In: Eating1 Jun 2011
(map) This place opened in December, but is only now putting the finishing touches on the decor. Now on the menu: inviting booths, artwork, music, even a relaxing area for dining outdoors. The two guys behind Santa Catarina come from Manuel’s and Fonda San Miguel, two of the best spots in town for interior-Mexican cuisine. Jesus and Francisco bring Fonda’s emphasis on authenticity and fresh ingredients, but at about half the price! Above, the Coctel de Camarones, the best shrimp cocktail ever. Big, whole shrimp outside, and the inside is filled with more shrimp, chopped. The cocktail sauce is a bright, complex combo of onion, tomatoes, serranos, red wine vinegar and salsa valentina. Muy padre!
Cochinita Pibil, tender chunks of pork shoulder marinated in achiote and then steamed in a banana leaf. The rich pork is offset by the pickled onions on top. The creamy guacamole has bits of chopped onion and tomato.
Here, you’ll find interior-Mexican classics like huaraches, totopos, and sopes, above. A masa-corn base holds your choice of toppings, in this case, shredded pork in a flavorful guajillo sauce, dressed with a little shredded cabbage, cotija cheese and sour cream.
They’ve installed booths along every wall, accented by paintings, sculpture and artifacts from Mexico. Music livens up the place, also.
There are eight flavors of the special Catarina margarita, including the sweet-tart pomegranate, above. Just $5 at happy hour!
Queso Fundido with venison chorizo is fantastic, rich and gooey with chihuahua cheese (more expensive than the typical monterey). Filled with strips of peppers and onions, you fold it into the soft, fresh tortillas they make themselves (in fact, the tortilla maker was patting them out near our table).
Enchiladas Pibil, an enchilada version of the Cochinita Pibil, covered with a spicy, bright-green tomatillo sauce, and more chihuahua cheese. The black beans were tender and well-seasoned. Even the rice was dressed up with some chopped vegetables.
The new area for outdoor dining is marked by silk drapes and festive chandeliers. Flower-filled boxes line the railings.