The Mex Racket

How many enchiladas can dance on the head of a palm?

Thick, deliciously oily tortilla chips arrived hot from the fryer with one green and one red salsa in a pair of molcajetes, further eroding the foodphobia we'd developed at Cottonwood. Although both salsas were a mite bland, these fried tortilla chips were as good as the ones at Tacos al Carbon in Lake Worth, my infallible Mex litmus test.

The menu's prices were another indicator of authenticity. Three "La Mexico" tacos stuffed with sirloin rang up at $10.99. Appetizers (quesa fundido with mushrooms, cheese quesadillas) and soups (tortilla, jugo de carne) ranged from $3.99 to $6.99. There were grilled bulb onions and sautéed Serrano peppers as "extras" ($2.50, $1.99), and they even had tripe as an option to stuff into the tacos — if anything signifies real Mexican food, it's tripe. At those prices, I could sit here and eat all night too.

Which we more or less did. Vegetarian warning: The menu is decidedly beefcentric. The Las Gaoneras specialty platter ($10.99) is a thin, marinated, and grilled flank steak served alongside a covered dish of warm corn tortillas. You can doctor these as you please — pinching from the little dishes of cilantro and onions or slathering on some spoonfuls of salsa or fantastic and rich refried beans ($1.99) and rice ($2.50). The La Mexico tacos combine slices of tenderloin with crunchy bits of chicharrónes (pork cracklings) for texture and extra fat, rolled into chewy corn tortillas.

Joe Rocco

Location Info

Map

Cottonwood Restaurant and Cafe

309 Via De Palmas
Boca Raton, FL 33432

Category: Restaurant > American

Region: Boca Raton

Details

Cottonwood Restaurant & Cafe, 309 Via de Palmas, Boca Raton. Lunch daily 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.; dinner from 6 p.m. Call 561-353-2233. Las Gaoneras, 1701 N. Congress Ave., Boynton Beach. Monday through Saturday 11 a.m. till 11 p.m.,Sunday 7 till 11 p.m. Call 561-735-0588.

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We eavesdropped on other tables over our cold, creamy dessert flan ($2.99), and they were cooing and ahhing. The place wasn't even half full, but that half was one happy bunch of plump, satisfied Norte Americanos, basking in the too-bright light, taking pleasure in the spotlessly clean tile and disinfected tabletops as they ventured comfortably into Mexi-land. We decided Las Gaoneras, named after a fancy bullfighting move, was like that red matador's cape — designed to fatally distract us lumbering, snorting Americans into the flavors and textures of a real cuisine. By the time we realize what's happened, it's too late. ¡Olé!

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