Tuesday, April 10, 2012

El Mundo: A Mexican Original

In honor of the blog's year anniversary, Beth figured it may be nice to get back to our roots for a post, which is why I'm back for a guest blog, Michael, Beth's younger bro. Remember me?

When Beth posted about some of our favorite Mexican places -- a testament to just how much us Holladays love our Mexican; we could eat it for every platter! -- some born and bred Louisvillians may have noticed the big elephant in the blog: El Mundo! This one of a kind Frankfort restaurant offers Mexican fare like no other in town. You won't find your standard Vegetarian E with re-fried bean burritos on the menu. The recipes are based on authentic cuisine, but they put a spin on it by using fresh ingredients. No canned diced tomatoes here. For example, they will use black beans instead of mushy re-fried, red instead of white rice, and greens instead of iceberg lettuce. Or they will include ingredients not usually found in Mexican food. You may walk in and find the special incorporates a surprising ingredient. Portabella mushroom, goat cheese, or calamari, oh my!

The downstairs self serve section with the open kitchen
 While a bit small, the spot is sectioned off in three areas. The front downstairs is a self serve deal where customers can order from the cashier, choose a table for themselves, and pick up their food when ready from the kitchen's counter. Upstairs, you can see the hostess to get waited on by a server. Both have decorative lights splayed along the brightly painted walls. You can go for the casual atmosphere downstairs or spring for a bit fancier upstairs. I've eaten in both areas, and my choice has always depended on what seating is available. It fills up fast, especially anytime after 7 on a Friday or Saturday, so plan accordingly. I've known of people getting turned away because the place was too busy to take anyone else. Beth and I went on Saint Patrick's Day, and plenty tables were available. I've never had an issue when going between 5 or 7. The best was when my roommate and I went during the UofL/UK game, and it was so deserted we had our pick of practically anywhere in the restaurant. Available seating depends on time and also other potential events. And, extra spots are open in the Spring, Summer, and Fall when their patio in the back is an option for outdoor Margarita buzz enjoyment.

Speaking of booze, their margs are the best in town. They use blue agave tequila for a smooth taste. And, I can't speak with 100% accuracy to this, but it seems like their lime mix doesn't have any corn syrup, so the finish on them is purer. Of course, frozen or rocks. I always do rocks, because I believe the general rule that they tend to be stronger. Not that it matters at Mundo. These margs are strooong. Just two will getcha! depending on your tolerance. Their house marg does me just fine, but if you want an upgrade, they have a top shelf choice too. Or, go ahead and chuck the pretense of the lime mix and get a tequila flights to sample from the 40 types.

The Nacho Mountain of Yum
After a few marg sips -- or sucking down a full one within 5 minutes like us Holladays roll -- the food does not disappoint. They have a healthy offering of burritos, enchiladas, tacos, and more. The best part is that each item comes with your choice of filling to customize it to your liking. The options are shredded chicken, pulled pork, ground bison straight from the KY heartland, black beans, and sauteed vegetables. Most entrees are lathered with either their signature red or green chile sauce and served with salsa fresca. A good standby and favorite among many I know is the quesadilla. This large, round tortilla is pan fried to a mild crisp and delicately drizzled with sour cream, which melts on top and into your mouth. No grease. The last time I went I got the Chile Relleno, which is topped with the green chile sauce and stuffed with Jack cheese. It was baked perfectly -- not overly done to make it soggy, but just soft enough. I got it with the veggies, which are seasonal, a rotation they've implemented far longer than the Market and Germantown hipsters! Another favorite -- what Beth got when we went the last time -- is the Nachos. Simple, I know. But, these aren't the ones you made in 6th grade after school in the microwave with Velveeta and Santinas. It's a mountain of delectable ingredients -- black beans, Jack cheese, jalapenos, tomato, guacamole, salsa casa, and sour cream -- piled on crispy corn chips that never turn soggy. I think the key is that they bake them. The only criticism is the spice level. I am my sister's brother, and love the heat. Not many of the options are spicy, even the Chile Relleno. At times, maybe a little bland compared to the Mexican food I'm used to. My roommate and I have a plan to keep asking them if they can make our meals spicy, and maybe they'll take the hint. The only exception is when I had one gloriously spicy burrito there on a lovely patio visit last year. The Garden Burrito with fresh chopped jalapenos and a spicy salsa. But, this was a special. Their specials change frequently, so if you try a new item, be sure to savor it, because it may only be available for a week. I have eaten that burrito over and over in my head ever since, it was so good.

Some may criticize and say this isn't truly authentic, but come on. Really, what is these days? Then again, this is coming from a guy who eats a Qdoba burrito at least once a week, although I can promise El Mundo is much more true to a Mexican mother's recipe than a chicken queso burrito from the Q.

If you're tired of the same old El Nopal burrito or Los Aztecas quesadilla, keep El Mundo in mind for a unique take on "authentic". And for those in L-ville who love Mexican and have never been, you are crazy and need to go NOW. Until then, this is that other Holladay saying, live to eat!

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