Food & Drink The magic flauta

Barbacoa Pasilla's: Flautas stuffed with roast beef smothered in Pasilla's sauce and topped with red and green salsas and crumbled cheese; shown here with a cup of consommé con pollo. (Photo by Mark Greenberg)
At Pasilla's the specialty is long, thin, and crisp

In its classic translation, an antojito is a little whim, but in Mexico a whim becomes a desire, a craving, a snack: practical, tasty, and, often, on the run. Pasilla's has snacks and cravings down pat - if you are fond of flautas. "This is not something you're going to eat every day," admits Gina Cruz, who owns the restaurant with sisters Alejandra and Tere. But she nonetheless seems steadfast in her determination to stick to a limited menu: Six flautas, two versions of chicken consommé, and - with the exception of the breakfast tacos, which feature eggs - that's it. Unless you count the paletas.

Pasilla's has taken over a space that seems destined to become a single-focus stop, like a street cart or market puesto. In recent memory, there was a corn-in-a-cup operation, a burrito emporium, and now Pasilla's. The current incarnation may be the purest of them all, and the decor - two tones of yellow and little else but a dark-stained wood floor - is perfectly in sync with the pristine menu. Service is styro, the price is right, and here's what you get:

Based on a family recipe, Pasilla's flautas are long, crisp, virtually greaseless, crisp ... let's see, what have I forgotten ... oh, yes, crisp, and served with cremita (a lightly soured cream), crumbled queso fresco, and a swirling of the two house salsas. Plus papas fritas. It bears mentioning that you can get a single flauta of queso with frijoles or papa for only $1.30, including all the garnishes. This is a ganga (deal) maxima.

First on the flauta board are barbacoa Pasilla's and barbacoa, the theoretical difference between the two being that the first is marinated in the house's signature sauce. I have to admit that the difference is slight, but I'm equally ready to claim that both are quite good. Don't believe for a minute the bland translation, "roasted beef"; this tastes like the real item.


504 W. Hildebrand
7am-3pm Mon-Wed
7am-8pm Thurs-Fri
10am-8pm Sat
Price range $1.30-4.65
Major cards accepted
Not wheelchair accessible

The salsas are real, too. As you might expect, the salsa roja features chiles Pasilla's and is slow-cooked just as it should be, according to Chef Cruz. But it's also very mellow and not very picante. In fact, Cruz admits to having toned down the heat for the gringo palate, and that includes salsa numero dos, the tomatillo with avocado, which is also antojito-worthy. Later, I learned that there's a salsa más brava, but you have to ask for it. Whichever salsas you choose, you might want to ask for them on the side; the house presentation is colorful, but the individual flavors of the salsas are lost in the process.

But on to the other flautas: The bean version is good, but mine could have used a little more filling. The chicken, which is the classic hereabouts, was distinguished by its fried-to-order crispness and was good with both the red and green salsas. The queso, filled with a Monterey Jack or its equivalent, seemed to warm to the salsa roja. And the "smashed" potato flauta, modest though it may sound, was absolutely regal with both garnishes. Maybe it's my peasant potato leanings, but the cubes of papas fritas were delicious dragged through the residual cremita and anointed with the salsas.

As for the consommés, one is a simple chicken broth with rice, garbanzos, and bits of chopped cilantro, and the other adds some shredded chicken to the pot. Both are unassuming, but just what's needed. They are especially nice with a squeeze of lime.

And that's all. It's a small menu and with only four parking spaces the shop has even further limitations. But we can help. Crank up your cravings.

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