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Dining

The well-hidden ‘snacks’ of Los Antojos

Mexican standout is finally emerging from 10 years of relative obscurity

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Marinated pork tacos at Los Antojos.
Photo: Beverly Poppe

Most of my friends bemoan the fact that we aren’t a great city for authentic Mexican food, but exploration often yields a gem or two. The latest “discovery” among the smart set is Los Antojos, which has, in fact, been open for 10 years.

I had actually never heard of the place until uber-chef Alex Stratta of the Wynn began touting it, and now it’s a popular foodie hangout. The food is delicious, cheap and authentic at this modest spot. I can honestly say that in my 10 years as a Vegas food journalist, this is one that truly got away.

Los Antojos, which loosely translated from Spanish means “snacks,” belongs to a Mexico City family named Martinez-Ruiz, many of whose members can be spotted behind the counter taking orders, or behind the stoves tending to their onetime flocks. Lamb, aka barbacoa, is a specialty. It’s available Saturday, and sells out fast.

The regular menu will keep you busy enough, though, so no worries. The food is Chilango, or Mexico City-style, and most of the customers are from that city, so the chances you’ll hear English spoken at noon, when the line starts, are small. If you’re looking for comfort or décor, this ain’t the place.

Restaurant Guide

Los Antojos
Four stars
2520 S. Eastern Ave.
457-3505
Open Wednesday-Monday, 10 a.m.-10 p.m.; Tuesday 9 a.m.-2 p.m.
Suggested dishes: Consome Loco, $4.99; Super Torta, $7; gordita chicharron, $3.19; pambazo, $4.99.
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But the food can be downright glorious. Consome Loco is a chicken, rice, cilantro and onion soup so delicious, it must be against the law. Pambazo, baked potatoes with sausage, lettuce, cream and Mexican cheese, is a casserole that could only be invented in a third-world economy, where the whole is usually far greater than the sum of its parts.

You’ll elbow your way to the counter, behind which is a wall festooned with signs. Unless you are there on a weekend, ignore the banners for the tripe soup menudo or the pozole blanco, each of which is available only on weekends, but well worth the visit.

Menudo is the classic hangover cure, and this one has the intense animal funk to cut through anything. The pozole, huge hunks of hominy the size of Corn Nuts, is accompanied by lettuce, radish and tomatoes, a starchy, sweet, comforting end to the more piquant meats that surface on most of the tables here.

The drop dead star at Los Antojos, and the metaphor works in more than one direction, is the gordita with chicharron. Picture a deep-fried corn cake that looks like a refugee from Dunkin’ Donuts, except that its material is masa, pounded corn, instead of enriched white flour.

Now cut it in half and fill it with minced fried pork skin. Jack LaLanne would have a stroke just looking at it.

Or how about the Super Torta, about as far from what the Earl of Sandwich invented as a Blackberry is from two cans tied together with a waxed string. Sure, if you want to have a Cuban sandwich, or even a milanesa (what we gringos call chicken fried steak), they’ll do it for you. Matter of fact, they’ll put anything on the menu into an oversized Mexican roll in this joint.

Chef Carmen Ruiz looks on as Lucia Rodriguez serves Alex Stratta at Los Antojos.

Chef Carmen Ruiz looks on as Lucia Rodriguez serves Alex Stratta at Los Antojos.

The excellent Super Torta combines pork leg, breaded steak and breaded chicken, ham, Mexican cheese, tomatoes, onion and avocado. Better bring a friend, or a large dog, if you plan to order this monstrosity.

Cooler heads do prevail on the snackier items. Tacos, for instance, $1.39 each, are moderate in size, stuffed with a choice of fillings such as pastor, spiced pork carved from a spit; lengua, tender sliced tongue; or even cochinita pibil, from the Yucatan province, shredded pork that glows a faint orange from annatto seeds.

And yes, there are more familiar dishes here, such as state-of-the-art chilies relleno, green enchiladas done up with fluffy Mexican-style rice and lardy beans, and even the famous chilaquiles, rojo or verde—that’s red or green to you, hombre.

Naturally there are Mexican drinks and desserts to go with everything, including tamarind, the sweet, milky rice drink called horchata and fruit sodas from Mexico. Homemade flan, a rich custard, is carved into cinder-sized blocks. Sometimes there are fried bananas. If you want a real Chilango dessert, have the peach Jell-O. No, I’m not kidding.

Shhh. Don’t tell too many people about this place. I hate waiting in line.

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