With only slightly less anticipation than a British royal wedding, the long-awaited firstborn of the projected modern Mexican duo has arrived. Centro, the casual, counter-service sibling of the soon-to-open and more formal Popol Vuh, is drawing the food-frenzied to the newly energized Logan Park corner of Northeast, which its nearby neighbor, Indeed Brewing Company, pioneered to brew its signature suds.
Plenty of cervesas on tap here at Centro. Vino, too. And Jarritos from south of the border.
But turn your attention to the adventurous cocktail list ($6–$10), featuring original creations like the Electric Bunny (a long drink of sweet cachaca balanced with tart lime, aglow with the blush-pink juice of prickly pear). The Quincy Margarita is a straight-ahead rendition of the refreshing classic, while the Raspado de Mango is a weirdly wonderful concoction of bourbon muddled with sweetened condensed milk (yes, I know — but it works) in which swirl chunks of strawberry, mango and shaved ice. It served as dessert on our recent visit because the kitchen’s freezer was said to be malfunctioning, so we’ll save the adult Mexican ice pops for next time. In a few weeks, churros will join the list, and I will join the line.
Enjoy your libration on the sidewalk patio, backed by a cheeky mural, or indoors at blond tables anchoring a cement floor, in keeping with the industrial-chic setting. Lots of windows, a huge central bar, vibrant artwork, strings of party lights and Mexican tunes set a party mood in which to savor the kitchen’s abbreviated but captivating menu.
Choose from among eight tacos ($3–$5) or, better yet, corral an amigo and sample them all. (No problem; they’re small.) Arriving on a cookie sheet in dainty, crepe-like shells, they proved all too easy to inhale.
And, for once, I can’t play favorites. Each proved different in flavor profile and just as tasty as the next.
The carnitas en adobo delivered sweet and juicy shreds of pork further sweetened by pineapple and tempered with a tangy salsa verde. The barbacoa favored tender lamb braised with onions, then freshened with cilantro and a zippy salsa crudo. Papas con chorizo brought us well-seasoned sausage crumbles balanced by potatoes and a lively roasted salsa verde. And the nopales number celebrated the combo of that cactus with mushrooms, caramelized onion, kale and peanut-centric salsa cacahuate.
The botanas options ($3–$8) lead off with not only the ceviche you might expect but raw oysters, too. There’s a salad dressed with peanut-sesame salsa and tomatillo vinaigrette; frijoles; escabeche (pickled veggies); guac and more, including our order.
We summoned the papas chingonas — the most addictive spuds to enter my mouth in months of eating. The mealy, browned potato wedges are dressed-for-success in a suave, lick-your-fingers chipotle cream and slivers of red onion, then dusted with powdery cotija cheese.
What’s not to like? I’m sold.
1414 Quincy St. NE