Yum of the Week

Huarachito’s, How We Love You

Authentic Mexican in Columbia City

By Kathryn Robinson February 17, 2009

I had Salima on my list of restaurants to visit for so long, it closed. (Note to self: GO FASTER. These are blink-and-miss times.)

Sorry to see you go, Salima.

This left us cruising MLK last Friday night for a suitably delish alternative: Ethnic, authentic, cheap. Something new and full of people and—-oh my gosh, pull over, there it is. Huarachitos.

It’s at MLK and Lucille: 5418 MLK S, 206-568-3019. No website.

Hadn’t heard of it (it opened in the fall) but when we walked in it was clear we were behind the curve. The tidy home-spun joint with a few tables and a few counter stools was hoppin-full of neighborhood energy—-the neighborhood being Columbia City—-with plenty of families and people on dates, many of them Latino.

(Is it a diner’s form of offensive racial profiling when one deems this a good sign…or is it plain common sense? Because there was also a pretty good language barrier and Mexican pop on the sound system, and by the time I discovered the lurid telenovela on the screen I’ll admit it: My hopes were high.)

We weren’t disappointed. The menu offered the usual suspects—-enchiladas, quesadillas, carne asada, really good tacos—-but also longaniza (Mexican sausage) and tripe and lamb stew and tortas, those newly fashionable Mexican sandwiches.

The family at the next table were crowing so loudly over their dinner, we had what they had. Good call. Tom got a gordita, a sort of burger-meets-pupusa creation starring two thick and gloriously chewy cornmeal patties (decadent as frybread) stuffed with chicken, lettuce, onions, and cotija cheese. Swoon-o-rama.

I got a huarache, the specialty of the house, which was a fat and puffy corn tortilla about the size of a Mexican sandal. You know, a huarache. This street food staple has yet to gain a wide following this far north, but Huarachito’s just might be the joint to ignite one. Tucked inside the tortilla was a layer of beans. Then atop it, pizza-like, was a fresh and crunchy topping of lettuce and cilantro and onions and, in my case, succulent shreds of marinated pork shoulder.

Okay…wow. This was simple, cravable, fresh, terrific Mexican food, and served in such enormous portion we got to have deja-vu for lunch the next day.

I can’t stop thinking about my new fave Mexi-treat, the $8.99 huarache. Of course in ten years Pizza Hut will have mainstreamed this treasure into a “Beans-in-the-Crust!” best-seller, strewn with your choice of pepperoni or Italian sausage toppings and a bubbling layer of American cheese, and advertised ad nauseum during the Superbowl.

“Eat Your Feet!” the ad will screech.

Like I said…GO FASTER. Discover Huarachito’s killer version first.

*Ed. note: Check the Google street view.

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