2017-08-23 / Restaurant of the Week

El Mero Mero

Recently opened in May, El Mero Mero is a great addition to the neighborhood, located just next to the Astoria Multiplex Cinema and near the Museum of the Moving Image. El Mero Mero serves up classic Southern Mexican “home” food from the gastronomic region of Puebla. This is definitely not Tex-Mex or chain restaurant-style ‘Mexican’ food, and there are no refried beans here. The interior of El Mero Mero reflects the sentiment of home style Mexican cuisine with rustic, rough hewn wood tables, a wooden bar with artisanal tile work above, and a charming tin ceiling.

Amiable owner Leo Nava explained that the name “El Mero Mero” is an idiomatic expression meaning “the best or main one”. Indeed, this not a run-of-the-mill restaurant. First, settle in during their Happy Hour which takes place Monday to Friday from 3-7pm. Leo mixes up fantastic margaritas, on the rocks or frozen, minty mojitos, piña coladas, sangria, and a wide variety of tequilas and mezcals to enjoy on their own or mixed into your favorite cocktail. Frosty bottled beers from Mexico include Pacifico, Negro Modelo, Vittorio, and Corona.

There are a dozen appetizers to choose among, to be enjoyed at your table, or at the bar if you prefer. Mexican style shrimp cocktail, marinated in lime juice and herbs, is a great way to start, along with house made guacamole and their own blue and white corn tortilla strips for scooping it up. Corn on the cob gets smeared with a bit of mayo to hold the cotija cheese and a dusting of chili powder for an ancient treat of Mexico. Mini tostadas are filled with slow-cooked pork and dried chili sauce, or share an order of homemade chorizo, hot off the grill.

El Mero Mero has light dishes that are great for sharing and snacking amongst friends, such as their quesadillas stuffed with shredded chicken, slow cooked in chipotle sauce, topped with Oaxaca cheese, or quesadillas filled with pork or shrimp. Vegetarian quesadillas are filled with pumpkin flowers, onions, and Oaxaca cheese or corn and mushrooms. “Tortas” are hero sandwiches constructed on sturdy bread and filled with grilled steak with dried chilis, chicken breast, marinated pork with pineapple, or slow-cooked pork called “pernil.” El Mero Mero’s tacos are nothing like those from a fast food chain. These are real, Mexican, street food-style tacos, served on small, flour tortillas piled high with your choice of chicken tinga, shrimp, pork, filet mignon, spicy sausage, marinated pork carnitas, or flaky fish. Served three to an order for $10-$12, I’ll be back for more of these. All these sandwiches, tacos, and quesadillas make the perfect dinner or lunch too, along with a crunchy salad composed of mango and jicama.

Entrées at El Mero Mero are generously sized and beautifully presented, topped with lovely orchid flowers. Grilled skirt steak, called “entraña“ is served with a mound of seasoned rice and beans, while filet mignon comes with chili sauce and cactus leaves called nopales. Mole Poblano is the traditional dish from Puebla with a savory sauce, scented with cocoa that is delicious with tender chicken.

Roasted Poblano peppers are stuffed with cheese and rice in a mild tomato sauce for a dish called Chili Relleno, or stuffed peppers. ($14). Chilaquiles are corn tortillas lightly fried with skirt steak in a savory onion sauce topped with Mexican cream and tomato sauce. My mother and I shared a gorgeous platter of jumbo shrimp, gently sautéed in smoky chipotle sauce, served around a mound of deliciously seasoned rice. Classic enchiladas are flour tortillas layered with either chicken in green tomatillo sauce, Mole Poblano, or spicy, marinated beef. There’s even a vegetarian Enchilada to enjoy.

Top off your meal with a palate sweetener such as the cool and creamy coconut flan, traditional tres leches cake, or churros with chocolate sauce. Try a liqueur called Tia Maria or Kahlua along with your coffee, and float home with a feeling of satisfaction. El Mero Mero is open seven days a week for lunch and dinner from noon until 11pm on weekdays and midnight on weekends. Delivery to your home or office is free with a $20 minimum via Seamless or Uber Eats. Or just stop by either before or after the movies, or a trip to the Museum. The R and N trains are a short walk away too.

Muchas gracias El Mero Mero for bringing traditional Mexican fare to Astoria.

35-57 38th Street, Astoria
718.392.2444

www.elmeromeronyc.com
Order from Seamless and Uber eats

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