Mexican food is great for vegetarians and gluten-intolerants. One staple on Frankfort Avenue is El Mundo. We showed up before our friends and were immediately directed around back, down a short alley… only to discover an amazing space filled with heated, outdoor seating, a full bar and a packed patio. It was like crawling through the wardrobe to find a Narnia that wants to get you buzzed.
We could not be seated until our entire party arrived, and the patio bar was full, so we were pointed to the upstairs bar.
Wait, more restaurant?
The upstairs area had more dinner tables and a larger bar for waiting for your friends and pre-gaming purposes.
Hope had a glass of the house white wine ($8), and I took the bartender’s recommendation, a mid-shelf tequila, Espolòn ($7), a reposado. The skeletons on the bottle’s label let your liver really know what it is in for. Smooth with a bit of sweetness, it smelled of fermented agave… and questionable life choices.
El Mundo makes its own hot sauces (that are available for $6 a jar). I like the sweet spice of the Red Hot Mama, but it was a little fiery for my dainty palate, so I like the Smokey Chipotle, which still offers a kick but is a rich, flavorful addition to the errant chip or atop an entrée.
We started with classic chips and guacamole ($8), served with bottomless chips, which weren’t too salty and highlighted the avocado, lime and cilantro in the guac. A few dashes of the Smokey Chipotle, and we were in our happy place.
El Mundo runs nightly and seasonal specials that always have veggie options. For a second course, I had a cup of that night’s special soup, the butternut squash ($4). It had the consistency of bisque with a tangy sweetness from the squash and a nutty crunch from the roasted pepitas.
We ordered a round of the top-shelf margaritas that were on special for $7 (normally, $10). The margaritas were not too sweet, with more of a tangy flavor that didn’t cover up the high-end tequila beneath. They should come with a warning that consumption of more than two will result in your tongue being stuck to the roof of your mouth the next morning while you mumble, “Agua.”
Next, I explored the Tequila Fortaleza sampler flight combining a blanco, reposado and añejo. Most at the table joined in: Michael said he liked the spice and hint of fire in the reposado, while Juli said she enjoyed the smooth, almost rum-like finish of the añejo. Even as a group, we did not have enough bail money to allow Hope to participate in the tequila tasting.
Among the variety of veggie, gluten-free choices (including tamales and huevos rancheros), I selected the chile relleno ($11), a fire-roasted poblano filled with grilled veggies and jack cheese, smothered with a medium-mild verde chile sauce and served with veggie beans (not refried), a healthy portion of rice (guaranteed to screw up your keto diet) and dollops of salsa fresca and sour cream. It was a hefty portion of food, which was perfect for this hefty writer. I added Smokey Chipotle sauce and the waning bites of our guac to finish my meal customization. If you are GF, ask for corn tortillas.
Hope ordered one of her Mexican go-to meals, the blackened rockfish tacos ($18).
For meat-eaters, the staff picks are the small nachos ($9 and $3 more to add the dead animal of your choice) and the carnitas ($15), which are filled with a pasture-raised, slow-cooked pork… let’s call him Wilbur.
Finally, for those who love the Frankfort Avenue food scene but wish the parking were worse, and there were more scooters to dodge, rejoice; El Mundo is opening up a second restaurant in March in The Highlands where Asiatique (most recently Flavour) used to be. •