Friday, November 20, 2015

El Remedio Pátzcuaro

menu cover
El Remedio was recently brought to my attention by our friend Ron. It's on Calle Ahumada, very close to the northeast corner of the Plaza Grande.

El Remedio began life not long ago as a mezcalería located in a two story, semi converted Colonial building. The management recently expanded their menu with breakfast items and comida foods. The building is quite grand, but when I entered the dark corridor to the back patio, I wished I'd brought a flashlight.

My impression is that most of the areas outfitted to accommodate diners as well as drinkers are on the first floor, up a couple of stone staircases. The ground floor looks more dedicated to musical entertainment events.

dining room
Our friendly, helpful waitress (who might be the proprietress) gave us each two menus; the drinks menu listing a nice selection of locally made mezcales, Tequilas and nifty, creatively named cocktails. The second, a single sided card, holds the food offerings.

food menus
To their credit, El Remedio makes an effort to do food and drink in a more creative way than is usually found in Pátzcuaro restaurants. But as you shall read, the execution of these dishes sometimes leaves something to be desired.

drinks menu
Our waitress discussed with us the unusual, mezcal based cocktails. I was frazzled from dealing with holiday traffic and crowds, so I ordered a refreshing Coctel "Remedio". This had lime, cucumber and orange with a mezcal base. It was just what I needed, other than it was a little short. However, the prices, usually $40 to $50 pesos each, were so reasonable that it was no pain to order another drink.

coctel "El Remedio"
Our friend Mark is an aficionado of mezcal, and he had a locally distilled one, whose name I can't recall. (Probably from the effects of my coctel.)

The food menu is somewhat limited in scope, but with representatives from land, sea and air convening on the carta.

I was somewhat surprised that for a mezcalería, the entradas (appetizers) were limited to three options: Tiradito de Blanco, a marinated white fish appetizer; Tacos de Camarones en Una Costra de Chicharrón, which Señora Cuevas ordered; and Bocados de Torta Estilo Santa Clara. The menu description of the latter is "a traditional torta filled with tostada, carne apache, ham and head cheese. (What an unusual combination!)

Soups were listed as Capuchino de Sopa Tarasca, Crema de Elote Bicolor and Sopa del Día. When I enquired as to the Sopa Del Día, I was told "Crema de Elote Bicolor".
Since I'd had Sopa Tarasca a couple of times recently, I chose the Crema de Elote.  Ron had the Cappuchino de Sopa Tarasca. 

The Sopa Tarasca was an attractive presentation, with a "foam" of queso Cotija on top. Despite that, Ron said it was lacking depth of flavor. (Forgive me if I quote you imprecisely, Ron.)

Capuchino de Sopa Tarasca
Doña Cuevas said her tacos of shrimp with chicharrón on tortillas de nopal were "o.k." but the shrimp weren't especially tasty.

Tacos de Camarones en Costra de Chicharrón
My Crema de Elote  was nothing I couldn't whip up in a blender at home, out of a couple of cans. The taste was bland, although not unpleasant. But it was notably tepid, not hot.

Crema de Elote Bicolor
Nancy had a modestly sized Ensalada César, which she liked very much, stating it was dressed perfectly, just as she prefers.

Ensalada César

At least one of my companions had as as a salad "Gazpacho Moreliano", an attractive combination of fresh fruits.

Ensalada "Gazpacho Moreliano"
Mark got Salmón Purenchecuaro, grilled and in a sauce of xoconostle, a variety of nopal cactus fruits, with a tangy flavor. I'll encourage Mark to comment, as I don't recall his opinion of that dish.

Salmón Purenchécuaro
Ron also had a shrimp dish, Camarones El Remedio, with sliced mushrooms, accompanied by strangely yellow colored "saffron" spaghetti, and a section of corn on the cob.

Camarones Remedio
I'm a sucker for rabbit dishes, so I had Conejo al Tumbador; grilled, and served on a bed of salad.
Unfortunately, this dish failed on several counts. It was served tepid; the rabbit was small, bony and not meaty. The seasoning was underwhelming. I am used to much better grilled rabbit, as, for example, at La Mesa de Blanca. I couldn't eat more than a small amount of it, and the remainder eventually ended up in our garbage pail.

Conejo al Tumbador
A redeeming highlight of the meal was the trio of house made salsas, served in an attractive glass "boat".

Trio of salsas
I had a second cocktail, this one a "Happy Fresh", which was fair, but somewhat garishly colored with blue Curaçao and based on mezcal (as are all the cocktails) plus strawberries. I liked the Remedio cocktail more.

Of our group, only I ordered dessert, a homey Pan de Elote and a café Americano. The Pan de Elote  was pretty good, with good flavor and pleasant, coarse texture, not too sweet, and nicely warmed. (If only they didn't use that dessert cliche of squiggles of Hershey's (?) chocolate syrup on the plate.) But no real harm was done. At least the syrup wasn't on the Pan de Elote.

Pan de Elote
The coffee was fair.
In a private communication, fellow blogger "Felipe Zapata" suggested that it might be better if I deferred reviewing this restaurant until I made another visit. While it's true that multiple visits to a specific restaurant would be fairer before reviewing, I'm neither a professional reviewer nor do I have pockets deep enough to afford that. So here it is, for better or worse. I just tell it as I see it.

RATINGS. On a scale of 1 to 10
Food: 6
The kitchen has potential, and I credit the chef for creative efforts. But the dishes need further refinement. Most of all, hot food should be served HOT.

Service: 8
Amiable and knowledgeable. Don't expect speed, as all the food is prepared "al momento".

Price: $$ (with several cocteles and mezcales)
Inexpensive to Moderate

Ambience: Old Pátzcuaro Colonial

Restroom: Fine

Would we return? Yes, maybe. As I write and edit this post, my memories of El Remedio become more positive. So, yes; I would try it again. But I would ask that hot food be served hot.

Location: Calle Ahumada #13, Centro, Pátzcuaro, across from TelMex.

Sunday, November 01, 2015

Breakfast at Camila's Morelia

Image from Camila's website
It was after 1:00 p.m., a rainy day in Morelia, and I wanted a substantial breakfast, having missed it that morning; in a nice place with comfortable, indoor seating. Camila's filled those needs very nicely.

Image from Camila's website
There's "free" valet parking, even though the parking lot is immediately behind the capacious restaurant. What the hell. Why not?

Camila's is well staffed and the personnel were very courteous and welcoming. We were asked if we wanted desayuno or comida, and we were pleased that desayuno was still being served into the early afternoon. (In reality, the comida buffet was still being set up and wouldn't have been ready until about when we were finishing breakfast.)

There are several dining areas and we were ushered into what I think is the largest. It's casual but nicely appointed. It has the feel of a non-formal dining room in a contemporary hotel.

The breakfast menu has attractive paquetes on one side and more varied a la carte options on the others. The paquetes almost all are $135 but go up to  $205 for Carne Asada a la Tampiqueña. The a la carte menu lists a number of dishes ranging from mostly $85 to $155 for Cecina con Chilaquiles.

Breakfast package menu
The paquetes include pan dulce, pan salado (nice looking rolls that we didn't eat), jugo and plato de frutas, café americano, or chocolate or (I think) tea as well as the plato fuerte. These paquetes are a good value, depending on which you order. The table adjacent to ours got a Carne Asada that looked luscious.

Breakfast a la carte menu

Doña Cuevas ordered Huevos Motuleños, an attractive and elaborate egg dish. I tasted a dab of the underlying tomato sauce and it seemed to be made from crushed fresh tomatoes. O.k; so the beans were brown, not the traditional black, but they were good.

Huevos Motuleños
I had Trapo Viejo, scrambled eggs with seasonings and shredded beef. It was o.k. but not memorable. Our platos came with tostones, disks of fried plátano macho, which were o.k, although not one of my favored foods.

Trapo Viejo
The table salsa was thick, tasty and medium picante.

We both had jugo verde from a choice of orange, carrot, verde and grapefruit (which was out.) It was pretty good.

Other than the papaya and watermelon, the fruit on the fruit plate was underripe.

Coffee was just acceptable but not great.

Service was good overall, but we did have to request more coffee and tortillas, but then they came promptly.

Restrooms were nice.

Here's a rating summary. (I have decided to start rating on a 10 point, rather than a 5 point scale, for more precision. With this new system, a "1" is very poor, a "5" is average, and so on, up the scale of merit to a nearly unattainable "10")


Cost: Average $135 PP plus tip

Ambience: Casual Contemporary Mexican

Restrooms: Clean, spacious and functional

WiFi: Open network, no password needed. What a pleasure! However, the signal faltered in the later part of our breakfast.

We would eat there again, trying something other than breakfast.

There's a Comida Buffet offered, served from about 2:00 to 6:00 I took a passing look at this, especially the cold items. The hot foods were awkward to photograph because the steam table inserts were covered with plastic lids. A small but nice looking salad bar, then hot foods, pescado en salsa, pork, chicken, etc. There were plenty of carbs and less protein, in my quick view. But you could make a quite satisfactory meal from the buffet. The buffet line ended in a modest selection of desserts. Buffet price is a modest $115 pesos.

There's also a separate, a la carte list of grilled meat cuts. Naturally, those items are more expensive.

Grilled meats and fish menu
Address: Calzada Ventura Puente 1661, 58290 Morelia, MICH
Phone: 01 443 315 5062
Hours: Open today · 8:00 AM – 6:00 PM

Web site

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Return to El Naranjo Pátzcuaro

El Naranjos' tables near the shops.
Less than three weeks after our first meal at the attractive, new Restaurante El Naranjo, on Pátzcuaro's Plaza Don Vasco Quiroga, four of us returned for a Sunday comida. The talented Jerry Engelbach enhanced the experience with jazz selections on his piano.

On this occasion, we sat ourselves on the opposite side of the patio dining room, in the aisle near the boutique shops. Our table was essentially a fancy card table. It was really too small for a foursome, as the plates are oversize.
But we managed by using the ledge next to us that separated us from the main patio. We didn't like the slippery, sliding, paper table runner.

The chairs were a mix of the contour plastic chairs, which are actually quite comfortable, and a pair of plastic, folding deck chairs, which were less so. We swapped the folding chairs for contour chairs from the adjacent, unoccupied table. But next time we'll try to find an 8-spot table if available. In the end, it's all patio furniture, which is appropriate to the venue.

Ron shared with us an appetizer of Mozzarella alla Amalfitana, attractively served in a cast iron pot. The melted cheese was pleasant, if undistinguished, but spiked with minced anchovies and what seemed to be sun dried tomatoes, and so, we finished it.

The bread "basket" held a pleasant surprise: thin, crisp, bubbly cracker bread, lightly sprinkled with rosemary leaves. This bread was attractive as well as tasty. The pan ordinario was, well, ordinary. But at least it was fresh, in good condition and slightly warm. It was useful for holding swirls of the melted mozzarella.

New bread on the block
The salads look and taste great, other than the overly sharp, acidic dressing on my "Ensalada Asada", which had a scattering of very thin disks of broiled vegetables over very nice mixed greens. The eggplant on the salad as well as next to the filet steak was "aggressive" to my mouth, but that may just be me.

Ensalada Azul
Ensalada Asada
When I asked our waitress about the specialties from the horno de leña, she told us "ancas de rana a la mantequilla (frog's legs in butter), pizzas, filetto al forno." (filet of beef).

The frogs' legs seemed to me to be a curious candidate for a wood fired oven, so we passed.

But all four of us decided to order Filetti al Forno. Each was a solid piece of beef, with a coarse grained texture. These were not filet mignon, which was fine with me. I was pleased, having ordered mine cooked "término medio", which translates to pink-red center. Our friends who ordered theirs more done were less pleased, as at least one was cooked to total doneness. I think that the 300 gram steaks cooked better than the smaller version.

Filetto al Forno
All the steaks had a nice char, although the thin slices of eggplant alongside were pointless. Usually the meats come with lightly herbed potato cubes baked with a touch of olive oil, but lacking any browning. So two of us requested sides of spaghetti with butter instead. I was tickled when our Spanish speaking waitress used the Italian phrase, "Spaghetti al burro" in place of the Spanish "Espaguettis a la mantequilla". This pasta was simple yet satisfying.

The table fills up. 
The service from our waitress was noteworthy. She accommodated our needs instead of trying to "push" her recommendations on us. She was helpful and well informed. I liked that she spoke with us only in Spanish, instead of vernacular English, as had our previous server. She was "correct" and more professional in manner than our first waiter.
(It would be a nice and useful touch if the wait staff wore name tags.)

We saw several pizzas served and they looked a lot more attractive than those I saw on our last visit. The crusts looked thin crusted, and well browned. We will probably try one or two on our next visit.

I ordered coffee and a Creme Brûlée. The waitress told us that they were out at the moment, and there would be a 15 minute wait. I was willing to wait. So I was a little surprised when she brought the dessert in less time. It looked good but when I broke the caramelized crust, I discovered that the creme was still liquid. It hadn't baked even to the consistency of a good dish of natillas. Reluctantly, I summoned the waitress and sent it back. It was taken off our bill with no hassle.

In all, this was a more enjoyable and satisfactory experience that on our previous visit. Although there were incremental but significant improvements in the food, it was our excellent waitress who really made a difference.

I will definitely return.

Here's an updated Rating.

Food: ***1/2

Service: ****

Cost: $$$$  (about $400 pesos per person, average, including tip.)

Closed Mondays

Sunday, September 27, 2015

El Naranjo Pátzcuaro

El Naranjo Pátzcuaro. In your dreams.
El Naranjo, a new restaurant in a beautifully restored casona on the Plaza Vasco de Quiroga is a restaurant we really want to like. It's been open about a month now, and reports from friends and acquaintances had been encouraging. I almost never dine at a new restaurant until at least a month has passed, hopefully giving both kitchen and waitstaff a chance to polish their performance. But I may not have waited long enough.

The food is unlike any other offered in a Pátzcuaro restaurant, predominantly Italian. The only negatives in friends' description were "plastic chairs" and " some service issues". (Personally, I consider the latter more relevant than the composition of the chairs.)

El Naranjo Patio Furniture
This past Friday, the four of us enjoyed the setting, each others' company and many of the dishes. But I was left with a sense of frustration and incompleteness as the food often did not match the menu's or waiter's description.

Some dishes were quite good. The Portobello Mushrooms were pretty good. (Just as our English speaking waiter described them.)

Hongos portobellos
Larry's Carpaccio de Res (see below) was attractively presented and both he and Geni liked it very much. But instead of shavings of the traditional Parmesan, they had laminas of mozzarella (according to our waiter.) Do details like this matter?

Geni and Susie both enjoyed their Ensaladas Azul. The greens were varied and fresh, the blue cheese was generously portioned, and the balsamic dressing was sparingly applied. All good.

Ensalada Azul

Larry ordered a very attractive Carpaccio de Res, which was a hit, in spite of the substitution of mozzarella for Parmesan on top.

Carpaccio de Res
I had wanted a Caesar Salad, but our eager, friendly but poorly informed waiter told me that it would be too much food, since a salad came with the lamb. Larry and I planned to share the lamb, the special of the day. But it was an expensive failure.

We were not told about this special of the day until I asked our waiter, who inquired in the kitchen, then emerged, smiling, to tell us it was ready. We were excited with anticipation. But this dish was a major let down for me.

The anticipated salad never came with our "lamb". This lapse didn't occur to me until we were done eating.

 Of the meat, there were some scraggly pieces of bone, fat and skin. The jus was attractive, but the bread was so dreadful looking that I didn't want to use it to sop up. (The little roasted potatoes were pretty good.) 

Cordero Asado
Geni's Saltimbocca was at first glance unprepossessing, but she wrote that it was delicious. I would have wanted the absent Marsala sauce, as described on the menu.

Doña Cuevas chose Cannelloni Ripieno di Spinaci e Ricotta. It was creamy and bounteous. Note that this dish was not made from pasta tubes, but classically, with crepes. A plus for the kitchen and chef.

Desserts: the Lavender infused Creme Brûlée was very good, and the Tiramisu was very enjoyable and not as excessively rich as some versions. I wished that there were more of it. The fact that it was served in a mason jar may seem incongruous to the overall ambience (after all, this is not Jo Jo's Catfish Wharf), but having noted that, I ate it all. The tiramisú, not the jar.

Creme Brûlée a Lavanda

My espresso was forgettable, but our friends approved of their cafés con leche

When I returned from washing my hands. I saw a couple of pizzas at another table. They were very unappealing to me, particularly the crusts. But perhaps it's unfair to criticize something I didn't eat. (But I will).

Like the bread. Slices of pale, gray dry bread, accompanied by three stingy balls of butter. I couldn't help but compare this wretched looking bread with the wonderful, warm, crusty loaves, and dishes of seasoned butter in olive oil, as served at Macelleria Roma, in Mexico City.

Good, simple bread. But at Macelleria Roma, D.F.
Conclusion: we still have hopes from El Naranjo, and are willing to give it another go. But their overall performance would have to improve if we were to go there more than that.

Food: ***
Service: ***

Ambience: lovely patio in a restored casona.
(Music: I'd heard complaints of too loud live music, but we were blessed and caressed with first rate recorded tracks of Edith Piaf, Buika and other artists.)

Rest Rooms: Sparklingly clean, with attractive tile work.

Cost: Unfortunately I can't tell you the exact cost because I never saw the check total nor got a decent photo. Sra. Cuevas recalls that our check was $1,172 pesos, plus tip. We also had  a carafe of limonada, two glasses of red wine and a michelada included in that. Here's a partial view of the check, which gives some prices.

Location: Plaza Vasco de Quiroga at Calle Dr. Coss, Pátzcuaro.

Friday, September 25, 2015

"Eat Mexico"— A Book Review

I know Lesley Tellez as an enthusiastic writer and cook, deeply dedicated to Mexican cooking. I followed her blog, "The Mija Chronicles" from its inception. Lesley has brought the same enthusiasm and dedication to her first book, Eat Mexico.

The book is very personalized in its point of view, and in no way pretends to be a comprehensive work on all the regions of Mexican cooking. Instead, it focuses on Mexico City and the surrounding Distrito Federal, the area in which the author lived for four or more years. But it is in México, D.F. that the best of the nation's cooking converges, and Lesley has given us a delicious sampling of that convergence. The accompanying text bears the distinct stamp of the author's personality. It's definitely not written by a committee.

This is demonstrated in a couple of esoteric recipes in the book, notably, the highly imaginative and creative (but, I must admit, not appealing to me) "Dark Chocolate Chicharrón Cookies".

I have so far made only two, simple, more mainstream recipes from her compendium; Guisado de Acelgas, and Agua de Piña con Perejil. Both were clearly written, easy to follow and successful. I'm looking forward to trying more complex recipes, when an opportunity presents itself.

I recommend Eat Mexico for readers and cooks who want to experience the vibrant flavor of Mexican cooking of the capital city, México, D.F.

This review first appeared on, where the book is available for $16.63.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Cirio and All That

Pomodori San Marzano (from Huffington Post)

or: The Quest For The Ideal Canned Tomato

I know I'm totally obsessed with obtaining and maintaining a good supply of Italian Cirio Pomodori Pelati Entero, or even the second ranked but still superior range of Spanish Cidacos Tomates. The truth is, I don't really even need them right now. I have enough on hand to last for an unknown time. But I will need them eventually, and they are becoming increasingly scarce on supermarket shelves in Morelia.

Out Of Stock???

They are essential to me for making rich tasting pasta sauces and other uses. Concurrently, the excellent, not Italian, Kirkland Signature Organic Tomato products have been replaced on the shelves of Morelia's Costco with unwieldy, impractical #10 cans of S&W tomato products. That's not progress, it's regression. Great for food service operations but impractical for the home cook.

Not Currently Available

The Walmart Internet Tomato Fiasco

There was a brief period of hope, when our friend Jennifer located the desired Cirio Pomodori Pelati Entero in the online catalog of Walmart Mexico. Jennifer kindly offered to receive the coveted goods at her Morelia home.

We made valiant efforts place the order, hurdling numerous obstacles, but for all our efforts it ended in frustration. To make the online purchase, I first had to register with That wasn't too hard except the registration form at first rejected my email address as invalid, then went on to reject Jennifer's home phone. Then it accepted them. ¿Quien sabe?

After registration, I went to Delivery Options. I was offered delivery from two widely distant Walmarts, and of course, I chose the nearest. Shipping charges were $39 pesos. There was a Store Pickup Option at no charge, but I was leery of that, having once run afoul of a local Walmart's ineptitude when I wanted to buy a bag of ice for about $10 pesos. That's another story.

The next option left me incredulous. I could choose the day and the hour  of delivery. I was extremely skeptical that Walmart could fulfill this delivery as ordered within the specified range, but I put in our preferences.

I then went to Payment, where I got to choose Cash, Credit/Debit/PayPal, etc. I selected Credit/Debit. But the next page was the most surreal of all.There was no place to enter the Credit/Debit specifics. How in the hell was it to be paid for? I surmised that it must be C.O.D.

The next day, Jennifer's answering machine recorded a call from Walmart that they didn't have the requested item in stock, but instead offered a substitute. It was impossible to decipher what that substitute might be, but at any rate, she was urged to call them back. Unfortunately, they didn't leave a callback number!
Somehow, this outcome was not a surprise.

I have to ask: is this any way to run a retail empire?
After this fiasco, I was ready to give up, at least with Walmart.

But, Never Say Die
Soon after, while shopping for baker's flour and such at Super Codallos Pátzcuaro, near the autopista, I found nice cans of Mexican made La Morena Puré de Tomato, whose sole ingredient is stated to be "TOMATE".  That's a potential step up from the gold standard here of Del Fuerte Puré de Tomate, which is "condimentado". That means "seasoned". Del Fuerte isn't really bad stuff, it's just not the quality I'm seeking.

I had a brilliant idea flash into my brain. I was Amazed by the ample offerings of both Italian San Marzano tomatoes available through the online retailer plus Muir Glen brand organic tomatoes, in a variety of presentations. The only snag is getting such products delivered here to Mexico. (The aforesaid items are not yet available on

I did make a test batch of pasta sauce, using one, precious 28 ounce can of Cirio Pomodori Pelati and a can of La Morena Puré de Tomate. The La Morena wasn't bad, just not as rich in tomato-ness as the Italian or even Spanish products. Nor was it as "heavy" or thick, but it was usable. The final sauce was slightly bitter, but that could be because I'd used a different recipe for Basic Tomato Sauce than my standard. It was from the usually very reliable I think the bitterness came from the parsley in the sauce.

So, as things stand now, my obsession is in abeyance. But someday, my truck will come, carrying a cargo of great canned tomatoes!

There is an earlier post on this topic, Attack of the Killer Tomatoes, from February 7, 2010. Things have not changed much in the field of tomatoes.

Last Wednesday, we stopped at the newer of the two Chedraui supermercados in Morelia, on a tip from Jennifer Rose that sometimes Chedraui carries "weird stuff".

Although I was unable to relocate a favorite sparkling white wine, Blanc Pescador, I hit the jackpot when I roamed the aisles. A store employee directed me to the not obvious shelves of canned tomatoes. Then, BONANZA! There was not only a very ample stock of Cirio Pomodori Pelati, but Cidacos Tomates Enteros as well, and at $18 pesos a can, a crazy bargain. You bet I stocked up, but left a couple of cans for other customers, and as a memory jog to store staff to reorder soon.

Once home, I unpacked them, placed them on the kitchen counter where I could admire them, played "Tomatoes on Parade", and built towers. Then when I tired, I neatly snugged them away into their tomato houses for the night. I went to bed contented and pleased.

Tomato Towers

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Restaurante El Mandil Pátzcuaro

It's not often that Pátzcuaro is blessed by an attractive new restaurant, especially one that offers an ample variety of well seasoned dishes. What's more, as a buffet with seconds at no extra cost. All this for a paltry sum of $60 Mexican pesos.

Restaurante El Mandil is located in the venerable Posada Hotel Mesón de San Antonio. (Those of you who have good memories will recall that I once helped organize a cooking class in the very same kitchen and dining room, in partnership with the hotel owners. But I haven't had any business connection with them for many years.)

Mesón de San Antonio
Restaurante El Mandil turned up on my sights only yesterday, while searching Tripadvisor for new and different Pátzcuaro dining possibilities. The cynics among us, myself included, usually consider this a hopeless effort. But there it was: a solitary review of Restaurante El Mandil, written by an apparent visitor from San Miguel de Allende. Sr. Kamman gave it 5 stars all around. The concept had considerable appeal, as I was tired of the generally touristic menus of Pátzcuaro restaurants, offering Mexican fare diluted for expat tastes; but on the other hand, I was not interested in la comida típica de cocinas económicas. When we were joined by our two friends, and entered the imposing, refectory style dining room, we were pleasantly surprised.

Restaurante El Mandil dining room
The way it works is that you pay at the cashier desk as you enter, and receive a ticket. You choose a table and put the ticket where a staff member can retrieve it later.

You then walk up to the buffet line, staffed by attentive and helpful employees. My only difficulty was identifying and remembering the various guisados. The servers will help you out, and you can get what you want, and seconds, too. (I was very discreet and restrained and didn't try for thirds.)

Here's a photo sampling of some of the many dishes. (I should also mention that various dishes are refreshed and replaced with new ones in the course of the service.)

Cocina del Restaurante El Mandil. Chef Ismael in right background
Clockwise, from top left: Calabacitas, Crema de brocolí, Frijoles, Bisteces y papas en salsa verde.
Unidentified egg in salsa dish (Huevos albañil?)

Carne de res en chile negro: very tasty but a little tough

Chiles rellenos de queso

Pollo salteado con verduras
Spaghetti? I passed on this one.

The salsas and condiments did not inflame my attention.

Tortillas were made by hand and freshly cooked al comal. There were two baskets, one of crisp and dry tortillas, the other of light colored and pliable ones.

Oddities would appear on the line from time to time. I enjoyed a very tasty bean burrito, and later in the meal, these nifty hamburgers showed up. (I skipped trying them, you'll be pleased to know.)

I enjoyed the rice with fresh vegetables. It was light and neither oily or soggy, as is too often the case elsewhere.

The simple desserts were a little unusual:
L-R: Calabacitas endulzadas; Camotes, fresh fruit mix
These alitas a la Diabla showed up later in the service. I passed on these, having been told that they were muy picante.

alitas (chicken wings) in spicy sauce (Hot Wings!)
The Tortitas de Carne were also muy picante, but very popular.

Tortitas de carne
See all the photos here.

Now for some ratings. 

Food: *** 1/2 The food is best described as comida casera, or home style cooking. It is fresh and abundant, and a big step up from the usual comida económica fare.

Service: *** 1/2

Ambience: **** Note that some tables have benches and not chairs. There are tablecloths!

Price: At $60 pesos per person for all you want to eat, a tremendous bargain. Drinks and a small dessert included.

Also serves breakfast, also buffet style, from 9:00 a.m. (I think)
Comida from 2:00 p.m. until 5:00 p.m.

Closed Mondays.

We would definitely return.

Location: Calle Benigno Serrato 33, near the corner of Asencíon, across from the eastern end of the Basilica.