It's hard to find an amazing restaurant that not every writer on earth has reviewed. Thanks be to the interweb for turning formerly fabulous holes in the wall into Insta-famous hotspots with wait lists and servers in “vintage” overalls. If Food & Wine didn't get their first, a Yelp reviewer did.
Which is why I was so surprised and delighted to find Citrico, a little Mexican joint in Prospect Heights Brooklyn that has a loyal following in its neighborhood but remains [mostly] unknown to the #willtravelforfood crowd.
A tiny spot with a small open kitchen and no more than a dozen tables, Citrico serves some of the freshest and most flavorful Southern Mexican food I've ever tasted. (Citrus, which figures prominently in every recipe, was the inspiration for the restaurant's name.)
Among Citrico's best dishes are Mixiotes de Pollo (slow cooked chicken), Oxtail Mole, and some truly sublime Fish Tacos. As one local Yelp reviewer put it: “The Fish Tacos are probably what they serve in heaven.”
Drinks are familiar versus experimental. Margaritas, micheladas, and mezcal are all on offer, but it's the Tlaxcalita Bella that's not to be missed. An homage to Chef Luis Davila's roots – he was born in Tlaxcala – it's a tart and slightly sweet combination of tequila, cranberry juice, lime juice, and fresh mint.
It's a menu that reflects both the traditional recipes and ingredients of Mexican cuisine – think fermented huitlacoche, crisp chapulines, home-cooked pozole, and classic cochinita pibil – and the familiar comfort foods – tacos, chips, and guac – that kick started America's obsession with Mexican food.
“Mexican food is expressed differently depending on where you are in the U.S.,” says Noor Shikari, Citrico co-owner and wife of Chef Luis. (The pair met while working at a restaurant in New York's Nolita; she hostessing after receiving her MBA and looking for work in the art industry, and he leading a kitchen while dreaming of one day opening his own place.)
But, she points out, all “real Mexican food is complex in flavor and laborious to prepare.”
That's likely the reason Citrico, despite its fantastic food, has remained under the radar. “When [Mexican food] is commercialized, it's simplified,” Shikari said, “and that takes away all the flavor.”
That doesn't mean, however, that there are no plans for expansion. Asked if another Citrico was in the works, Shikari, herself half Honduran, answered an enthusiastic 'Yes!', but suggested that the menu would likely showcase another region of Mexico.
For now, the pair is happy raising their two children and serving authentic Mexican food to Prospect Park locals. But “for now” - at least when the food's as good as it is at Citrico – can only last so long. Get there before the wait lists, Insta-fame, and overalls do.