MEXICAN FARE A FAIRLY SIMPLE, TASTY BARGAIN
> LAS DELICIAS OPENS 2ND LOCATION TO MEET DEMAND
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.
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.