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Food Dude

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By Jim Duncan Reviews

Shotz & Grill Cordoba
2500 Martin Luther King Blvd.,
Grill open 10:30 a.m. until 9 or 10 p.m. weekdays and until midnight on weekends.

Shotz & Grill Cordoba

Every ethnic cuisine joins the American mainstream via the combo platter. Appropriately, the latest Latino kitchen in town combines many different things. First, it’s two restaurants in one strip mall. One is a family café with bright lights, no smoking and breakfast served anytime. The other is considerably darker and more adult, with pool table, big screen, high def TV, soccer flags and smoking allowed. These two share a mom and pop kitchen that combines the influences of a mom from El Salvador and a pop from Cordoba — the one in Vera Cruz, Mexico, not Spain. Both places sparkle with immaculate care and already have the feel of a friendly neighborhood community center. I could actually see my reflection in the polished slate floor of the adult side, without being the least bit drunk. Such Pan American combos create an educational environment for non-Latino people watchers. For instance, when the U.S. soccer team played Guatemala recently for a place in the Olympics, the place filled up with Corona drinking Guatemala fans. Yet when the U.S. played Honduras two days later in the same tournament, it was filled with Heineken drinking Hondurans. Bartender Margaret Gomez smiled while explaining that. “I don’t have any idea why, that’s just the way it is.”

Both places serve the same menu, which is mostly Mexican with a column of Salvadoran favorites such as pupusas and fried fish. Everything will look pretty familiar to fans of other Latino cafes in town, with subtle differences. On the Salvadoran side, the pupusas were made from marvelously fresh corn cake batter stuffed with your choice of crispy pork, root vegetables and cheeses. Their accompanying slaw was mostly cabbage with slight vinegar dressing, without the carrots and heavier dressings that have characterized other local pupusas.

The same fresh masa (batter) was used in the gorditas, delivering a calzone-like flavor of stuffed bread fresh from the hearth fire. A super bargain at $2, Cordoba’s gorditas were abundantly dressed in crema Salvadoreña, which is a sweeter version of sour cream. One day, I tried an asada version, which brought what appeared to be stir-fried steak, onions and peppers. Another day I ordered a pastor (braised pork) version, which brought the exact same thing. I liked the actual gordita enough to try the tongue and sausage varieties, too. Also among the exceptional sandwiches here was a milanesa de res torta, which resembles chicken fried steak on a home made bun.

My order of “huevos rancheros” brought what is normally labeled “huevos Mexicanos,” or “revueltos” around here. The eggs were scrambled with tomatoes, peppers and onions instead of being sunny side up with a salsa. My order was cheerfully changed when I complained. Chile rellenos were delicious, served with poblano stems attached and stuffed with chicken instead of the typical cheeses. Guacamole was freshly made. Rice included corn and peas. Tortillas were served hot. Weekend specials included bone-broth soups of chicken, beef and menudo. Thursday and Friday specials included seafood soup overflowing with crustaceans. Good ceviche was a special on each of three visits. Horchatas and jamaicas (milk and fruit punches) were available but were made from mixes instead of fresh fruit. There was no dessert menu.

Side dishes

Billy Mack and Kelly Berke opened Billy Mack’s Coney Shack on Ingersoll, real estate best remembered as Howard Johnson’s and more recently as a serious of short-lived Latino cafes. … This year’s Swinefest will be June 21, a month earlier than last year’s. … “Buy Fresh, Buy Local” is starting an on-line service that will include weekly newsletters from May through September, and monthly newsletters the rest of the year, that will feature local farms, restaurants and retailers who in the program. To sign up e-mail … One very hot trend reached Minneapolis last month when Temple restaurant began offering “nyotaimori” for private parties of six or more. That Japanese culinary form amounts to eating sushi buffet style off nearly naked human bodies. CV

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Taste of Elegance (1-31-08) Old Country Buffet (2-7-08)
Baker’s Food & Fuel (2-14-08) Coffee (2-21-08)
Cool Basil (2-28-08) Sports Bars (3-06-08)
Daddy O’s Bodacious Foods (3-13-08) Maverick Grill (3-20-08)
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