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[Photograph: Scarlett Lindeman]

At Mexicocina, a miniscule Mexican sit-down cafe up in the Bronx, a petite electric fireplace flickers from an alcove in the back. It's dark inside, but not without charm, from the faux fireplace and the decorative glazed plates from Puebla that hang from boldy painted walls. The large menu showcases all of the standard tacos, quesadillas, tortas, and antojitos, breakfasts of chilaquiles and eggs with cactus, and larger plates served with buckets of rice, plus a few treasures.

The tacos ($2.50) showered with cilantro and diced onion are fine; the tacos mexicocina ($3.50), served on handmade tortillas, are even better. Their addition of quesillo cheese and chipotle peppers will clash with your al pastor, but not with the well-done cecina and carnitas. The cemitas ($8) are appropriately massive, and the picaditas ($7)—simple with just salsa and crema—carry a scarlet sauce that pricks even the most calloused palate.

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Served in beautiful terracotta bowls, the dozen or so daily specials are exceptional, like the Albondigas en caldillo ($12), delicious coarsely ground meatballs concealing golden egg yolks at their centers, like an ascetic Scotch-eggs without the breading. A small pile of them sit in a chicken-rich broth, with chunks of tender potato and floating bay leaves. This is the type of home-style cooking glorified by upscale Mexican restaurants around the city and rarely seen outside of the home, the kind of dishes you scan menus for at local taquerias, hoping the cooks have taken the time to make them.

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The enchiladas de borrego ($10) are thickish, coarse tortillas wrapped around pieces of lamb and coated in a chili rub that amplifies their woodsy flavor. Moistened with a tomato and tomatillo sauce, with rings of crisp white onion and bands of crema, it's a dish that would impress Diana Kennedy.

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So would the costillas en salsa verde, ($12), a plate of tiny pork ribs stewed in a green salsa, a minimalist plate that belies its miles of flavor. The sauce is made from tomatillos, garlic, and chiles, their green sweetness coaxed to the forefront, while their heat, contained in the great avocado salsa, in a bowl to the side.

Mexicocina

800 East 149 St. Bronx, NY 10455 (map)
347-498-1055
mexicosina.com

About the author: Scarlett Lindeman is a cook, food-writer, and recipe editor of Diner Journal, a food/arts quarterly. E-mail her at scarlett.lindeman@gmail.com.

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