The first taste you’re likely to get of Caracheo’s Mexican Restaurant at 3033 Bitters Road is the salsa. It’s a reddish-brown mix with plenty of chile seeds that tells of having been cooked well before it was ground up. The first taste is smoky with a nice amount of heat that lingers just long enough for you get the next chip ready.
Bells started going off in my taste bud memory, and I immediately thought of Rosario’s, which has one of the best salsas in town. There’s a reason for that, I found out later: The cook here once worked at Rosario’s, and he obviously learned his lesson well. There’s a rustic richness that makes you want to drizzle it over refrieds, over carne asada, over eggs, over just about anything you order.
Many of the dishes at this appealing yet non-descript little restaurant, with a sister location at 8014 Crosscreek, have the same effect.
Try the mole with its earthy mixture of chile de arbol as well as the expected chocolate and peanut. This is not a sweet rendition, but a complex sauce that is perfect over chicken or used, as I had it, over chicken-filled enchiladas ($6.50).
The carnitas ($5.99) are not the pristine shavings of meat you’ll find at many another restaurant. Instead, Caracheo’s serves large chunks of pork that has been crisped on one side and remains moist on the other. The roasted bits of meat also have plenty of fat on then, if you choose to eat it.
I have enjoyed many of the breakfast tacos ($85 cents-$2 apiece), served in handmade corn tortillas, on request. The pork chop taco, a favorite of mine, came with the peppery pieces of meat boned and cut in slivers before being tucked in the warm wrapping. Barbacoa, carnitas and the Nacogdoches, sort of a cousin to the taco Norteño with its inclusion of beans and avocado, were all worth investigating.
You can hardly go wrong with any of the lunch specials. There you’ll usually find some more interior Mexican dishes as well as caldos, special enchiladas, even puffy tacos.
As with any restaurant, some dishes I’ve sampled on more than a half-dozen visits are naturally better than others. The Milanesa ($5.99), pounded to a perfect thinness, was traditional yet nothing special. The mini-tacos ($4.99), with a scant amount of carne asada on each, tasted more of slightly undercooked corn tortillas than anything else, despite being covered with onion, cilantro and some of the green salsa.
The only genuine misfire was a set of beef empanadas ($5.99) made in puff pastry. The flavor was fine, but the filling was far too greasy and kept pouring out for too long a period of time to be appetizing. Yet I know someone who swears by them because of the delicate pastry.
Service has always been good, though the kitchen can be inconsistent. On several occasions, I’ve ordered the tortas ($3.99), loaded with all manner of wonderful fillings, from puerco en chile colorado to carnitas. Each arrived on a toasty hot bun that was covered with refrieds on one side and stacked high with avocado, lettuce and tomato. A friend ordered one on a separate visit, and hers was not only missing the refrieds (which she, as a Mexico City native, expected), but the bun was barely warm.
I know the restaurant was short-staffed that day, so I will give Caracheo’s a break. And I will be back, for the salsa as much as a desire to try the shrimp fajitas, the enchiladas verdes and more.
Caracheo’s Mexican Restaurant
3033 Bitters Road
Open daily for breakfast and lunch