El sirenito cicieb

The view inside from the back patio. Photo via Fonda la Catrina's Facebook page.

One of the loveliest Mexican restaurants in town has spun off a next-door bar, El Sirenito, that's all about seafood and mezcal. In the grand Seattle tradition, it began its theoretical life as a cocktail-serving waiting room for the crowds that hover for tables over at Fonda La Catrina. However, much as Essex is to Delancey or Barnacle is to Walrus and the Carpenter, El Sirenito is a worthy destination on its own.

Fonda La Catrina refers to its new offshoot as a botaneria, aka a place for small plates. The menu is rife with $3 and $4 bites—montaditos, or slice of bread piled with roasted zucchini and goat cheese, or sardines and avocado; fish or shrimp tacos; a dessert of salted watermelon with olive oil. Larger plates—ceviche, a shellfish stew, grilled octopus—top out at $10: legitimate small plate prices, to my mind.

The building used to be the sort of venue with no signs, no windows, and no indication that knocking on the door was a good idea. Now the outside is strung with white lights and lined in fast-weathering metal; the inside is lined with dark wood banquettes on one side, 30-plus bottles of mezcal (and even more tequila) on the other. The cocktail list is short but very much about mezcal, from the granddads-around-a-campfire El Consuelo to the Pocoloco, which brightens the smoky proceedings with lime and cilantro. There's more wine than you'd expect, and a six-draft lineup that spans Mexico, Germany, and Georgetown.

The place is charming, frankly, and will be even more so when the patio in back is finished and the firepit is in place.  There's no website yet, but El Sirenito is open Tuesday through Saturday from 4pm on. Fonda La Catrina's Facebook page has some photos and basic details.

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