Philly’s Hispanic population is mostly made up of Puerto Ricans and Mexicans, two Latin cultures that use similar ingredients but totally different cooking techniques. You’ll find the best Puerto Rican food in one neighborhood in North Philly, while Mexican food is more ubiquitous. Look out for a new wave of Mexican chefs who are combining authentic cooking with more attention to detail — the results are game-changing.
Quetzally is run by a father and son who are turning out colorful, fresh and light dishes from their year-old casual spot. Get the barbacoa sopes — puffy hand-formed corn cakes topped with a mountain of slow-cooked shredded lamb and crisp lettuce. The excellent dishes have all these little stand-out details that make the restaurant instantly memorable: fresh guacamole, just you order make it the moment food.
Scott Schroeder lost his long-time sous chef at South Philly Tap Room and American Sardine Bar when Jorge Pinia took off for 12th and Fitzwater–the old home of Stix Asian Eatery. But the good news? The Bella Vista neighbors wound up with a solid new Mexican joint when Pinia and his dad (who also worked for Schroeder, and at Federal Donuts), opened Quetzally in that space a few weeks ago.
The menu is straightforward–chips and guac, burritos, tacos, the usual. But the kitchen is taking a few chances with how they turn those plates out. We’re talking rolled fried chicken tacos, fish tacos, pork rib tamales, open-face chimichangas and chicken wings (which, I grant you, is a bit of a departure, but chicken wings are cool no matter where they’re served).
There’s horchata on the board, carnitas and costillas en mole for you pork addicts, tortas and breakfast grub for the early risers (doors open at 11 am).