Little Beast is a nice neighborhood place. I went there with my friend Jon Breul too soon after it opened, and it was a mixed experience. We split a delicious lamb ragu and an okay pizza, and endured slow and confused service — the sort of service you get when you go to a restaurant before it gets its sea legs — with varying degrees of patience. The place has settled down and they’ve expanded their regularly menu dramatically — I’ll have to review it before long. It seems particularly popular with parents with small children.
Came the lockdown. As with other restaurants, Little Beast struggled and, as with a couple of other local places, Little Beast invited in a “ghost kitchen”, another chef with a completely different menu cooking out of their kitchen: I’m Eddie Cano now includes the Nantucket Clam Shack. In Little Beast’s case the other chef was Doña Tere, formerly of Joe Andres’ China Chilcano. When China Chilcano went into hibernation (their word), Chef Teres took a sabbatical with Geraldine Mendoza, the restaurant’s director of operations, to cook authentic Mexican food from her native Tlaxcala. She wound up at Little Beast, not 6 blocks from me with Taqueria Xochi.
I strolled on up. On my first visit I had the pork confit tacos with cilantro. Sensational. The flavor burst in my mouth, so much so that I neglected to take pictures. On my second visit I had the lengua tacos. They arrived safely encased.
And opened with a beautiful fragrance.
The tacos came with garnish, which you can see, and two salsas — a mild and flavorful green salsa and a spicier red chipotle salsa. Both were good. Again, the food was delicious, with the rich, beefy flavor of the lengua accented with the herbs and spices of Tlaxcala and a squeeze of lime. Outstanding.
Lengua, of course, is beef tongue. The idea of eating tongue puts some people off, and I admit I cannot stand to see it being sliced, as I did in a kosher-ish deli in Birmingham in my youth. Similarly, I will go to my grave without slicing lamb fries or Rocky Mountain oysters. But the lengua is delicious, and many tongue preparations are popular around the world. Try it.
Oh, and the tortillas are hand-made. They are to store-bought tortillas as Hyperion to a satyr. You actually can order a stack of tortillas and salsa, and if there’s more than one of you, you should. They also have tres leches cake and a chocolate flan for dessert. I love tres leches cake, but in light of my tour of North Carolina barbecue places and my strenuous stint judging the 2020 World Shrimpburger Competition, I decided to throttle back.
The Xochi menu changes frequently. There always are at least three taco choices, including at least one vegetarian taco (mushroom or nopal), as well as cemitas (Mexican sandwiches) and quesabirria with stewed meat. That’s my next Xochi order.
The Little Beast process is very — I’ll say extremely — safety-conscious. They have take-out, delivery, and a wide deck open for eating with the tables widely spaced and no need to touch anything other than the food. The temperature was on the wrong side of 90 when I had the lengua tacos, but the Little Beast deck is shaded and the ceiling fans were moving, and there is little I would not bear for you, dear reader. And I had some lemonade. It was pink. Did I say that they do a good business with parents of small children.
You should head on over to Little Beast and explore the Xochi menu. It is reasonably priced, certainly by neighborhood standards, and the food is delicious and unlike anything else nearby. This is not Tex-Mex food (which I like if done reasonably well). Xochi offers sophisticated regional food from Mexico. You can really see why Jose Andres hired Chef Tere. Go try her food before things settle back and China Chilcano reopens.
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