Don Chile

By Amy Reyes

The goods: Perhaps the biggest dining omission in Coral Gables was a nice taqueria – at least one where you don’t have to order at a register. Enter Don Chile. The traditional outpost has moved into a quaint Ponce de Leon storefront to offer up made-to-order Mexican fare, ranging from beloved staples to regional dishes of the coastal city of Vera Cruz.

Ambiance:  The dining room is draped floor-to-ceiling with papaya-colored curtains while the brightly colored walls are adorned with pre-Columbian style wooden masks and sleek copper artwork.  The floors are rich dark wood with Mexican tile inserts.  The sounds of Los Tigres del Norte and Vicente Fernandez’s greatest hits will serenade you as you nosh.

The grub: Appetizers feature all the usual favorites – fajitas, flautas, enchiladas, chiles rellenos, etc. Tacos merit their own menu and are all made with fresh tortillas. The Ensalada Rosario salad features hearts of romaine, avocado, tomato, corn, green onions, cilantro with a homemade avocado dressing while the Torta Chilanga, a house specialty, echoes a sandwich stuffed with beans, pickled jalapenos and your choice of meat.

Main courses introduce some lesser known traditional Mexican dishes, like the cocktail Vuvelveme la Vida (Bring me back to life), a Veracruz-style salsa with oysters, shrimp, crab and octopus; or Pato Castellano, breast of duck sautéed in pine nuts and walnuts with dry smoked pepper sauce.

The verdict: Don Chile satiates hunger for Mexican favorites while introducing new aspects of Mexican cuisine. This is not your typical taco joint.

Don Chile: 1915 Ponce de Leon Blvd, Coral Gables; 305-444-1566; Prices: Appetizers: $6-$14, Tacos $2.50, Entrées $9-$16. Hours: Mon-Weds 11am-9pm, Thus-Sat 11m-11pm, Closed Sunday.