It was my friend Scott Lindsay who drove me, in his big, shiny Cadillac, to a tiny little joint called Antojitos Mexicanos Tierra Caliente at 813 North 10th Street. The 4-month-old restaurant's name is almost bigger than the actual building, which used to be a drive-in burger shack called Fatburger Boy. In fact, it's entirely possible that Antojitos Mexicanos is smaller than Scott's car.
But what it lacks in size, this Mexican restaurant makes up in flavor. "It's the real thing," Scott had told me. "It's not Tex-Mex. There's no melted cheese, no burritos. And everything is made fresh to order."
Scott loves everything about Antojitos Mexicanos except the coffee. "They serve instant coffee," he said, shuddering. So on our foray to have dinner at the place, Scott not only carried a bag of ground Roasterie coffee but brought along his percolator, too.
There are only five tables in the minúsculo dining room, but Mexican-born chef and co-owner Ricardo Pimentel explained that most of his business is carryout. He and his mother, Esmerelda Garcia, oversee the kitchen, which serves dishes not often seen on local Mexican restaurant menus. Huaraches, for example. I thought that was the word for Mexican sandals until Pimentel presented me with one I could eat: a thick, sandal-shaped flour tortilla piled with meat and lettuce.
My huarache was heaped with campechana, a combination of home-made chorizo and carne asada. But it can also be prepared with pork, chicken or cactus. I fell in love with a dish with a vaguely pornographic name, tostadas de tinga, crunchy corn tortillas topped with addictive, chipotle-spiced chicken. I was practically tinga all over after eating a couple of them.
After the percolator perked Scott's dark-roast coffee, Pimentel poured some for us in mugs decorated with Sesame Street characters (which belonged to the restaurant, not Scott), and we drank it with wedges of Esmerelda's dense home-made cheesecake.
"This is very authentic food," Pimentel said, "the kind you would find in a small town in Mexico."
So go put on your huaraches and check out the place. The portions are so generous, they're more than a mouthful ... they're a footful.