The Place: Señor Moose Café, 5242 Leary Ave. N.W., 784-5568, BALLARD
There aren’t too many places to go for great Mexican food in Ballard should the craving strike around lunchtime. When we started yearning for the spicy stuff last week, we headed to Señor Moose on Leary Way just as the place was getting ready to shut the doors on lunch service (3 p.m.). We sat down and immediately asked the server to bring us their two most popular dishes. We were so starving, we couldn’t have cared less what we got. It’s how we felt afterward that really defined this nosh.
The Rivals: Enchiladas vs. Hongos. The Enchiladas Rojas en Salsa de Chile Guajillo ($9.95) is basically a plate of three enchiladas stuffed with shredded beef covered in a dense and spicy guajillo salsa. The beef is tender and crisp on the edges. The spice is not overwhelming, despite our server’s warning that we shouldn’t order it unless we could take the heat. (It had a nice kick, but nothing out of the ordinary.) Three enchiladas with a side of beans was hearty, to say the least.
The Hongos a la Mexicana ($9.95) was just as meaty as the enchiladas, but instead of beef, the plate was filled with huge chunks of chicken breast mixed with mushrooms, poblano chiles, and epazote (also known as Mexican tea, it adds a mild sweet flavor). A splash of slightly smoky salsa is the winning ingredient in this dish—just enough smoke to add some zip, but not too much that you can’t taste the beautifully flavored mushrooms. And depending on the season, you might get some spicier chilies than usual.
Don’t be fooled by the rather bland appearance of this concoction. You might be inclined to think it’s nothing special, but it has such a surprising taste that it’s really not to be missed.
The Champ: These were terribly tough competitors. Each dish had a defining flavor that we enjoyed, which really makes this a difficult challenge to judge. But when it comes down to it, it’s the call of the enchiladas, we suspect, that will lure us into the Moose again.