Spurred on by an expiring Groupon, S and I traveled back to E. 4th St to visit Zocalo. I would classify Zocalo as traditional Mexican food that’s a step or two up from the usual neighborhood Mexican spot, with a wide assortment of dishes (and tequila, if that’s your thing). It’s a festive atmosphere with two levels – a good place to take a group or a family, which we don’t always run across in our travels. As a direct corollary, it can be noisy. There was a family with several young children who were quite raucous – I try not to judge, since I now know first-hand what it’s like to have kids that don’t always behave as I would like them to, but running around the tables and screaming (and I mean ear-piercing shrieks) is a bit over the top, and there was little attempt at parental intervention (I hope I don’t sound too curmudgeonly…). Fortunately they left shortly after we arrived.
We started with a guac sampler – a chili-cumin sweet potato, bacon and tomatillo, and pineapple cucumber. Each one was a different experience, from a spicy sweetness to the crisp freshness that a cucumber provides. Good selections.
For her main course, S went with a combo platter (she’s so indecisive :)), consisting of an enchilada, tamale, and chile relleno (her weakness). Demonstrating that “upscale” Mexican flavor, the chile, for example, contained asparagus and zucchini, and the tamale was stuffed with spinach and portobella, not something you’ll often see in your local place. She was pretty satisfied with everything.
I tried the Mole con Pollo (anybody remember their high school Spanish?) – two chicken breasts covered with their peanut-based mole sauce and served with chipotle mashed sweet potatoes and steamed vegetables. Definitely some spice to this dish, but nothing intolerable. The chicken was on the dry side though, which made it a little hard to swallow.
For dessert, we tried fried, glazed bananas smothered with a homemade Patron XO Cafe ice cream, chocolate Kahlua sauce, and whipped cream. Very good, and not overly sweet.
The verdict: Zocalo gets five stars out of seven. The food was all pretty good, our server was friendly, and prices are fairly family-friendly (the combo that S had was under $15, and fed her for two days). If you’re tired of generic Mexican food and are looking for a little extra flair, Zocalo offers plenty.