Wednesday, June 6, 2012


Just because something is on my list doesn't mean that I will make it there any time soon.  I first heard of Zocalo about 5 years ago when I attended the Meals on Wheels Celebrity Chef Ball.  They were serving some very good tamales and were giving out 10% off coupons for the restaurant.  The tamales were very good and while 10% off isn't much, it's less than nothing.  I looked the place up and it did look interesting but I actually never made it there until recently.  Zocalo is located on Ontario on a mini restaurant row but while there are 4 nice restaurants on the same side of the block where Zocalo is located, they are all very different so they aren't much competition to one another but because there is a number of restaurants there, they draw people there.  Zocalo, in addition to having a notable Mexican menu, it also has an exceptional tequila list.   The restaurant is very rustic with dark beam wood making up the walls and holding up the ceiling.  For whatever reason, the place reminds me of a saloon or a desert bodega.  There is a big, heavy-looking bar opposite the entrance and most of the tables are round and free standing.  The one negative thing I found about the space was that it's dark.  Besides the tequila, the menu here features fairly standard albeit very good Mexican food.  I started things out with a shot of tequila and my appetizer while I continued deciding on my entree.  For my appetizer, I ordered Tamales de Doña Flor, which were two different and very good tamales with mole. The first tamale was Poblano, a chicken filled corn tamale with poblano mole sauce.  The other tamale was Rajas con queso.  It was a corn tamale filled with jalapeno strips and a three cheese blend.  It was served with a Mexican ricotta and a ranchero salsa.  The tamales were garnished with a radish slice and a sprig of fresh cilantro.  The tamales were served on the wrapper in which they would have been prepared.  The poblano sat on a corn husk and the Rajas con queso was on a banana leaf.  The tamales were just as good here as they were at the benefit.  I really enjoyed them and thought they were a nice and spicy start to the meal.

The waiter came came by as I was enjoying my tamales and I ordered my entree.  For my entree, I ordered Enchiladas Rojas.  The enchiladas were filled with beef barbacoa brisket, topped with guajillo salsa, cotija cheese (Mexican Parmesan), and grilled scallions, and served with white rice.  I love barbacoa but I had never had it made in an enchilada.  This was very good.  The meat was both tender and savory, the salsa was nice and spicy, and the scallions were crisp (fresh vegetable crisp not potato chip crisp) with a nice smokiness to them.  The white rice was also very flavorful and was prepared with peppers and spices.

For my dessert, my decision was very easy.  While I don't know if I would normally consider it a dinner dessert, it is definitely a classic.  I had Churros y Champurado.  The churros were slightly crisp on the outside and very soft on the inside.  They were also coated with sugar and cinnamon, drizzled with a mango-agave nectar and garnished with a mint leaf.  It was also served with Hot Chocolate that was infused with cinnamon and vanilla bean and topped with whipped cream.  While the churros were good on there own, they were that much better when they were dipped in the hot chocolate.

I really liked my dinner here.  The space was nice even if it was a little darker than I would have preferred, the service was friendly, and the food was very good.  They do very good versions of classic Mexican food and have a tremendous tequila list for those who want to experiment and learn more about Mexico's national drink.   

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