One of the things I most miss from Southern California is authentic Mexican food – tortas, perfectly spiced mole, sweet corn tamales . . . With its proximity to the border and large number of immigrants from Mexico, Southern California is a Mexican food wonderland. Seattle, is not, until now.
In May, after four years of scouring for real Mexico City food in Seattle, Michelle Barajas and Ed Eaton opened Guajillo’s, a spin-off of the Barajas family’s San Antonio restaurant of the same name. The menu is based on the food of Mexico City and features diverse authentic meals all for $9.95 (lunch specials are $6.95).
Having read a favorable review in the Seattle Times, my husband and I hustled over to Guajillo’s for dinner on Wednesday night – it was closed. We had neglected to notice in the review and online, that Guajillo’s is open Monday-Thursday from 11 am – 3 pm. On Fridays it stays open until 8 pm and on Saturdays and Sundays it’s open from 5pm to 9pm. So, Saturday night we headed back to 217 James Street (on James between Second and Third Avenue, downtown).
Upon entering we were warmly greeted and entreated to sit wherever we chose. As soon as we were seated, handmade tortilla chips and salsa were brought over. Oh how I had missed homemade tortilla chips. The salsa had a spiciness lacking in other Seattle mex joints – Guajillo’s is not afraid of spice – thank goodness. After taking care of the first order of business, choosing from the nine Mexican Beers on offer (Negro Modelo for my husband, J., and Pacifico for me), we scanned the specialties on the menu. We were quickly flummoxed. What to order? Albandigas en Salsa Chipotle? Mole Verde con Pechuga de Pollo? It was all so tantalizing.
Given my NY’s resolution to cut back on meat, I narrowed my options down to Enfrijoladas (bean sauce covered tortillas with onions queso fresco and sour cream) or Enmoladas de Queso (tortillas stuffed with queso fresco and topped with onions and a rich, spicy mole sauce. I asked our server, which dish she preferred and was happy to receive a true response instead of the “oh, everything’s so good” response you often receive. She said that if I like mole sauce (I do) then I should definitely try the Enmoladas. I quickly accepted her suggestion. My husband ordered the Albandigas en Salsa Chipotle (meatballs filled with egg and rice in chipotle pepper sauce). Both dishes (and all entrees) came with refried beans, rice, and warm corn tortillas.
First, I have to just say that the refried beans that came with the meal were not your typical afterthought – they were smoky, smooth and so good that refried bean hater J. ate every single bite.
The Enmoladas were heavenly. The queso fresco was fresh, the onions tangy, and the mole sauce both rich and spicy. I’m embarrassed to say that the Enmoladas, rice and beans were so good that I ate way past the point of fullness.
J. pretty much licked his plate clean, scooping up every bit of his savory sauce with more tortilla chips. I used a tortilla to sample some of his sauce and it was incredibly good.
We weren’t alone in our amazement at Guajillo’s – another diner, said it was the best Mexican food he had tasted outside of Los Angeles. High praise, indeed.
Although we were way too full for dessert, when a complimentary flan was sent over, neither of us could say no – I mean that would be just rude, wouldn’t it? Now neither of us is a flan lover. After many encounters with bland flan, it’s a dessert that is never ordered by either of us. That just changed. Guajillo’s flan is melt-in-your-mouth good. A light sauce of orange and honey coat the flan that has the perfect firm, yet yielding texture.
We’ve already planned our next outing to Guajillo’s (Lunch with colleagues from work) and are looking forward to systematically trying every offering on the menu. Flan, however, will be a permanent dessert order 😉