I've received several emails about a Mexican joint that's a little off the beaten path (“beaten path” = Rehoboth Beach, of course). It's called La Quetzalteca, and it's on Rt. 24, just east of Millsboro, about 15 minutes west of Coastal Highway. And like most Tex-Mex places, it's informal with a fairly typical menu. Let's face it: There are only so many standard Tex-Mex dishes, so the differences come down to spice, execution and style.
Speaking of style, the festivities begin with an interesting twist on the standard salsa and chips. The salsa is presented in a little chilled carafe, along with a small bowl or two. You can decant the chunky concoction as you dip, thus keeping it cold while maintaining control over the the all-important dip-to-chip ratio. Very cute.
One of the stars of the show at La Quetzalteca is the chorizo. There are as many ways to prepare this lively Mexican sausage as there are restaurants that serve it, and this particular recipe is bracingly spicy and delicious. (Even my favorite Foodette who is terrified of anything remotely spicy loves it. Go figure.) The Nachos de Chorizo appetizer pairs the crumbly and pungent pork with a creamy Mexican “melting cheese.” Add in the major crunch of the made-in-house and slightly-thicker-than-usual corn tortilla chips, and you have the makings for a nice little party in your mouth. On another visit we had the Quesadilla Grande (cheese and refried beans are sandwiched between two warm flour tortillas and sliced pie-style). This is just one of the many methods for getting their tasty refried beans to your mouth–and that's not a bad thing. Guacamole and sour cream perch atop shredded lettuce and make for convenient dipping. The tacos differ from some of the local Rehoboth variety in that they are packed full of the filling, cheese and other taco components. On my first visit I ordered a ground beef taco and found the beef to be freezer-burned (loosely wrapped and frozen so long that it desiccates/dries out). I mentioned this to the server last night and she urged me to try the shredded beef taco, and I'm glad she did. In all fairness, the freezer-burn thing may or may not have been an isolated issue, but if you like beef tacos, I suggest the shredded meat rather than the ground.
Mole Poblano is another one of those regional dishes that's different everywhere you go, My resident Mole Expert (and certified Foodie-in-Waiting) loves the stuff and orders it everywhere. For those of you who follow these things, the best mole is, hands down, served at the Cancun restaurant at the corner of 55th St. and 8th Ave. in midtown Manhattan. OK, that's a bit of a commute, so the expert's verdict is that La Quetzalteca's Mole Poblano is good, but a bit smokier than most. Those of you who frequent RF have probably come across his local favorite in the reviews. Try, compare, then post your thoughts below.
The Quetzalteca Special is apparently a source of pride, since they named it after themselves. This shrimp/chicken/beef/chorizo “mixed grill” is accompanied by warm flour tortillas, into which one spoons some meat, caramelized onions, cool pico de gallo and guac. The panoply of texture, temperature and taste is surely the reason why they named it as they did. Last night I had the “Tabasco,” a Tex-Mex platter with a chili relleno, a burrito and a taco. The mild Ancho Chili pepper is stuffed with a mixture of potato and cheese. Usually the pepper is stuffed with cheese only, and, though potatoes are also a traditional filling, it was a bit overwhelming. The shredded chicken burrito was firm and fully packed (not unlike The Foodie), and you already know about the happily overstuffed and beefy taco. The other Tex-Mex combo platters contain various combinations of burritos, enchiladas, tacos, burritos and chalupas. They are all quite good, especially with that shredded chicken (or beef) and the smooth and creamy cheese. They're also a good excuse to scarf up more of La Quetzalteca's delicious refried beans.
La Quetzalteca1/7 La Quetzalteca2/7 Flan!3/7 The lunch fajita platter4/7 La Quetzalteca5/7 Big table. Long Arms. It all works.6/7 Shrimp ceviche7/7
It's a festive place, with lots of beer neons, flags and pennants. The extra-long booths toward the center are fun, and allow dedicated foodies to “spread-out.” Take that any way you like. See the menu at their website. Since La Quetzalteca is not at the beach, they probably have pretty regular hours, even in the winter. But it doesn't hurt to call (302) 934-8077. Click here to see them on Facebook. (L., D., Bar) Price range: Inexpensive.