When I saw a new restaurant on South Broad Street I really wanted to try it as soon as it opened. I wasn’t sure what kind of restaurant it was. It was located in the perfect spot that was sure to receive a lot of business.
My son and I went to the front counter and were greeted by the owner, Erwin Ovalle, who told us it was Mexican but unique. He was pleased to welcome us and to tell us about his new place. He showed us a display on the wall with coco beans, explaining he gets them from Guatemala where his parents live.
As we sat down, Mr. Ovalle wanted to bring us two samples of “Aguas Frescas”. I was game for anything! One was Passion Fruit and the other was Horchata. This was flavored water. I didn’t care for the Passion Fruit sample but my son loved it! I chose the Horchata; it reminded me of a really good apple cider.
Mr. Erwin explained the menu to us telling us why Ovalle’s was different. Though they offer a few of the items you would normally find in a Mexican restaurant (which, in my opinion, most are too Americanized) Ovalle’s offered real, authentic dishes. One section of the menu was called “Tortas”.
Mr. Erwin explained Tortas was a true Mexican dish and a little different. It was sandwich-style, and pretty unique! Daniel came to wait on us and I told him I like things spicy. I decided to try the Ahogada for 8.50 which had chicken, black beans, Oaxaca cheese, red onion, chili Arbol and tomato broth. My son ordered the Tinga for 7.99. It was braised chicken, Queso Añejo, arugula, Avocado and jalapeño.
While we waited, a lady brought a cart over with fresh ingredients to make their signature guacamole right there and she had a stone mortar and pestle to make it in! My son and I were impressed. With the distinct flavors of fresh chunks of avocado, tomato and onion, it was refreshing not to have that taste of a mushy pre-packaged concoction. Willie Mae loves fresh!
When Daniel came with our meals, he brought me a side cup of hot chili sauce and let me know that the chef, Leandro Peña (with a Latin background and studied in New York), made it up especially for me. Daniel warned me that it was very hot. Oh boy! Forgetting the Brylcreem commercial, “A little dab will do ya” – I loaded a good teaspoon-sized amount of this freshly-made sauce on my first bite! Wow! Willie Mae finally met her match! It was H-O-T! And I loved it! When a chef makes my eyes water and nose run – they have done their job!
I loved the flavor of the chicken; most Mexican restaurants only have the pulled chicken that tend to have that processed flavor, but Ovalle’s had a good piece of seasoned chicken on their Tortas. And what’s more – it was upside down in a bowl with dipping sauce. I loved how the bread was firm enough to withstand this unique little display but also soft enough to enjoy (an old lady with false teeth appreciates that)!
Time for dessert! I had been ready for that as soon as Mr. Erwin told me about the cocoa beans! I chose the dark chocolate tart and my son chose the cheese flan. We decided to try each other’s. I was so busy talking to the owner about his restaurant that I let my ice cream melt a little before I was able to get a picture, but it was still good. I loved the flavor of the pomegranate ice cream complimented with the dark chocolate! Mr. Ovalle told us before we ordered that he let his chef decide the entrées but the desserts were “his fault”. Well, I was impressed!
I tried my son’s flan dish and I believe it was a texture thing for me but my son said he really enjoyed it. Guayaba ice cream accompanied his dish – it had a passion-fruity taste and I preferred my pomegranate. I was delighted with how well the flavors of ice cream complemented the desserts; well-done Mr. Ovalle.
Willie Mae not only recommends this place, but I will be back again and again!