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Cheap eats: Mosaic Cafe Dos

Citizen Staff Writer



What: Mosaic Cafe Dos

Address and phone: 7350 N. La Cholla Blvd. 297-8470

Hours: 7:30 a.m.-9 p.m. Mondays-Saturdays, 7:30 a.m.-2 p.m. Sundays

What was ordered: Machaca Topopo Salad ($7.25), Mushroom and Sour Cream Burro ($7) and Horchata ($7.25) for a total of $17.24 including tax, well within our Cheap Eats goal of a meal for two for less than $20.

This little Northwest Side eatery does a mean lunch rush and deservedly so.

Spun off from the much-revered, family-owned Teresa’s Mosaic Cafe at Grant and Silverbell roads, Mosaic Cafe Dos has a truly unique take on Mexican fare, a coupling of Sonoran and Oaxacan specialities that are uncommonly seductive and soothing.

That food this delicately good and imaginative can be had within the confines of the $20 Cheap Eats ceiling is no small feat.

The Machaca Topopo Salad ($7.25) walked a tantalizingly impressive line between a traditional Topopo and a unique one.

The fine-dining-style presentation featured a corn tortilla smeared with great refried beans, under a mound of greens and topped with a generous serving of moist, tender Machaca beef, vibrant bits of green chile, slices of avocado and tomato, a hardboiled egg and grated cheese.

The moisture level of the ensemble was spot-on, as was the careful balance of acidity, spicy heat, and savory qualities of the first-class ingredients. They’ll serve you a side of oil and vinegar or ranch dressing with this, but in my opinion, you’re crazy to mess with such a careful, winning assemblage by dousing it with dressing. It needs nothing.

Similarly, the Mushroom and Sour Cream Burro ($7) came with a side of mild salsa, but after one bite of the burro, there was no way we were going to change a thing with it. I’m usually one of those people who detests the way olives (particularly black ones) take over the flavor profile of just about everything they’re added to, but this creation had me appreciating them. It’s a sultry, rich blend of sautéed mushrooms, olives, green chile, tomatoes, sprouts, seasonings and just the right amount of sour cream, one that has you appreciating the way flavors can be combined to produce much more than the sum of their parts.

Previous visits to Mosaic Cafe Dos have been during the lunch hour, and I purposely trekked to the cafe during the wee afternoon hours on a recent visit so I could savor my meal in a relaxed setting. There is a quiet mastery at work here that deserves such repose, but given the popularity of the cafe, it’s a setting that is hard to come by.

If you can put off your lunch until after the sea of loyal customers has come and gone, you’ll appreciate the extra time and level of calm with which to fully appreciate Mosaic Cafe Dos.

Service: Tableside service was friendly and prompt.

Bar: full

Children’s menu: yes

Web site: no

Most recent health inspection: A good rating Jan. 8, 2007. A critical violation was reported for food contact surfaces not sanitized properly or approved equipment not being used.

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