Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Mex With Success

Valerie Safran and her partner, chef Marcie Turney, have Philadelphia's Midtown Village neighborhood covered. With Mexican and Indian restaurants, a home goods shop and a grocery on South 13th Street, the pair soon will be extending their domain with Barbuzzo, a Mediterranean eatery on the same block. Their restaurants, Lolita and Bindi, have participated in the area's gluten-free Appetite for Awareness event for the past few years and I had read several rave reviews of both places. Armed with that insight, my wife, kids and I ventured into Center City on a recent Saturday night eager to try the Mexican fare at Lolita (106 South 13th Street, 215-546-7100).

We took a table towards the back of the 60-seat dining room, where diners can peek into the open kitchen. It's always a pleasure to dine out without having to teach the waitstaff a crash course on the gluten-free diet. Our server told us that just about the entire menu was gluten free. The four of us started our meal off with an order of guacamole con totopos mixtos - mashed avocados topped with shredded jicama alongside a basket of corn, plaintain, sweet potato and taro chips.

For the main course, my wife enjoyed the orange-ginger glazed pork carnitas, served with salsa fresca, guacamole and wrapped in homemade soft corn tortillas. I liked the tender three-chile braised boneless shortribs, plated with a smoky bacon-chayote-potato gratin and grilled asparagus.

Both of our boys loved the queso chihuahua enchiladas served with three skewered gulf shrimp, rice, salsa verde and refried beans. My older son's dinner was delayed a few minutes coming out of the kitchen, so the manager came over to offer us a complimentary dessert. We opted for one of the gluten-free choices, and the flourless dark chocolate cake with rum caramel and coconut macaroon we shared was richly sweet.

Since Lolita is BYOB, diners are welcome to bring their own drinks, including tequila for blending margaritas. Guests at the table next to ours shared a pitcher of naranja de sangria, a margarita mix made with blood orange puree. The restaurant is cash-only.

Lolita on Urbanspoon
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