Cafe Reviews

El Chiltepin: Mozzarella, Al Pastor, and the "Mother of All Peppers" in One, Offbeat Eatery

El Chiltepin is as much a restaurant as it is a mad scientist's laboratory. Perfect given that Halloween is less than a week away. And at this offbeat eatery, you'll find "treats" consisting of tasty traditional Mexcian favorites as well as a parade of Frankenstein-style street food that's fun and (when it works) surprisingly flavorful.

The mix of culinary chaos and straightforward standards comes courtesy of owners Carmen Mendoza and Osvaldo Hernandez. The longtime couple (and first-timers in the restaurant business) have been training on the job since they opened El Chiltepin, in the heart of a south-side Mexican neighborhood, in March 2011.

As in any laboratory, some El Chiltepin experiments yield successful results, and others, well, not so much. But there's enough good eats on the menu -- many unheard of in the Valley -- that make the place worth popping by if you're in the neighborhood.

Here's an excerpt from this week's review:

But it is El Chiltepin's non-traditional fare that can be the most fun and -- when it works -- the most flavorful. Hernandez's latest creation, Ricas Patadas, features two tortillas fused together and filled with the exceptional al pastor then deep-fried to a golden brown and topped with onion, cilantro, mozzarella, and guacamole. Crispy and multi-flavored, I could see this tasty snack right at home in street food Bizarro World. And Hernandez tells me he didn't just come up with the Montada, his version of the Mexican pizza; he dreamt it up -- literally.

"We were in Las Vegas at a big party with rock 'n' roll stars," he says. "There were all these wonderful snacks on the table that we were eating. I asked someone what they were and they told me, 'Montadas.' Then I woke up and I made them for the restaurant."

Hungry for more? Read the full review of El Chiltepin here.

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