annual Armadillo Christmas Bazaar. “Whenever Zappa called, he asked for Jan. She knew all the musicians, their personalities, and tried to give them what they needed. Lose a button off your shirt? Hold on: Jan will sew it on for you. You say you need to do some laundry? Jan will fold it up for you.”

Beeman, who died Wednesday in California due to complications from colon cancer, was almost 40 when she joined the Armadillo staff in the early 1970s after moving to Austin from San Angelo. She quickly assumed the role as a mother figure. Her vegetable casserole, with broccoli and cauliflower, was a signature dish. Jerry Garcia of the Grateful Dead raved about the shrimp enchiladas created in her kitchen.

1 April 1950, Mansfield (OH) News-Journal, pg. 6, col. 3 ad:
Shrimp Enchiladas
(Mifflin Inn—ed.)

21 October 1961, Corpus Christi (TX) Caller, pg. 4B, col. 7 ad:
Specializing in…
Green Enchiladas
Shrimp Enchiladas
Chili Relleno
(El Texco Restaurant—ed.)

13 June 1963, Dallas (TX) Morning News, “Shrimp Sauce Lifts Lowly Tortilla,” section 5, pg. 9:
2 cans (4 1/2 ounces each) shrimp
4 tablespoons butter
1 small garlic clove, cut fine
4 tablespoons flour
3 cups milk
1 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon cayenne
6 wedges Gruyere cheese, grated coarsely
12 tortillas

Drain and rinse shrimp. Melt butter; add garlic and saute just a little. Blend in flour; add milk, seasonings, and cheese. Cook and stir until thick and smooth. Combine with shrimp. To prepare tortillas, fold each like a pocketbook and grasp edges with kitchen tongs. Dip quickly, one at a time, in and out of deep, hot fat. Or dip them one side at a time into an inch or two of hot fat in a skillet. Remove the instant they begin to sizzle and drain, still folded, on absorbent paper. Fill with sauce and spoon remaining sauce over the top. Makes six servings.

17 September 1969, Hayward (CA) Daily Review, “Duet from Mexico,” pg. 30, col. 1:
1 pkg. tortillas
1 bay leaf
1/2 stick celery, cut into pieces
1 small onion, sliced
1 tbs. vinegar
1 tbs. salt
2 qts. water
1 pkgs. (12 oz. ea.) frozen, cleaned, raw shrimp
4 cups white sauce (recipe below)
1 cup shredded mild cheddar cheese

Heat tortillas according to package directions. While they are heating, put bay leaf, celery, onion, vinegar and salt in 2 quarts water; bring to a boil. Add shrimp; let mixture come to a boil again. Remove from heat and let stand 3 minutes. Drain shrimp and discard celery, bay leaf and onion. Chop shrimp in small pieces. Combine shrimp and 1 cup of the white sauce. Divide mixture equally between the 12 tortillas. Roll up each tortillas, enclosing the filling; secure with toothpicks. Place in a shallow greased baking dish. Add cheddar cheese to remaining white sauce. Spoon over enchiladas. Bake 10 to 15 minutes in a pre-heated moderate 350 degree F. oven. Serve hot. Makes 6 servings of 2 enchiladas each.

4 tbs. butter or margarine
6 tbs. flour
2 tsps. salt
4 cups hot milk
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
Dash black pepper
Melt butter in a sauce pan. Blend in flour and salt. Stir in milk. Cook, while stirring over direct medium heat until thickens. Add pepper. Makes 4 cups.

1 September 1994, Austin (TX) American-Statesman, “Home with the Armadillo” by John T. Davis, pg. 38:
They found out what we liked to eat, and we really went for the shrimp enchiladas.

25 November 1996, Austin (TX) American-Statesman, “Tickets to the past” by Sharon Jayson, pg. E4:
That may have cinched a deal, like Jerry Garcia’s request for shrimp enchiladas before taking the stage at the Armadillo World Headquarters in 1974.

Google Books
The Improbable Rise of Redneck Rock
by Jan Reid
Austin, TX: University of Texas Press
Pg. 84:
That was good for Austin music and for Armadillo World Headquarters, for most of the commercially popular country rock was still coming out of California. Yet here was one of the top California country-rock acts (Commander Cody—ed.) who insisted the place to be was Austin. The performances were occasions for wild before-and-after parties, and a select number of musicians and hangers-on feasted on Armadillo nachos and shrimp enchiladas before the Friday night session.

The Tex-Mex Cookbook
By Robb Walsh
New York, NY: Broadway Books
Pg. 250:
Jan Beeman’s AWHQ Shrimp Enchiladas
The Grateful Dead played a free concert at Armadillo World Headquarters on Thanksgiving Day, 1972. The band requested Mexican food, but some of them didn’t eat meat. So AWHQ kitchen whiz Jan Beeman invented her now famous shrimp enchiladas for the occasion. Here’s a home adaptation of her recipe. 

Austin American-Statesman
Friday, September 15, 2006
Van Morrison (Friday, 8:30 p.m. AT&T Stage)
By John T. Davis | Friday, September 15, 2006, 10:57 PM
It is one small measure of Van Morrison’s longevity that the last time I saw him was 27-odd years ago at the inevitably-referred-to “late-lamented” Armadillo World Headquarters. Back then, he stayed over and played a night for free, so enamored he was of the ‘Dillo’s shrimp enchiladas.

AWHQ Message Board
A Favorite Chapter in the Book of My Life added by Maggie Hess Parypa
I rolled into Austin with the Doak Snead Band entourage from San Angelo and the mighty waters of the Concho River in 1973. This group of friends included Frank Delvy & Guy Juke. Soon I was hired as the AWHQ Kitchen Food Buyer.

For the next two years I had the pleasure to work with some amazing, talented & dedicated people. Betsy Ricketts our ‘Specials Cook’ needs to be given some recognition for keeping the Beer Garden filled on evenings when the Concert Hall was quiet. Her Jambalaya and Shrimp Enchiladas were famous with the Big Boy Bands like Charlie Daniels, Marshall Tucker & Commander Cody.
02 October 2006

Betsy Ricketts added by Beth Siever
Betsy and Conrad now live in Venice Beach, California. Betsy still makes shrimp enchiladas for her friends. 
26 October 2006

Posted by Barry Popik
Texas (Lone Star State Dictionary) • (0) Comments • Wednesday, November 21, 2007 • Permalink