Mexican food holds a very special place in my heart tum. I'm not a purist - whether its greasy Tex-Mex nachos glued together with cheddar and jalapenos or authentic Mexican fare starring cactus and chocolate mole sauce, I love it all indiscriminately. My favourite Mexican haunts in NYC? Rosa Mexicano (Mex, guac to die for), Rodeo Bar & Grill (Tex-Mex, crispy catfish enchiladas slathered with some joyously creamy sauce), Cafe El Portal (Mex, ate there only once and long ago, but Í remember it having a ton of dishes that were super authentic). But this trip I was going to try two new places: Chavellas on Classon Ave, Brooklyn, and Hecho en Dumbo, a Brooklyn transplant that recently found its new home on Bowery in the East Village. If an ethnic joint has any association to Brooklyn (the land of the authentic ethnic grub that’s just a stone’s throw away from Manhattan, but that I was sadly too lazy to visit more often when I lived in the city), you just know that it’s gotta be good.
Chavellas would not be easy to find for someone who didn’t live in the area. Tiny hole-in-the-wall place with a playfully cluttered green and orange facade and tables cramped together on the inside, just the kind of place that gets me excited because I know that the meal is going to be no fuss, just downright honest and simple food.
The proof of a Mexican place is usually in their Guac and chips. And Chavellas totally stood up to the test: a heaping bowl of creamy-chunky guacamole with a side of warm, soft corn tortillas, that tasted like they’d been lovingly made in some Mexican grandma’s kitchen just a few minutes before they hit our table.
I was utterly confused and conflicted going through the menu – so many awesome choices, like the grilled corn rolled in chipotle mayo and cojita cheese, quesadillas with roasted mushrooms and caramelized onions, enchiladas drowning in cheese and green sauce, tacos stuffed with chicken in mole sauce. These are situations that reduce my otherwise rationale thought process to desperate, futile notions, like why-oh-why weren’t we built like computers: if tummy capacity gets overloaded, you’d just plug in an external tum with a higher capacity and load it up with more good stuff?
The server eventually rescued me from my menu-decision inertia: I was going to have the Chiles Rellenos stuffed with Queso cheese. In retrospect, I’m not sure that the server’s recommendation was the best thing on the menu. Though I quite enjoyed the salty, dense Queso cheese filling beneath the lightly fried chile relleno exterior, I’ve been spoiled by greasy Tex Mex cuisine to expect cheese fillings that are a tad bit more gooey and melty, tomato sauce that’s more rich and creamy, and chile rellenos that have a thicker, crispier crust of fried goodness than the softly fried version on my plate.
While the chef had dished out a very timid plate of Chiles Rellenos, he hit a far more indulgent note with my friend’s order, three gargantuan chicken enchiladas gleefully erupting rich green sauce in all directions.
And here’s my happy tub of rice and beans – another work of kitchenly love à la Chavellas.
While my entree didn’t quite hit the spot, I did love everything else on the table and was thoroughly taken in by the charm and simplicity of the place. Chavellas definitely bags a place on my resto recommendation list, especially for a foodie who gets excited by the thought of leaving behind the lights and glam of Manhattan, to trek across to some quiet unassuming Brooklyn neighbourhood and savour the quintessential hole-in-the-wall, authentic Mex experience.
Read about Hecho en Dumbo in Part 2 of this ''Mexican food in NYC'' post
Phone: +1 (718) 622-3100
732 Classon Ave, Brooklyn, NY, USA