MEX­I­CAN FARE A FAIRLY SIM­PLE, TASTY BAR­GAIN

> LAS DELI­CIAS OPENS 2ND LO­CA­TION TO MEET DE­MAND

The Commercial Appeal - Go Memphis - - Go Eat - By Jen­nifer Biggs

/ biggs@com­mer­cialap­peal.com

RARELY HAVE I SEEN more an­tic­i­pa­tion about the open­ing of a sim­ple lit­tle restau­rant than that of Las Deli­cias’ sec­ond lo­ca­tion. I fielded phone calls and an­swered e-mails al­most daily af­ter writ­ing that the tiny and pop­u­lar Mex­i­can eatery in Hick­ory Hill would open a larger spot at Getwell and Goodlett.

It didn’t take long for folks to start com­ing through the doors. There was a fair crowd on the first Satur­day for lunch, a good one on a Fri­day af­ter­noon a week or two later, and ev­ery ta­ble in the main din­ing room was full last Fri­day night. Good food and good prices can have that af­fect.

I’ve touted An­to­nio Martinez’s made-to-or­der, chunky and sprightly gua­camole as the best in town sev­eral times,

and I stand firm. It’s diced av­o­cado, onion, tomato, and jalapeno pep­pers tossed with lime juice and cilantro. Fresh and sim­ple, but noth­ing short of art served with Martinez’s house-made tor­tilla chips.

The orig­i­nal Las Deli­cias at 3727 S. Men­den­hall is next door to the tor­tille­ria where the ex­cel­lent chips are made. They’re sold in bags at His­panic mar­kets around town and are avail­able in the restau­rants. They look heavy, but are in fact light and del­i­cate, per­fect for scoop­ing the gua­camole or the spicy salsa.

The menu at the new lo­ca­tion, which was the long­time home of Audubon Cafe and more re­cently, Luna Rossa and Wang’s China Bistro, is lean com­pared to the pages-long menus pop­u­lar at many Mex­i­can restau­rants.

Is ev­ery­thing you need on it? Nope. There’s no ce­viche, no chile rel­lenos, not even fa­ji­tas. But I can rec­om­mend ev­ery­thing that I have tasted from the menu that spans a mere sin­gle page.

Las Deli­cias’ an­swer to fa­ji­tas is a dish called All-in-One. Grilled steak, mar­i­nated pork, strips of pork chops, ba­con, pep­pers, and onions are sauteed, cov­ered with cheese and served with corn tor­tillas.

It’s a low-car­ber’s de­light — a rar­ity in a Mex­i­can restau­rant — and every­one at the ta­ble kept pick­ing at it long af­ter declar­ing they were full. I’d eat it again, but without the ba­con, which seems oddly out of place and is the pre­dom­i­nant fla­vor.

But what will take me to Las Deli­cias again and again, be­sides the gua­camole, chips and the prices, is the Cuban sand­wich.

Pork, pork and pork. Could you find a bet­ter town for it? The sand­wich is sliced pork, pas­tor (spicy mar­i­nated and diced pork), and ham with cheese, av­o­cado, tomato, onion, pick­led jalapeno pep­pers and a smear of sour cream and re­fried beans. All on a big, soft and warm roll, and for $5.89.

Chicken or pork tamales are $1.50 and tasty, yet we’ve come to a place where the tamale must once again be ex­plained. Th­ese tamales are of the His­panic va­ri­ety, heav­ier on the corn­meal and drier than the wet, meatier Delta-style tamale. Use ei­ther the green tomatillo salsa or the smoky chipo­tle salsa that come with ev­ery meal to pro­vide a lit­tle mois­ture and spice.

Two more items bear men­tion. An or­der of mol­letes is an ap­pe­tizer that can make a meal. A split roll is toasted, spread with re­fried beans and Chi­huahua cheese and topped with pico de gallo. It’s $3.95, a great veg­e­tar­ian op­tion, fill­ing and de­li­cious.

The Aztec soup is much like the chicken soup you find in many Mex­i­can restau­rants, but it’s a bit heartier, thicker with rice and plenty of shred­ded chicken. Cilantro, onion, diced av­o­cado and fresh jalapeno liven it up.

Beer is avail­able, and Martinez has his liquor li­cense, but is serv­ing only mar­gar­i­tas at present (or shots of te­quila, the woman in­formed me when I called to check on the li­cense).

Like his orig­i­nal lo­ca­tion, the new spot could use a lit­tle help from a dec­o­ra­tor — it’s pretty plain. The chairs are uphol­stered, over­sized and have arms, and while they seem ut­terly out of place, there’s no deny­ing that they’re comfortable.

Pho­tos by Ben Fant/Spe­cial to The Com­mer­cial Ap­peal

Las Deli­cias opened its sec­ond much-an­tic­i­pated lo­ca­tion in East Mem­phis last month on Park Av­enue.

While there are no tra­di­tional fa­ji­tas at Las Deli­cias, there are spe­cial­ties like the All-in-One, a combo dish.

An­to­nio Martinez, keep­ing his menu sim­ple and his prices right, at­tracts big crowds to his two lo­ca­tions.

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