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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
Enchiladas Rojas Interior Shot
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.
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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.
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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.
Enchiladas Verde
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
Zocalo in Philadelphia


  1. Taylor said...
    Hmm, I gotta try Taqueria Veracruzana, especially since it's only a few blocks from my Philly outpost.
    Anonymous said...
    Actually, we just got back from Mexico a couple weeks ago and that looks like the kind of stuff we ate. Although, in Mexico they tend to put "nopal" or "nopalitos" in every dish (cactus pads). Very strange, but actually pretty good. The only inconsistency I see is that I never encountered a single mushroom while I was down there. Mushrooms need very wet climates to grow and therefore most of Mexico provides a very poor growing climate.

    As a side note, we were in Guanajuato, which is one state over from Michocan, the namesake of your dish (I was interested to learn it's pronounced "Meesh-wa-KAHN").

    sher said...
    Once again you're out having a great time eating the delicious food--and I'm wishing I had been there with you!
    Sig said...
    Hey E, Belated birthday wishes, hope you are feeling better now... That food looks amazing!

    I was laughing out loud when I read the part about your friends being patient with the annoying habit of taking pictures... I know what you mean, I always fear that nobody will invite me to go out with them anymore, since I always make them wait before they can touch their own food! :D
    E said...
    Taylor - I'm astonished by the fact that your bfriend lives only a few blocks away from Veracruzana, yet you've never been! Go now, hurry!

    Tim - Thanks for the pronunciation lesson, I was interested to learn that as well. Thanks again for sharing some pictures of you and Sarah from Mexico, I'll be posting them soon.

    Sher - Well, come over already!We'll drink margaritas till we can't anymore.

    Sig - I am feeling much better. Thanks for asking. We're lucky to have patient friends!
    Toni said...
    Hi e - With Cinquo de Mayo coming up, your post reminds me that it's time for Mexican food! We have tons of Mexican restaurants here in San Diego, so there's no shortage of choices. But ginger margaritas? Oh, girl! That sounds sooo good!
    Bill said...

    Thanks for the 411 on Zocalo; you're forcing me to consider a return trip to Taqueria Veracruzana after our first was a bust!
    As far as being abused for taking photos of all the food items, I feel your pain..
    Anonymous said...
    Next time you want to go to Veracruzana, head down 9th street a couple blocks and go to Taqueria de Puebla instead.
    Teagan said...
    Going to Zocalo tonight, I'll let you know what I think. Can't wait to at least try the ginger marguerita, that's right up my alley!
    Anonymous said...
    Hmm...interesting, they've changed the menu quite a bit since I was there last. Curious to try the pechuga michoacana (btw, that's not typical dish as I never heard of it...and I grew up in Michoacan). Michoacan's typical dish is actually carnitas.

    zocalo's food is very "Nuevo Latino" with very few things actually tasting like they're supposed to...I find the menu resembling upscale DF -Mexico City- restaurant food.

    Will definitely agree with you, Taqueria veracruzana is WAY better for real fast mexican food. Now, for something else less "fast-foodie" i recommend La Michoacana in Norristown, on main street I believe.

    Great pics btw! (gotta love learning abut another fellow shutterbug hee hee)


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