A hit parade of Mexican food
Special to The Seattle Times
Mexican food's greatest hits are so great that it's easy to fall into a rut. I could probably eat tacos al pastor from a truck every day and not get tired.
But Mexican cuisine has nooks and crannies well worth exploring. Several of them are specialties at El Quetzal, a new restaurant on Beacon Hill.
First, there is breakfast. El Quetzal opens at 8 a.m. with an appealing selection of breakfast or brunch options (all $7.25) including huevos con chorizo, chilaquiles (fried tortilla strips in tomatillo sauce with eggs or chicken) and molletes (a toasted roll with beans, cheese and salsa). Breakfast is such a conservative meal that I'm always excited about the prospect of going out early for something other than pancakes.
So I showed up one morning to try the chilaquiles, but El Quetzal was closed. Call ahead. Luckily, the breakfast menu is available at lunch and dinner, too, so I got my plate of chilaquiles later, and they were superb, lightly crunchy chips bathed in tangy sauce with shreds of chicken and good refried beans.
3209 Beacon Ave. S., Seattle; 206-329-2970
Hours: 8 a.m.-9 p.m. Mondays-Saturdays, 8 a.m.-4 p.m. Sundays.
No liquor license / credit cards: V, MC / no obstacles to access.
Second, tortas. At its best, this Mexican sandwich is a flavor-packed, overstuffed marvel, and El Quetzal's tortas (billed as gigante, and they are) are excellent. They come in various meaty varieties, such as the Seattle (sausage and eggs), the chilanga (breaded flank steak, like Mexican chicken-fried steak) and the possibly too-meaty Super Jairo (breaded flank steak, sausage and ham).
Finally, huaraches. So called because they're shaped like sandals, huaraches are like a pizza made of masa (cornmeal dough), piled high with toppings and griddled until crisp around the edges.
The El Quetzal space used to be a comfy little Japanese restaurant called Hiro's. The owners of El Quetzal have sponge-painted the walls in bright colors, hung some Mexican artwork and changed the menu, but it's still a nice place to hang out — for families, couples or singles — any time of day.
Torta Toluca: If only every sandwich place served something like this crusty, torpedo-shaped hot sandwich filled with chorizo, beans, cheese, avocado and jalapeño (or chipotle, if you prefer) sauce.
Norteño Gigante Huarache: The Norteño is topped with chorizo, beans, fresh cheese, lettuce and lots and lots of sliced nopales (cactus leaves). I like cactus, but it was rather excessive. I also found myself wishing that the whole huarache was as crisp as the edge pieces. Still, I'm eager to try another.
Coffee ice-cream cake: Nothing particularly Mexican here, but this slice of cake, nicely plated with whipped cream and chocolate sauce, was a nice messy dessert to finish the meal off.
Sidral Mundet: If your only experience with sparkling apple juice is Martinelli's, try Sidral, a not-too-sweet apple soda.
Jarritos Piña: I never miss a chance to order Jarritos, my favorite brand of soda, made with real cane sugar and available in flavors such as grapefruit, tamarind and this one, pineapple.
Itemized bill, meal for two
Torta Toluca $7.50
Norteño Gigante Huarache $7.50
Coffee ice-cream cake $3.00
Sidral Mundet $1.75
Jarritos Piña $1.75
Matthew Amster-Burton: firstname.lastname@example.org
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