The red, green & white

Pasatiempo - - RESTAURANT REVIEW - Alex Heard

We live in an era of fancy craft beers and fancier ap­pe­tiz­ers, but some­times it’s hard to beat the sim­ple meal- start­ing combo you can get at Los Potril­los: gua­camole, to­to­pos (chips), and a cou­ple of mass-mar­ket Mex­i­can beers served in big, frosty mugs. Brews like th­ese taste great when they’re very cold, and the guac at Los Potril­los is com­pa­ra­bly re­fresh­ing: a gen­er­ous blend of av­o­cado, toma­toes, onions, jalapeño, and cilantro that comes in a mol­ca­jete bowl. No doubt, I’ll be back to have it again a cou­ple of times this sum­mer.

Los Potril­los sits on a traf­ficky stretch of Cer­ril­los Road, be­tween a used car lot and a pizza place. The ex­te­rior of the build­ing is some­what drab — it’s a con­verted Pizza Hut — but the in­side has more char­ac­ter, and on a busy re­cent Fri­day night, the at­mos­phere was lively, friendly, and bright. The decor is some­what equine-cen­tric ( potrillo is the Span­ish word for “colt” or “foal”): There’s a large por­trait of paint horses by the en­trance, and the walls are hung with var­i­ous ar­ti­facts, in­clud­ing a som­brero, chaps, and a wagon wheel. The small­ish space holds roughly 16 ta­bles and booths, and there are two high-mounted flat-screen TVs that are usu­ally show­ing sports, but this didn’t in­ter­fere with our abil­ity to have a con­ver­sa­tion.

Af­ter pol­ish­ing off the gua­camole, we or­dered three en­trees from Los Potril­los’ huge menu, which con­tains more than 100 items, in­clud­ing ex­otic of­fer­ings like smoked goat and fish fil­let smoth­ered in mango cream sauce. One per­son in our group tried, and liked, the chiles en no­gada, a fa­mous dish from the Mex­i­can state of Pue­bla that con­sists of poblano chiles stuffed with ground beef, pecans, and raisins and cov­ered with a “spe­cial sauce” that isn’t iden­ti­fied on the menu but is tra­di­tion­ally a blend of crushed wal­nuts and dairy. Chiles en no­gada usu­ally have a sprin­kling of pome­gran­ate seeds on top, so that all three col­ors of the Mex­i­can flag — red, green, and white — are rep­re­sented. Los Potril­los skips the seeds. Not a ma­jor loss, I sup­pose, but I won­dered why they left out this sig­na­ture touch.

It’s a wel­com­ing place and rea­son­ably priced,

so it’s ideal for groups and fam­i­lies.

I was ex­cited to see that the restau­rant makes gordi­tas, small fried corn­meal cakes that are used to sand­wich var­i­ous sa­vory fill­ings. We tried the ra­jas con queso (poblano strips with melted cheese) and the shred­ded beef. The beef ver­sion was bet­ter and spicier than the veg­e­tar­ian, which was on the bland side. I also sam­pled the chicken mole en­chi­ladas, which were good: cheese and shred­ded roast chicken on the in­side, a dark, not-very-spicy mole on top.

Dur­ing a se­cond visit, I asked about what the menu lists as one of the Chef’s Spe­cial­ties, cabrito, smoked goat meat served with a peanut and al­mond sauce. It wasn’t avail­able, so I or­dered a carne asada tostada in­stead, which turned out to be an un­re­mark­able ver­sion of this pop­u­lar item. The carne was tough, and the tostada’s hard-tor­tilla base was so thick that it was dif­fi­cult to crack with a fork. My friends had bet­ter luck: One en­joyed an am­ple or­der of four fish tacos with toma­toes, onions, cilantro, white rice, potato wedges, and a blob of gua­camole. An­other tried the camarones tequila — shrimp grilled with bell pep­pers, onions, mush­rooms, and a splash of booze. The shrimp were good, and the dish was served with a flam­ing flour­ish: The waiter lit the pooled tequila just be­fore bring­ing it to the ta­ble.

We tried a few desserts: tres leches cake and cheese­cake. Both were about av­er­age — the tres leches, for ex­am­ple, was loaded with what seemed to be com­mer­cial-grade whipped cream. For me, th­ese desserts typ­i­fied the over­all Los Potril­los ex­pe­ri­ence: pretty good, not great. I went back one morn­ing to try the break­fast menu, and my or­der — huevos rancheros — wasn’t just av­er­age, it was poor. The dish ar­rived luke­warm about a minute af­ter I placed the or­der, and it con­sisted of a corn tor­tilla, two fried eggs, melted cheese, and a thin, watery, tomato-based “ranchero” sauce in place of red chile. I’ll re­turn to Los Potril­los, but it won’t be early in the day.

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