Considering that some entrées have to be priced three times their cost for the restaurant to make its money back (plus a little extra), it's shocking to see the prices on Daniel Silva's menu. A small breakfast section shows three pancakes with bacon or sausage for 99 cents. For lunch, a large carnitas burrito goes for $4.99 and, on the high end, a half-rack of St. Louis-style ribs is $6.99.
But Silva's clear when I ask him why everything's so cheap. Quijote's is his restaurant, he says, and he may raise prices later, but for now he wants the customers. He's similarly unworried about the location, which has devoured Puerto Palomas Mexican Restaurant, Bobbi's Restaurant and before that a variety of ethnic eateries. He's got 20 years of cooking experience to make it work, he says.
Well, it's working now.
A dark red, spicy, short ribs chile caldos ($5.99), covered with stubbornly clingy melted cheddar cheese, and spiked with guajillo chilies and chickpeas, defied apathy with its richly acidic broth and chewy bits of beef. Three homemade taquitos ($3.99) stacked over a pool of red tomatillo sauce, and filled with big shreds of beef burnt ends, were as fun to crunch and chew through as they were delicious.
Even the ribs, odd as they were to find in a roadside northern Mexican joint, were great, if not to my taste — no grill or wood-smoke touched this swine.
Organization-wise, Silva slings heat in the kitchen, while his partner Francesca Trejo and family handle things everywhere else. They're great with a refill, or a check, or delivering a dessert of homemade fried churros ($4.99) layered in cinnamon and sugar. The dessert's served with two cups of complimentary Abuelita, a brand of Mexican hot chocolate; light and steaming-hot, the churros are the equal to any beignet.
Of course, peaks would just be plateaus if not for the down sides, and there are a few little ones.
The chiles rellenos ($4.99) sported two small, lovely Anaheim peppers stuffed with melted cheese, but the sauce drowned the breading into sogginess. The torta ahogada ($4.99) sandwich came covered in a tomato broth that soaked the roll more than it could take, and gamey shredded pork failed to complement. And let's just say it was less than pleasant to have a speaker right above our table literally blasting 92.9 Peak FM at us.
But pork rebounded with the torta cochinita pibil ($4.99), a small, crusty, square sandwich filled with the marinated meat, pickled onions and beans — not to mention a little savory grit — that came with a side of bright-orange-and-addicting habañero sauce. Breakfast also got a pig boost with a fine-and-really-cheap ($1.50) breakfast burrito of eggs, potatoes, cheddar cheese and bacon, ham or sausage.
Even a flan ($3.99) swimming in a little pool of thin caramel sauce and cooked a little past perfect couldn't put a dent in the joy of a meal here. And that's because it was still a pretty good flan. Just like everything here — nothing wildly exotic, just nice flavors priced right.
So hit the little strip just south of East Platte Avenue. History tells us it needs your support, and our stomachs say it's worth it. And people may be catching on already: Asked how business has been since his Feb. 6 opening, Silva simply says, "Better and better."