I've always eaten downstairs, which feels like a cool, dark cave where you can escape from the bustling 14th Street and U Street area of D.C. Small wooden tables with a single candle in the middle of each are where you eat, and the stone walls have masks (Mayan? Incan? Mexican?) illuminated with green and red lights. Thin wooden slats arranged in arches constitute the ceiling, and a simple concrete floor adds to the cave-like/underground feel. The design on the shirts of the staff is a neon Dia de los Muertos skull set against a black background. For the tequila fans, El Centro has a tequileria with more than 200 kinds from which to choose.
And aahhh, the food. My most recent meal was from a pre-fixe menu and included the following:
Drink: Mango Margarita made with the restaurant's tequila
Antojito (street snack or appetizer): Sopes de Nopal made with the following:
- Chayote (pear squash)
- Bean puree
- Corn masa cakes
- Crema fresca
Entree: Huitlacoche Enchiladas (with sides of Mexican rice and spicy re-fried beans) made with the following:
- Roasted corn
- Oaxaca cheese
- Huitlacoche mushrooms -- also called "corn smut," this is a fungus that grows on corn and is considered pathogenic. Many farmers see smut as a threat to corn (which it is), and yet in Mexico huitlacoche is a delicacy. Since becoming more popular in the United States, some Americans are referring to it as Mexican truffles.
- Entomatada sauce -- entomatadas are from Oaxaca and are similar to enchiladas
- Epazote -- a Mexican herb similar to tarragon or fennel
Dessert: Churros -- long and thick "Spanish doughnuts" sprinkled with cinnamon and sugar
To close, I've included some photographs taken when my dad and his family hosted my sister and me on a trip to Mexico (my dad is from Guadalajara).
Below: el mercado (Yes, those are dead chickens piled up in one of the photographs! The food in Mexico is fresh and delicious, and very different than the Americanized and Tex-Mex versions in the U.S. Two of my favorite finds? Quesadillas with pumpkin blossoms or zucchini blossoms and authentic, homemade horchata).
Below: Pyramid of the Sun and Pyramid of the Moon (along the Avenue of the Dead) in Teotihuacán (and before the days where I owned a digital camera and could delete and take another picture!).
Below: Parque Nacional Eduardo Ruiz en Uruapan, Michoacán.