Ciudad Juárez in the state of Chihuahua in Mexico might get a dubious reputation for its many years of crimes concerning the safety of working class women and the ongoing war on drugs. That's unfortunate because the state boasts some of the best Mexican cuisine and it is a real treat to find some of it in our neighborhood without too much of a Tex-Mex influence ruining the attention to grains and proteins Chihuahuan chefs bring to the table. Chapultepec Mexican Restaurant, a stone-throw north of Hallandale Beach Boulevard has maintained a quiet, almost sleepy existence for the last decade.
Unfortunately, the only ones who were really asleep were us.
Owned by Silvia Ayala and her children, Karla Nuñez and Juan Carlos Marín, with Silvia's voice being the defining authority in the kitchen, the restaurant opened ten years ago as a means to provide for the family. It has now become a cornerstone of a thriving Mexican and Central American community in Hallandale.
The kitschy décor lends itself more to a dance bar, which is in essence what the restaurant transforms into on Friday and Saturday nights from 9 p.m. to 4 a.m., but the continuous buzz of patrons stopping in for a bite or picking up orders is proof positive of what's happening in the kitchen.
Appetizers, or rather antojitos range from the traditional nachos to delicious elote on the cob topped with butter, mayo, queso de Cotija, cheese, lime, and chili powder, as well as four different types of quesadillas. The tamal de elote was fantastic, cooked in its husk it had the right al dente consistency you want at first bite but yielded a creamy, almost buttery with corn grit follow-through. Delicious. While the elote on the cob was not available at the time of my arrival, my waitress offered to have it prepared in a cup. The combination works on so many levels I forgot that it was probably canned corn and it went great topping my tamal.
A must try are any of their daily taco offerings; carne asada, chorizo, chicken, al pastor and chicharrón, with lengua joining the roster on the weekends. All of these go for $1.99 each and come topped with cilantro, tomato and onions on corn tortillas. The tongue taquitos are no joke. For those who still harbor a squeamish sensibility towards "alternative" cuts of meat, these will be the tacos that get you off of that stupid horse. Instead of serving the tongue in slices like you'll find in most places, these tacos come with flavorful cubes of the stuff mingling with the toppings and have a clean, beefy taste to them.
There's also chicken and beef soup as well as pozole, a tasty pork soup with hominy and the mandatory after an evening's liver-wreck menudo to bring you back to the world of the living.
Entrees start with a gigantic burrito ($6.99) and five different types of tortas (Mexican griddle sandwiches) also for $6.99. There are a few shrimp options like camarones a la Diabla which comes in a sweet and spicy sauce, shrimp cocktail and a tostada which is a thick, bean and cheese-filled tortilla topped with either shrimp or fish ceviche. There's mojarra frita, a whole fried fish and shrimp soup available as well, with these seafood options going between $9.99 and $16.99.
Looking to see what we meant by the Chihuahuan attention to proteins? Look no further than the huaraches, flautas, chimichangas, sopes, chilaquiles and fajitas as you can choose chicken or steak in them. The marinades make the meats and you can taste the varying levels of spices in them that are not overpowered by the toppings and sauces.
Combination platters, pictured here come in three variants: chimichanga, taco and tostada; enchilada, taco and sope or tostada, enchilada and chimichanga. All are substantial portions and come with rice and beans. Guacamole, tortillas, sour cream and queso de Cotija are available as side orders. Doña Silvia and company also keep their Honduran neighbors in mind and offer a couple of tasty pupusas and baleadas for around four bucks each.
While I didn't try any of the dessert options, like the tres/cuatro leches or cheese, caramel and coconut flans; I will say this much, the taquitos al pastor were insanely sweet and buttery, so much so that the next time I find myself in this delightful joint, I will be finishing my meal with two or three of them. I suggest you sub them for dessert as well.
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