Food & Drink : Mexico City Mole

Tres Moles offers authentic café fare

Let’s face it. We live in a town with a Mexican or Tex-Mex restaurant around every corner. With rare exceptions, you can generally count on a tasty, moderately priced meal that will satisfy a specific craving or the need for a quick lunch. Most San Antonians have a favorite place, based either on convenience, nostalgia, or some specialty item that recommends it, but “favorite” is so subjective. The idea of following a secondhand, anonymous tip to check out yet another “phenomenal” Mexican restaurant seems a bit melodramatic. On the other hand, how bad could it be? There’s always the possibility that something truly, deeply yummy might be waiting — so off I go in search of Los Tres Moles.

Los Tres Moles Mole de Olla is more like a pork stew, with meat and fresh vegetables in a rich broth.

Tres Moles is tucked in the middle of a generic retail strip on Seidel Road, just past Austin Highway’s Terrell Plaza, but its hand-painted plywood signs catch my eye. More hand-written signs in black marker on construction paper are taped to the windows like schoolroom assignments, advertising daily specials, chiles rellenos, all-day taco options, and the signature moles rojo, verde, and de olla. Each has its own character (apparently a family signage project), some retaining their rectangular shape, some trimmed to conform to letters formed by various hands, one clumsy, one more assured, still others purely functional. I like the feel of the place already.

Once inside, the air conditioner churns reassuringly, and the bright, freshly painted walls against new carpet emphasize the immaculate cleanliness of the comfortable room. It’s breakfast time, I’m the only customer. A young woman is in the kitchen, a small child chatters in the back room, and owner Pilar Sandoval bustles out to greet me in timid English. It’s clear that Spanish is the language of the house, evident in the exchanges about what produce needs to be prepped or procured, what dishes need to be fixed for lunch, and playful comments between Pilar, her daughter, and granddaughter. I’m clearly in good hands.

The breakfast menu is simple, consisting of various combinations of eggs with bacon, ham, chorizo, etc., all served with refried beans and potatoes. Uh-oh, I think, just another standard Mexican-food joint. But the machado is quite flavorful, with plenty of fresh chile, onion, and tomato lightly sautéed with the eggs and beef. The beans are wholesome and fresh without a scrap of excess fat, and the parboiled potatoes have been lightly pan-seared with just a hint of oil for a toasty edge. I’m a little disappointed by the commercial flour tortillas, and the coffee is weak for my taste, but on the whole it’s a satisfying breakfast and I’m fortified for the day. It reminds me of family-run hotels in Mexico, where the desk clerk fixes breakfast before you head out to see the sights.

Los Tres Moles Mexican Restaurant and Catering Service
6618 Seidel Road
8am-3pm Mon-Sat
Price range: $1.50-6
Cash and check only

Pilar’s Mexico City family makes the moles. Both green and red are fresh, the verde rich with ground nuts and seeds, the rojo an expert blend of roasted chiles, served over a tender chicken leg quarter with refried beans and delicate, stock-infused white rice. The Mole de Olla, we are told, is more of a pork stew. On another visit, we tried the tasty Bistec Encebollado (thin seasoned steak grilled with onions), and the excellent carnitas (shredded tender pork), served with an avocado pico de gallo, beans, and rice, this time cooked with a little tomato. The Chicarron en Salsa Verde is also appealing. The lunch specials include Puerco en Salsa Morita (Morita chile), Chiles Rellenos with your choice of cheese or picadillo stuffing, and Milanesa with rajas con crema (roasted poblano chile strips in cream sauce). While the dishes are fresher and lighter, they don’t typically include salad, so order a side of fresh guacamole. You can also request corn instead of flour tortillas — they’re both commercial, but maybe if enough of us become regular customers, we can convince them to make them fresh.

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