With menu items such as flautas de puerco (pulled pork in crispy tortillas with pico de gallo), tacos al pastor and barbacoa enchiladas, it's hard not to get hungry thinking about Xitomate opening on Waterloo Road.
And we didn't even mention the $7 agave margaritas.
Columbia's newest restaurant had its soft opening for customers at the former location of Donna's (5850 Waterloo Road) on Wednesday.
"We are an authentic Mexican restaurant," said Octavio Moreno, the general manger for Xitomate as well as Columbia's Azul 17. "The food is authentic and we make everything fresh."
The new restaurant is owner Julio Soto's latest concept. Soto also owns Azul 17 and Lily's Mexican Market.
Moreno said the food and drink offerings at Xitomate will be similar to Azul 17, but the restaurant will be more family-friendly.
"It's very cozy," said Moreno, who described the decor as more fun and colorful compared to the whites and dark lighting used at Azul.
Inside Xitomate, patrons will likely first be struck by the giant black and white artwork featuring happy skeletons having a celebration, which hangs over the kitchen window. The rest of the dining area is painted with warm reds, blues and yellows. The restaurant layout is similar to Donna's, with a large bar area in one section and an attached extended dining area. Above the bar are mannequin heads covered with Lucha Libre (Mexican wrestling) masks.
On Tuesday afternoon, the whole restaurant smelled like fresh-squeezed limes, which Moreno said were used in Xitomate's margaritas. Moreno said the margaritas will feature only agave tequila, fresh lime juice, house made simple syrup and agave nectar.
"We'll be using agave nectar to sweeten our mojitos as well," said Moreno.
A variety of margaritas will be available including the mi amor (tequila, lime juice, pomegranate, agave nectar, for $7.50), Cabo San Lucas (Cabo Wabo tequila, lime, agave nectar, St. Germain, elderflower liquor, for $9.95) and their most popular margarita at Azul 17, according to Moreno, La Diabla (mango habenero infused tequila, lime juice, agave nectar, mango, with a chili piquin rim for $7.95).
Menu items are competitively priced—full entrees range from $17 to $20; enchiladas are priced between $12 to $16, while two tacos, rice and beans are $9 to $11 depending on the type of meat.
At the soft opening on Wednesday the restaurant served a limited menu that included enchiladas, tacos and burritos in order to give the staff time to practice with simpler items, according to Moreno. He said the full menu will be served soon, likely within the next two weeks.
The restaurant is planning to offer a full brunch menu as well on Saturdays and Sundays from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Brunch items include huevos rancheros ($8.95), a chorizo omlette with fried potatoes ($9.95) and a bloody Maria (a bloody Mary served with tequila instead of vodka for $6).
Servers at the restaurant will be use iPads to take orders, a measure that Moreno hopes will speed up order times and ensure accuracy.
Moreno said that by using the iPads, servers won't have to wait to input orders at a computer and the kitchen staff will receive orders within one or two minutes of them being placed.
"We'll have the same quality [as Azul 17], only faster," said Moreno.
Moreno said this isn't the last restaurant Soto will open. In fact, the owner hopes to open a new restaurant every six months.
Moreno said they are looking to open another location in Turf Valley within the next six months and have already secured a location in Annapolis for another restaurant.
Did you try Xitomate on its opening day? Tell us your experience in the comments.