It was a Friday night, I was hungry and again found myself approaching the crossroads of international cuisine in our fair city. My stomach growled loudly in a prime example of classical conditioning triggered by pulling up to the stoplight at the corner of Alameda and Federal. Like the simple-minded Pavlovian subject that I am, my salivation level was approaching canine-like drool when I saw the light turn green, opening passage to a bounty of great eating. This time around I was headed to Fritangas, just west of Federal on Alameda, or as its chef and owner Eduardo calls it, "Flavor Corner". Although "Flavor Corner" sounds much too much like an old cigarette ad for me to ever write again, it is true that there is a lot of great food to be found in this part of town. Fritangas moved to this corner a couple years ago after spending some time further up the road at 25th and Federal which itself boasts some flavorful options.
Simply by the descriptive name, I knew Fritangas had to be good. Firtangas loosely translates to "fried stuff", and the menu here is full of these delicacies found on almost every street corner in places like Mexico City: quesadillas (the good, fried kind), sopes, huaraches, flautas-- the list goes on and on. In fact the owners are from the Mexican capital themselves, and have tried to bring their little deep-fried slice of the city to Denver. And the menu is not limited to oil-soaked crisp corn masa, it is also full of just about everything else-- six pages worth of goodies such as a super-stacked hamburger replete with, among other things, a hot dog and bacon; to tacos, tortas and enchiladas; to breakfast served all day.
When our helpful and attentive server pointed out to us that breakfast was indeed served all day (a handy three page menu insert in the original six page volume) I was elated. Recently I have been having an unusually intense craving of breakfast food items after the sun goes down-- that is, breakfast for dinner, or for Scrubs fans like me, Brinner. Last month I made my wife and I pancakes, eggs and bacon for two nights in a row but my urge was not sated, and tonight I realized why: I wanted Mexican Brinner (desayena?).
I started with an order of Molletes, a classic Mexican breakfast treat: pan telera with refried frijoles, melted cheese and topped with pico de gallo. It was fantastically satisfying. Unusually so, I suppose. My table mates did not share my fervent enthusiasm for this simple toasted bread and bean snack, but they were obviously not craving Mexican breakfast for dinner like I was.
I also had a big fat plate of chilaquiles. This is, as I have described before, one of the world's ultimate crudo-killers (hangover cures for the non-Spanglish readership). This pile of fried tortillas soaked in salsa was spicy and served with a thin fried skirt steak. Although not hungover--or even drinking for that matter (no alcohol at Fritangas)-- it was nevertheless a satisfying plate of salsa, chips, beans and meat. On the downside the steak was dry and would have benefited from a runny fried egg-- and given me something else to soak up with my grilled and buttered piece of torta bread served on the side.
The rest of my table was not enjoying breakfast for dinner, but they were enjoying some other fine Mexican classics. We shared a sizzling skillet of queso fundido filled with chorizo sausage. Heaping oozing chunks of chorizo-filled cheese onto fresh flour tortillas is always a good thing, and the Fritangas version did not disappoint.
Another very good dish that came out was a shrimp mojo de ajo. This garlic-laden traditional seafood seasoning commonly includes other simple indgredients like butter, chiles, lime and parsley. It is hard to go wrong with this plate either, and the Fritangas plate was a good one.
Also good-looking was a plate of roasted chicken that was advertised as a 1/2 roasted bird and came out with only the good halves of the bird. Instead of slicing the chicken down the middle, Fritangas serves both sets of wings and legs in their half-chicken platter. A chicken made of only wings and legs is of course the perfect chicken (you can order the roasted breasts in their pechuga-only platter). I didn't taste this plate, but was given a thumbs up from the other end of the table, and by the looks of this picture, it is worth posting.
By now, with so many non-fried plates coming out to our table, the Fritangas deep-fryers were likely getting a little impatient with anticipation. Their first fry-task for our table was the visually stunning masterpiece know as the mojarra frita. Mojarra, as far as my simple understanding of aquatic biology will allow me to grasp concepts in the taxonomic rank, is a species of tilapia, farmed especially for restaurants and supermarkets the world over. Whatever the case, this fish is generally served in its entirety: whole and deep-fried. Sprinkled with the juice of a few limes it is delicious. One side of the Fritangas version was somehow much drier than the other, but still it was finger licking-good.
It was also bone-licking good.
My wife, in the true spirit of her Fritanga Chilanga roots, couldn't resist a deep-fried masa classic. She ordered and ate a big plate of crispy chicken flautas-- flutes of tightly rolled corn tortillas stuffed with pollo and deep fried into submission. They were perfectly fried and true to the Mexico City classic.
We also ordered a plate of sopes for some reason-- we must have been feeling incomplete with only one fried corn dish. They are worth noting because of the delicious meat we chose to top them: chicarron prensado, or pressed and fried pork skin. They were great but barely got touched only because we ordered so much more. Some lucky person at our table took them home and is right now probably enjoying dinner for breakfast. Mmmm.
In addition to a great restaurant name, Fritangas has one of the best restaurant-website-soundtracks ever. (I'm sure the Westword will have an award for this next year-- they give those awards out to anyone these days.) Click here to be transported to a world that is part homage to fried Mexican food and part sultry rhythm and blues soundtrack. The music makes such little sense with the website content that for some reason it is all perfect together-- completed by a smiling and welcoming photo of Eduardo and a hodge-podge collage of Mexico City landmarks. For a bonus, when you click on a link the soothing sound of a bubbling brook accompanies you to your next page view. It blends in so perfectly with the music that I happily browsed through the entire website before I realized that I had dimmed the lights, lit some candles, was in the mood for romance. Groovy. Fried Stuff.
Fritangas is a good choice for a dose of Mexican-fried comfort and much, much more. There is a lot on the menu and I imagine as with any restaurant with extensive options like these there will be some mediocre and even bad to go along with all that is good. If you end up there, take your time to choose and ask the friendly and excellent servers for some recommendations. As a bonus the prices are just right. Visit them on Alameda or enjoy their entertaining website at www.fritangas.net.
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