Went to a "new" Mexican restaurant in the neighborhood last week. Definitely worth a comment. My first thought on entering Mom's Old Recipe on Milwaukee Ave. was that it probably wished it was in Wicker Park. Based on the decor and the wait staff this place seemed out of place on the edge of the city limits and would be more at home closer to Milwaukee and Damen than at Milwaukee near Devon. This thought was reinforced when I saw the same sentiment on one of review spots - yelp or another one.
Decor aside, when I go out to eat, it's really to eat, not to look. As long as what I am looking at is not looking back I don't care too much about what it looks like. Mom's Old Recipe has some sort of brushed metal sculpture that resembles waves (to me, anyway) on an olive drab painted wall. Above the waves large canvases, some blatantly marked "after Diego Rivera" depict Mexican and Mayan subjects. The other wall is painted a dull ochre to resemble brick masonry with a large sun image centered on the wall.
Metal pipes emerge from the walls, candle style bulbs and a wire mesh leaf or flower standing in for wall sconce lighting. Railings around the tables in the window (step up) and recently brought in chairs and cushions from the patio seating (read curbside) give a casual feeling to a place that was obviously decorated with care. The effect is roomy, the din increasing as each additional party enters.
On to the food. Daily specials include the ubiquitous combination of half carne asada, enchilada, and chile relleno. The special that caught my eye was the taco trio. One steak, one chicken, one fish taco for $10, beans & rice included. Assured the specials repeated often I ordered the trio secure in the knowledge I could try the steak another time.
Chips and salsa were presented gratis; the chips light and crisp, the salsa a smooth puree of chiles with a gentle heat. Unexpected were the delicious pickled carrot, cauliflower and jalapenos. Sweet and tart with a hint of cumin and heat, they were a delightful surprise. I am searching for a recipe to replicate them.
The man ordered his standby enchiladas mole. He praised the mole as delicious, if the portion small. Two enchiladas on a glamorous square plate and a dab of beans and rice on the side. Used to the huge portions typical of neighborhood Mexican restaurants or taquerias, we decided our waistlines favored the more realistic serving.
My chicken taco was unremarkable, the steak good and the fish taco outstanding. A crisply fried tilapia fillet presented on a bed of shredded cabbage in a vinagery dressing, the smaller than usual tortillas (two per taco) made a nice presentation on the rectangular white china plate. A serving of beans and rice on a separate plate accompanied the trio.
Other entrees included burritos, enchiladas and some more unique preparations such as Moyetes (a sandwich of beans, cheese and pico de gallo), Enfrijoladas (tortillas stuffed with ham & Mexican sausage) and Tacos Acorazados (tortillas with steak Milanesa and potatoes) all in the $10 range (the steak and seafood entrees higher). Delicious caramel flan, thick and creamy with drizzlings of raspberry sauce and whipped cream, made a lucious ending to our meager supper.
Drink specials include Margaritas, Bloody Mary's, Sangria and Beer all discounted on various days. Family friendly, there were three tables with children (not all well behaved, unfortunately) on our visit. Friday and Saturday evenings feature live music. If you like din you'll want to go on those evenings. If you prefer dinner, go before 8 pm or on a different day.
Friendly service, nice menu, good prices. All in all, a great first experience at a new place. We will be going back.
Quotable Quotes; in the category Can't Talk . . . . Eating.
"Conversation is food for the soul." Mexican Proverb