My own Mexican Renaissance: El Mestizo and Taqueria Latinos

I had Mexican food twice this week, without having to drive. Within the last few months, it would appear that there is a new food group moving into the neighborhood, and I for one am here to support it. We had actually been to El Mestizo once when it first opened. It’s a brick and mortar store in what had been a pizza restaurant for many years, then briefly an Italian place. The taco truck, Taqueria Latinos II, I had not noticed until the minute we ate their food.

El Mestizo has been open for a few months. When we went before we thought it had potential, but nothing terrific. After reading rave reviews around the internets (including a certain local newspaper that as far as I can tell reviewed it based on a meal or two there the first week it was open) we decided it was time to return. We started with drinks and an appetizer. The service was stilted, but decent–our appetizer arrived prior to our drinks. We were hungry though, so we dove into our quesadillas. These were not traditional American style quesadillas. Nor were they like any I’d had in Mexico. A fried shell, filled like a taco, served with a slightly smokey pepper sauce. It was good, though the only issue I had with the food throughout was present here–not enough salt or pepper (like the vegetable, not black pepper). I understand not all Mexican food is spicy, but it does usually have a lot more flavor derived from peppers than these did. The salt was easily over come via the shaker on our table.

Then the drinks came and my whole outlook changed. These drinks were fabulous. Blow me away delicious and knock me down strong. I started with the Mango-Jalapeno Margarita–not sure why I chose this, since I usually find margaritas a bit too sweet. This, however, seemed to draw all its sweetness from the mango. That mango flavor was pure and delicious, tasting fresh and clean. The drink was strong, though the jalapeno pepper slices floating as a garnish seemed to be the only sign of that–like the rest of the meal, pepper was lacking. B ordered a Cilantro-Lime mojito, at my urging. It was amazing. I believe I described it as an alcoholic taco. This is not for those who don’t like cilantro. It was strong, both in flavor and in alcohol, but perfectly balanced.

We finished our drinks while waiting for our entrees and I tried to flag down the cutely androgynous bartender, but failed so when our meal came, we talked to the waitress about another drink. We requested that the bartender make us her choice, but the waitress was not a good listener and picked them herself, choosing just to give us the traditional versions of the drinks we had previously ordered. This was frustrating. They were still delicious, but we had hoped for more creativity. And maybe the waitress making an effort to understand what we were saying. The most incredible part about amazing cocktails being around the corner from our house? The price–just $7 each.

Finally we got to our meal, I had ordered the Birria. While I was sad their birria was beef instead of lamb or goat, it was very good. A few small misses–meat could have been more tender, could have a bit more spice, more salt, it was good and the handmade hot tortillas were terrific. The last time we had been here, the tortillas tasted as if they were made earlier and reheated. These tasted fresh off the comal. B had the Huarche with Al Pastor and it was extremely good. Also lacking pepper in the pico de gallo and salt overall.

Altogether, it was a good meal to have around the corner from our house. I noticed in the newspaper review they had criticized the spice level and the salt level of the food, which makes me wonder if they toned it down and that is why ours was so bland. That said, it’s good enough that I’ll be going back soon to check on it.

I was already to write this up about how exciting it was to have Mexican food in our neighborhood when I was delayed. B came, by bike, on a run with me. On the way home, about a mile from home (on 12th, between Jackson and the bridge to Beacon Hill) we ran across a taco truck. It was a beautiful 70 degree evening, and like a shining light, the tacos called to us. “You bring your wallet?” I panted to B. He did. I assigned him to stop for food while I finished the run.

There are few things as beautiful as a nice evening in Seattle, and to cap it off with one of the most delicious tortas I’ve had in ages had beaming from ear to ear. The place is called “Taqueria Latinos II” and has a few stools to sit on. The torta was terrific, the quesadilla good and the birria/rice/beans plate a little subpar. I’ll be back to check out the rest of the menu.


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