First Bite: Chilango Does Churros


I'm not even a huge churro fan. I like fried dough, sure, but given a choice of desserts it wouldn't top my list. But the churros at Chilango, which opened earlier this fall on the site of the forgettable Aztec Taqueria at Church and Market, are so good that they make the other very good food that you might order before dessert almost pale in comparison. With their crisp exterior, just-cooked almost custardy interior and generous dusting of granulated sugar and Mexican cinnamon, these set the gold standard.

But before I get lost in churro reverie I ought to tell you about the rest of the menu here, overseen by chef Roberto Aguiar Cruz, formerly chef-partner at Mexico DF (and Fonda in the East Bay before that). They're using Niman Ranch meat, hand making the pliable tortillas to order from organic masa and presenting some lesser-seen Mexico City street food snacks that you won't find at every joint in town,  like the pambazo—a guajillo-chile-sauce-smothered sandwich containing refried beans, potatoes, chorizo, lettuce and crema—and distrito federal-style quesadillas, which are more like empanandas, filled with spinach, Oaxacan cheese and strips of roasted poblano peppers. A small makeover has made the space a bit cozier, and the walls are hung with black and white images of people serving (and eating) street food in Mexico (the name of the restaurant is slang for someone from Mexico City).

Other menu standouts include the mahi mahi ceviche—a nice blend of raw fish, cucumber, avocado and orange, spiced up with minced serrano chile—and the absolutely satisfying sopa de tortilla. I've had other versions of this soup that were characterized by a greasy, heavy broth muddied by melted cheese, but at Chilango the broth tastes distinctly of chicken and chilies, the cheese is cubed queso fresco (which don't melt into a gooey mess) and the rest of the ingredients—chunks of avocado and potato, shredded chicken (a mix of dark and white meat) and strips of freshly-fried tortillas are fresh and in perfect proportion. For $8, it's also an enormous bargain. And for dessert? Well, you know what to do.