I didn't really know what to expect during my visit to El Chivito last week. I accidentally came across it while scanning the state's sales tax permits log, when an application showed up for a new location at 204 Crossroads Blvd. The torta shop sat off Culebra for the past two years, but owner and Guadalajara-native Marcelo Garcia decided to relocate and be closer to his customers.
El Chivito is at the corner of Crossroads and one of the several side streets that line the main thoroughfare. Not surprisingly, my co-worker and I spotted the teensy corner eatery while driving right by it. After turning around and parking behind the tiny stand-alone building, we walked up to the order window and checked out the menu.
The tortas ahogadas ($6.50) — made with well-seasoned pork carnitas, beans and choice of either regular tomato-based salsa, or hot and extra hot, and made with chile de arbol peppers, which Garcia warned me about — are the stars of the show. Most orders came out within a few minutes, as Garcia manned the fryer by his lonesome during our visit.
The black plastic spoon was no match for my soggy sammie, and I struggled to grasp at any sense of table manners — until Garcia stuck his head out and told me to go at it with my hands. My shirt never stood a chance as flecks of light tomato salsa made their way off the sandwich and onto my face, hands and yes, even my jeans.
Deliciously messy, but definitely worth it.
Although the tortas are a must, the rest of the short menu holds other enticing bites. My officemate's taco dorado de papa was crisp and colorful with slices of red onions and a handful of fresh-chopped cabbage topping the saucy number.
If the torta requires a bit of devil-may-care attitude in regards to spillage, the empanadas Argentinas are a neater alternative. The palm-sized pockets of goodness were filled with ham and cheese, spinach and cheese (Garcia uses a mix of parmesan and mozzarella for this one) and corn and cheese. Fried-to-order, perfectly sealed and flaky, the empanadas were deemed better than Beto's by my co-worker. At $1.90 each or $19.99 for a dozen, these empanadas alone could easily be sufficient for a full lunch.
The weather also made for a good experience during our visit, since El Chivito only features outdoor seating on four round concrete tabletops with little shade. You'll want to make note of this when you're craving a giant torta or handful of empanadas on a rainy day.
204 Crossroads Blvd., (210) 369-9638, 6:30am-6pm Mon-Fri, 10am-3pm Sat-Sun
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