THE BITE: Mexican food is sprouting, slowly but surely, in the neighborhood. And they’re taking an interesting path into the food scene.
Don’t look for traditional “restaurants.” Look instead to the back of bodegas, like El Jarochito, or, strangely enough, in doughnut shops.
At Shaikh’s Place, though you may not know it, you can find some of the tastiest tacos in the neighborhood alongside their beloved doughnuts. Just up Avenue U, at El Mexicano Restaurant Y Panaderia Mexicana (1607 Avenue U) they find their toughest competitor. Located in back of Doughnut Connection, El Mexicano Restaurant Y Panaderia Mexicana kicks the game up a notch.
Unlike Shaikh’s Place, where the tacos are just part of the menu, El Mexicano Restaurant Y Panaderia Mexicana has dedicated a large portion of the floor space to a Mexican fast food counter. A true Mexican restaurant lurks here in this mini-food court of Avenue U.
There’s nothing fancy about El Mexicano Restaurant Y Panaderia Mexicana. When you walk into this shop, you’ll find about 10 tables lining the wall opposite the counters offering up foods from three different vendors. First up is a homemade cupcake shop (more later), then the doughnut counter of the Doughnut Connection and, finally, El Mexicano Restaurant Y Panaderia Mexicana.
Okay, let’s talk about the food. Today’s Bite is going to focus on the Pollo Enchiladas Mole ($7.99). For those unfamiliar with this dish, it is rolled tortillas stuffed with shredded seasoned chicken and covered in mole (that’s pronounced mo-lay) sauce. Mole sauce is an amazingly complex sauce that usually contains over 20 ingredients. Mole sauces vary by region in Mexico, but the most common form of mole found in the United States is mole poblano. And that’s what you’ll find here.
Mole poblano has been called the national dish of Mexico and comes from the state of Puebla. Traditionally it contains multiple varitaties of chili peppers, almonds and chocolate. It’s a little bit sweet, a little bit bitter and a little bit hot. While the flavor of chocolate is noticeable, it serves more as a foil to the heat of the chili peppers. If you have never tried mole poblano, I highly recommend it.
At El Mexicano Restaurant, they top four chicken stuffed enchiladas with a generous portion of mole poblano and criss-cross a lovely pattern of crema (Mexican cream, similar to sour cream) on top. It is served with a sizable portion of black beans, rice and peas and a salad of lettuce and tomatoes topped with avocado slices and cucumbers.
I absolutely loved this dish. El Mexicano Restaurant nailed it. I’ve had a soft spot for mole poblano ever since I was first introduced to it at that bastion of fine dining, The Caliente Cab Company in the 1980’s (The Caliente Cab Company is known not for its food, but for its gun-belt wearing waitresses pouring tequila directly into the opened and upturned mouths of local frat boys). For a long time it was the only dish I would eat at a Mexican restaurant.
While El Mexicano Restaurant doesn’t offer tequila touting waitresses, it does offer a large variety of Mexican foods at very reasonable prices. Viva El Mexicano Restaurant Y Panaderia Mexican!
El Mexicano Restaurant Y Panaderia Mexican, 1607 Avenue U, (718) 708-4372
The Bite is Sheepshead Bites’ weekly column where we explore the foodstuffs of Sheepshead Bay. Each week we check out a different offering from one of the many restaurants, delis, food carts, bakeries, butchers, fish mongers, or grocers in our neighborhood. If it’s edible, we’ll take a bite.