Some local poll recently named Pueblo Solis’ guacamole the best in town. We have no argument with that, unlike many of those divisions and decisions—come on, now, Red Lobster for the best seafood? However, after a long day, some rich, properly chunky, perfectly spiced guacamole, with red onion bits here and there, along with some hot-from-the-fryer chips, nicely drained and lightly salted, and a couple of margaritas hit the spot for us.
The outdoor area hops on pleasant evenings, and when things are truly busy, a second dining room is now available, so the mobs hugging the walls of the entrance area are mostly gone. The hacienda-pink dining room, slightly dim to tone down the colors (but not too dark to read the menu), holds everyone from multigenerational groups to dating couples. Several of the servers have been there a good while, and are excellent guides for the hesitant.
Of the other courses, one of our particular favorites is the potato quesadillas. Think of the best au gratin potatoes you ever ate, stuffed into a tortilla and grilled until they’re starting to crisp. A swell dish. The other delicious option is the bean soup. That most humble of beans, the pinto, is brought to greatness with judicious quantities of bacon, tomatoes, onions, cilantro, and, of course, some pepper. This is soup and definitely not chili. It’s much lighter in both color and thickness, and the beans are of perfect texture, slightly chewy but not crunchy. It’s a fine little soup, described as "little" only because of its simple ingredients.
Tamales charm, whether they’re bean, pork or cheese with jalapenos. And we’re admirers of the enchiladas Suiza, stuffed with chicken and cheese, bathed with a green tomatillo sauce, topped off with a little sour cream. (We’ve always assumed all those dairy products made them Swiss, or Suiza.
On our last visit, we chose the evening’s special, albondigas, or meatballs, juicy and lightly spiced, arriving with beans, rice and tortillas, all very worthwhile. The kitchen does excellent work with seafood, offering some alluring possibilities. Shrimp diablo, described on the menu as "devilishly hot" (unlike most of the seafood options, which stand more closely on the side of the angels), offered large shrimp grilled in a very spicy sauce. It’s definitely a dish for the sturdy patron, but despite the considerable heat, the sweet taste of the shrimp wasn’t overridden. The sauce was also good on the rice. The shrimp and rice were surrounded by a wreath of zucchini slices, chunks of yellow squash, a few green beans, asparagus that was thinner than the beans and, believe it or not, snow peas, which proprietor Al Solis calmly noted as his move to advance world togetherness. And the sauce was so good, it even made the zucchini tasty, a remarkable thing to zucchiniphobes like us.
And don’t forget that menudo, the deeply flavorful soup-stew that’s a legendary hangover cure, is on the menu. It’s the recipe of the mother of proprietor Al Solis. (For a long time, Mama Solis made it herself at the restaurant—she’s now retired to Mexico. Hi, Mom!) We recently had a conversation with someone who was thinking they were ready to try eating tripe. We suggested a bowl of menudo for a starter. The rich pork broth, a little zingy and studded with hominy, is a good way to be introduced to the earthy taste. Squeeze the accompanying lime into it, add some or all of the diced onion and crumble the Mexican oregano between your fingers over the steaming bowl. Ann eats it so often that servers began to assume it was what she was going to order on every visit.
5127 Hampton Ave.
Credit cards: All major
Wheelchair access: Difficult