Sopa Azteca at El Mestizo.

El Mestizo’s from-scratch tortillas are made to order in the long, skinny open kitchen that stretches along one wall of the restaurant. Fried strips of these float atop the thin, tomato-based sopa Azteca, alongside avocado slices and bobbing islands of gooey white cheese.

The flavors are deep and homey; all soups should be deep and homey, but it is at the finish that you realize this brew is something special. It’s that sort of spicy that is thorough and unfakable—the heat does not hover above the soup’s principal flavors but is totally integrated into them. This takes time and expertise and the attitude at El Mestizo is friendly but not in a hurry. When the staff see you looking around a little wild-eyed, they know that you’ll be fine once your food gets there. Better than fine. You’ll be elated when your food gets there. Even if it takes a while.

A big soul-warming bowl will run you $6 at dinnertime, and should be the start of any meal at this most excellent First Hill hole-in-the-wall.

PS: Margaritas are $4.50 on Mondays at El Mestizo.

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