A Taste of Mexico City in Pioneer Square

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There's no reason to have high expectations for Mexican food in the downtown area of Seattle. It's not that the city doesn't have good, and at times, exceptional comida mexicana for foodies to devour, but you typically have to travel to some of the taco trucks in the South End or White Center or even Shoreline to feel like you found something worthwhile. Without the taco truck experience, you're better off at a restaurant that specializes in localized dishes from a particular region of Mexico, be it Oaxaca, Michoacan, or whatever. And it's almost a given that you won't encounter that downtown. But one new restaurant is challenging that assumption.

Guajillo's, which is located at 217 James St., focuses exclusively on food from Mexico City and does it well. If you've ever been to Mexico City, aka the Distrito Federal, you'll know that cuisine in that megalopolis is much grander than the typical burritos, carne asadas, and enchiladas that tourists tend to eat in other parts of the country. Guajillo's follows suit with a variety of moles, soups, and dishes that immediately let you know that you've found something unique.

During a recent visit, I had the pollo a la mexicana (pictured above), and the serrano pepper sauce covering the chicken was superb. It came with rice and beans -- neither of which tasted like filler -- and two corn tortillas. All the lunch specials come with a choice of soup as an appetizer, and I opted for the shrimp soup. In my opinion, the broth tasted a bit too seafood-y for me (which seems silly, I know), but the aroma of fresh shrimp overpowers the peppery soup base. They don't skrimp on shrimp.

On a subsequent trip back to Guajillo's a few days later, I opted for the mole verde con pechuga de pollo (green mole chicken) and tried the fideo soup instead. The fideo soup, with vermicelli noodles, was much tastier than the shrimp soup, and the green mole chicken, with its tiny bits of pumpkin seed, reminded me of eating in D.F. years ago. If you're looking for Mexican food that offers a lot more for the palate in the downtown area, Guajillo's is worth a visit.

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