Cash only—not a concept that most of us are familiar with in this age of plastic-in-a-hurry. I cruised into Lindo Mexico for lunch on a busy weekday and was greeted, seated and my beverage brought out before I read the looming, fortuitous “cash only” warning on the menu. Crap. I got up and made tracks to the ATM up the block, apologizing on my way out the door for my lack of money that folded or jingled. When I returned, my drink and chips were gone, and two new diners were seated at the table.
I had to give props to the busser for clearing the table in the five minutes I was gone, and after a surprised look from my server (he probably thought I was gone for good) I was reseated and very well taken care of throughout my meal.
I've heard through the grapevine that the mariscos and the bacony charro beans here are among the best in the city, so my choice of starter was clear: a coctel de campechana (seafood cocktail, $9.99) and a refreshing soda in one of those tall, Mexican-style glass bottles. The chips and a duo of salsas (in their own embossed caddy) were excellent. Despite the mild heat of the two salsas, they were extremely fresh and had a warm cumin aftertaste.
The coctel was positively huge, and prepared for royalty with a bright green avocado, sliced and fanned out to one side and a ruby-red pool of tomato and citrus juices mixed with purple octopus, intensely pink shrimp and meaty oysters. The seafood was high quality, firm but not chewy, and the icy cold juice was augmented with tiny, diced tomato, cucumber, jalapeños and thick shreds of fresh cilantro. Honestly, that and a beer could’ve been a satisfying lunch on their own.
The dining room has the look of a long-established restaurant with red brick, Mexican memorabilia on the walls (including wooden sconces proudly displaying bottles of Hornitos tequila). The glasses and tabletops all bear the name of the restaurant in frosted lettering.
I was surprised to learn Mexico Lindo has been open for a mere four years, because the service was so efficient and tidy, like part of a well-oiled machine that's been operating for decades. Nobody’s glass was empty, and the food was timed perfectly.
My lunch, the plato de tres tacos ($6.99), came with a choice of beef, spiced pork, chicken, shredded beef, beans and cheese, or chicken. As it turns out, the beef I ordered was actually carne asada—small cubes of steak, flame-grilled and seasoned, and wrapped in soft white corn tortillas. There was plenty of lettuce and tomato on my plate to decorate the tacos, even a healthy dollop of smooth, rich guacamole. In my experience, any restaurant that makes room for homemade guac without an extra charge is well worth a second visit. I would have returned even before I tried the frijoles, but after tasting their special charro beans, I pledged them my love.
Beans are usually OK; some are even good. These were, surprisingly, whipped to a butter-smooth consistency (charro beans are often served whole) and liberally sprinkled with melted white cheese, but the taste was incredible. They were smoky, meaty, rich and must have been spiked with something because after I ate the side portion, I craved more. I craved them beyond what is usually reasonable for something like beans. These were the best beans in town, maybe the best I’ve ever eaten—no lie.
My gullet was much too crammed to even consider dessert, but while I was paying my check, I noticed a plastic candy case that held a veritable treasure trove of Mexican goodies. I bought a Carlos V milk chocolate bar, a weird-looking but delectable coconut roll and a peanutty-licious marzipan De La Rosa candy coin (all $.50 each), for later.
Before I left, I committed to memory a few meal selections for my next visit, which included the camaron al chipotle (shrimp in a chile-chipotle sauce with mushrooms) and the plato de alambre (beef with bacon, ham, jalapeños, onion and tomato).
Lindo Mexico has an exceptional selection of traditional Mexican and mariscos dishes: The best representation of the kind of authentic, reasonably priced cuisine we locals cherish, and out-of-towners brag about to their friends once they get back home. My only issue is their cash-only policy in a world of plastic, but I couldn’t be too hurt. I’m used to no one taking my checks.
The Alibi Recommends:
Any of the seafood coctels
Tacos, tacos, tacos
Charro beans are crazy tasty
Mexican candy is dandy, especially the Carlos V bar
Lindo Mexico, 416 San Pedro SE, 266-2999. Hours: Mon-Thu 8:30 a.m.-4 p.m., Fri-Sun 8:30 a.m.-6 p.m. Price range: Inexpensive. No smoking, credit cards accepted, booze, patio, cash only, gratuity on parties of six or more.