Restaurant Ipsa Loquitor: Monte Alban

By Adriene L. Harwill, Pro Se Restaurant Critic


Bright orange, yellow, and green walls?  Mexican food down the street from the Mark Twain House?  Mariachi music?  I can imagine Harriet Beecher Stowe’s emotional distress as she stands up and shouts “Outrageous!”  Luckily today, the standards of civilized dining render the food at Monte Alban, 531 Farmington Ave., utterly tolerable in this civilized society.

While I waited for the meal to arrive, I sipped on Aqua de Jamaica, a refreshing hibiscus tea and took in the atmosphere. Pictures of the Mexican countryside hang on the colorful textured walls, accented with hand painted tiles. I loved how the lanterns and terra cotta tiling that formed arched doorways made me feel like I was in a hacienda’s courtyard. There was an inviting patio with a fountain but sadly they’ve closed it for the winter. I made a mental note to come back in the spring.

Served on plates that matched the walls, the gorditas were to die for: juicy chicken stained red with spicy peppers and tomato stuffed in a fluffy cornbread pita. I had to force myself to stop eating them to try the tamales, steamed in soft corn husks. Hot and earthy, they were the perfect comfort food. The tostada looked delicious: curvaceous slices of vividly green avocado surrounding a mound of sour cream covering pico de gallo, shredded chicken, and beans.

Monte Alban’s Chimichanga, a deep fried burrito, suffers a design defect. They should be crisp and crunchy but Monte Alban’s was soggy, soaking in a salsa that lacked dimension. In Monte Alban’s defense, the state of the art in this part of the country is to drench burritos in salsa. I prefer picking up a burrito in my hands like they do in Southern California. Nevertheless, served with a corncake, rice, and beans, it is a generous portion. My favorite entrée was the Al Pastor Burrito made with dry rubbed spiced pork, a good change of pace from the typical shredded chicken and ground beef that dominates Monte Alban’s menu. I recommend Monte Alban. Its location makes it the perfect place for lunch. Not only will you get good food but you will support a local business near the Law School.

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