By a happy coincidence, the Little Acapulco, a relatively new Mexican-American restaurant on the edge of downtown, came up on our docket to review just in time to celebrate today's Mexican national holiday, Cinco de Mayo.
Why "Little"? Well, it is just a small lunch room - four booths and maybe 10 counter stools - on the corner of Broadway and Knapp Street, around the corner from the Amtrak Station. Besides, "Little" is also a reminder that it has inherited both the recipe book and fond memories of the original Acapulco, which was operated by the grandfather of the present proprietors.
With the advent of warm weather - another happy coincidence - the Little Acapulco has just completed an attractive enclosed patio, so that the restaurant will seem very small only in bad weather, and even then you could say that it's not uncomfortable but cozy.
Ten o'clock in the morning is hardly a breakfast hour on working days, but if you settle on country eggs -huevos rancheros - the opening suggestion on the Mexican breakfast section of the menu, you will be vigorously awakened, catapulted, as it were, into the working day.
The salsa is not to be taken lightly. The little tortillas that come with the eggs, beans, and rice are tender and tasty, but not served under the eggs as I've been used to them. However, they still mop up the yolk.
Other appetizers are partly Tex-Mex, partly pedestrian American; cheese sticks next to quesadillas and nachos, guacamole beside wings. Veteran Mexican fans will realize, of course, that salsa makes all things Mexican.
If you're a fan, you can easily enough think of standard entrees, on which a Mexican kitchen's reputation is built: burritos, tamales, enchiladas, chimichangas, and so forth. But besides the distinctive touch of the individual cook on these familiar plates, the Little Acapulco's menu offers two welcome surprises. One is guizado de res, which at least suggests beef stew fit for a king and in this kitchen is sauteed chunky beef in a tomato sauce. The other is flautas, crusty crepes stuffed with chicken or beef.
Huge servings are characteristic of many ethnic restaurants, although the prices seems too low to explain all the dinner on the plate and the work to produce it. At the Little Acapulco you can have a filling meal for less than you might pay in many restaurants just for lunch.
You cannot, however, have a margarita. The Little Acapulco is beer, wine, and liquor free.
There is curbside parking, in addition to a graveled lot off Knapp Street behind the restaurant; look for the large Mexican coat of arms painted on the side wall. Ol !