Sunday, April 22, 2007
The more Mexican restaurants in and around Philadelphia I try, the more I find my loyalty aligned to Taqueria Veracruzana down on 9th and Washington. Not that unique food experiences haven't taken place or that any were truly bad. But none have stacked up either. The most recent journey brought me and three friends to Zocalo in West Philadelphia. You can also check out their menu here, via Philadelphia MenuPages.
Alison and I arrived an hour before our friends to sit at the bar and have an appetizer. I ordered a ginger margarita, pictured here in an earlier post. I loved this twist on a Mexican classic. Alison had a glass of Zocalo Sangria. Strawberries, blackberries and blueberries marinate in white tequila, then get spooned into glasses and filled with white wine. Not only is the presentation gorgeous, but it's a delicious light version of sangria, and much more suitable to my palate than Zocalo's Classic Sangria made with red wine, citrus, cinnamon, and clove.
We decided to start with the Salsa Trio, a combination bowl of salsa mexicana, guacamole and xik-l-pak, a Mayan pumpkin seed dip. The salsa was terrible. A sad concoction of under-ripe tomatoes, white onion and practically nothing else. The guacamole was good, but Alison's is better. The xik-l-pak, however, was a very successful addition to the dish. The seeds were roasted, then ground with cilantro, garlic, onion and cumin into a paste. It's beautiful and delicious. Next time, I'll skip the Trio and just order the xik-l-pak.
We were starving and still waiting for friends after about an hour, so I talked Alison into the Queso Fundido with mushrooms. The cheese was salty and beautifully brown and crisp on the top. Nestled inside of a warm flour tortilla with a dash of the habenero hot sauce provided on the table, the cheese and mushroom combination was perfectly coordinated. Our friends ordered a version with Poblano peppers soon after their arrival. It's a shame there isn't a mushroom and pepper version, because that seems like a fantastic combination.
Shannon ordered the Enchiladas Rojas, one of the limited vegetarian choices on the menu. Spinach, caramelized onion and mixed cheese are rolled into enchiladas and baked in a traditional red chile sauce.
I ordered the pechuga michoacana. Marinated boneless breast of chicken topped with chorizo, melted chihuahua cheese, then drizzled with salsa tomatillo. It was good, but due to the two appetizers we ordered, I could only eat a few bites and took the rest home for lunch the next day.
I can't blame my friends for doing silly things like giving the finger to the camera, or bunny ears to the food, because they put up with my annoying habit of taking pictures of nearly everything we eat. Liz had the chicken fajitas. Chicken, bell peppers and onions served piping hot with fresh flour tortillas. Liz's complaint? No cheese or sour cream was to be found.
Finally, Alison ordered the Enchiladas Verdes. Three chicken enchiladas served in the same green tomatillo sauce that was spooned over my chicken dish.
We all enjoyed our appetizers and meals and especially the drinks. The final verdict was that Zocalo was expensive. We were there for a special occasion, so it was warranted, but the quality of the service was low and the food just okay in comparison to cheap authentic eats at some of South Philly's Mexican taquerias. So it really just depends on what atmosphere you're going for. If you're on a first date and trying to impress or intoxicate, take her to Zocalo. If you've been together for years and bond over your love of authentic guacamole, spicy salsa and cheesy tacos, skip Zocalo and head down to South Philly.
3600 Lancaster Avenue
Philadelphia, PA 19014