Good friends Paula and Mike Graham made reservations for the four of us at El Poquito, a Mexican cantina, located in the Chestnut Hill section of Philadelphia. Recently opened by George Atterbury (protégé of famed Iron Chef José Garces (JG), it is named after iconic café racer motorcycles that raced up the coast of Mexico and into Baja California in the 1970’s. Atterbury hired former JG Domestic chef de cuisine, Andrew Sabin as his executive chef.
As José Garces is one of our favorite chefs, we were excited about the possibilities this new restaurant had to offer with their delectably unique varieties of Mexican cuisine which boasts a full bar with solid beer selections, plus a varied list of tequilas, mezcals, margaritas and creative cocktails; and an easy-priced menu of tacos, enchiladas and ceviches.
Less than 15 minutes from Mike and Paula’s house, we made it in perfect time to be seated for our 7:00 reservations. Walking back to our booth, I noticed the namesake racer motorcycles hanging on the walls (unfortunately my photo is blurry) and the awesome, wood-paneled soaring ceilings impressively lit with numerous twinkling glass pendants.
As for those aforementioned libations, Russ and Mike both slowly enjoyed a “hip” Mezcal Negroni: mezcal, campari, sweet vermouth (barrel-aged when available, and it was that night) with a twist of lemon; while Paula relished a Margarita, and I sipped a crisp Sauvignon Blanc. As an appetizer Russ and I shared a Camarones Ceviche: shrimp, spicy tomato, orange, avocado, and corn nuts.
Vintage cocktail negroni is emerging as the drink of the moment—now a super-modish choice in hipster pubs and enthusiastic cocktail bars, where whole negroni menus are emerging, with some people prefering less Campari and a touch more of mellowing vermouth.
Not an extensive dinner menu, it’s easy to zero in on a selection—and everything is a la carte, even the sides. The following pictures pretty much tell the story:
Mike—TACOS DE CARNITAS: crispy pork, spicy black beans, onion, lime and cilantro
Paula–TACOS DE BAJA: crispy cod, cabbage, green apple, avocado, spicy lime aioli
Russ—ENCHILADAS DE COSTILLAS: short rib, queso oaxaca, roasted onion, mole poblano
Lynn—ENCHILADAS DE POLLO: chicken, guajillo chile sauce, queso fresco, pickled onion
Russ exclaimed “These were quite possibly the best enchiladas I’ve ever eaten!” After our fabulous meal, walking to the parking lot, we encountered a vibrant little park area (which seems to be part of the Chestnut Hill Hotel compound) with colorful fountains, interesting statues and quirky seating, so of course I had to photograph us playing around.
In season, a landscaped patio with outdoor fire pits will add a new dimension to this Germantown Avenue landmark. The accommodating and knowledgeable servers, the hip venue, and the distinctive menu make this thriving new restaurant well worth another visit— hopefully in warmer weather.
BTW, the literal translation for El Poquito is “The Little One” or “The Underdog.”