Tess On the Town: Leon’s Mexican going strong
Thanks to good karma, a friend of mine won three raffle prizes from a total of 15 tickets at the recent Latin Anglo Alliance golf tournament. His luck didn’t extend to the fairway, but he shared one of his prizes with me: a gift certificate to Leon’s Mexican Restaurant.
Leon’s is tucked away in a shopette in Fruitvale next to a small panaderia and across the street from Las Milpas tortilleria. The location is handy if you want to pick up some just-made bakery products or tortillas on the way home.
Leon’s is not much to look at, with a storefront location and interior decorated with sombreros, chili peppers and other miscellaneous south-of-the-border swag. Each of two dining rooms has a lone small TV, so it’s not a good spot to watch a Broncos game.
But it is a good place to eat.
Owner Felipe Leon greeted us promptly, a sign of the courtly and gracious service to come. Leon, who hails from the Mexican state of Aguascalientes, has owned the restaurant for 20 years.
The menu, with a few exceptions, is pretty much the regular dishes you see in other Mexican restaurants.
I was kind of surprised — and suspicious — to see ostiones, or oysters, on the menu. They were, I was assured, fresh Pacific oysters on the half shell. Using the old adage that one should only eat oysters in months that have an R, my thinking went thusly: We’re in a landlocked state a thousand miles from Pacific Baja, but oysters sound good. And it is October, and October has an R, so what the hay, let’s give it a whirl.
As promised they were fresh from the sea, plump, briny to the taste and smell, and quite huge.
In prompt time, a sizzling cast-iron dish arrived with fajitas for my friend. The skirt steak was dark with spicy marinade, and the onions and tricolor peppers were grilled to the perfect point of sweet caramelization.
My plate included a trifecta of beef, pork and cheese enchiladas, with a great tomatilla green salsa. The salsa made the dish: piquant, citrusy with medium heat.
Everything — sauces, guac, salsas and chills included — are made in house.
On Mondays and Tuesdays, Leon opens an all-you-can-eat taco bar. For $10.50 you can have your fill of shredded beef or pork, chicken or ground beef tacos with every conceivable Mexican condiment.
Next time I go to Leon’s I’m going to order: anything with green salsa, breakfast machaca, sopes, maybe a tequila sunrise (haven’t had one of those since the 1980s) and anything with green salsa.
FOOD TRIVIA: This fruit is a hybrid of tangerine and the Seville or bitter orange developed in 1902 near Oran, Algeria, by Father Clement Rodier, a French missionary. They are easy to peel, have only occasional seeds, and have a very pleasant tangy, sweet flavor. Read next week for the answer.
QUOTE: “Being set at the table, scratch not thyself, and take thou heed as much as thou canst not to spit, cough and blow thy nose; but if it be needful, do it dexterously, without much noise, turning thy face sidelong.” — Francis Hawkins, author of “Youth’s Behaviour” (1663)