México Lindo y Qué Rico: fresh and affordable
México Lindo y Qué Rico brings Philadelphia fresh, homemade Mexican cooking from a Chiapas native.
Mexico Lindo’s namesake dish is designed to represent Mexican identity. The main feature is a filet of grilled chicken served with cooked cactus and a jalapeno stuffed with cheese. On the side, classic fried beans and rice complete the plate while Pico de Gallo is sprinkled throughout.
“These are the ingredients Mexicans identify with,” owner and master chef Juan Chavez said with a smile. “To top it all off the colors of the Pico de Gallo - green, white and red – represent the colors of the Mexican flag.”
Chavez’s foray into Philly’s Mexican food scene began in 2015 with a food truck named Don Chucho stationed along Castor Avenue in the city’s far north. The idea was to serve authentic, fresh, homemade Mexican cuisine for the Hispanic population in an area with limited Mexican options.
The food truck was a success, but didn't work well alongside the neighbors who got annoyed by the large crowds. Thus began the brick and mortar location of Mexico Lindo at the corner of 7th and Moore in South Philadelphia a little over a year ago. For the name, Chavez chose Mexico Lindo to highlight the type of cuisine served. He added the “y que rico” because the name Mexico Lindo was already registered and “y que rico” plays on the famous song “Mexico lindo y querido.”
Although Chavez has experience with many diverse cuisines (before the food truck he worked at Waterworks, Fork and Sampan), his specialty is cooking the foods from his native Chiapas, Mexico. As a kid, he lived in Puerto Madero with his aunt who sold food to the locals and taught him how to cook tripe (pancita) served with cow’s foot (pata de res). The gelatinous, well-cooked cow’s foot is unusual for the dish filling it with an extra fatty flavor. The signature plate is sold at the restaurant on Saturdays.
Another classic from Chiapas is the mole sauce, which is red and sweeter than the famous mole poblano. The sweetness comes from the addition of chocolate, cookies and fried plantain that is then mixed with peanut, thyme and other spices. You can try it on an order of enchiladas or chicken breast.
Nonetheless, Mexico Lindo is about more than just cuisine from Chiapas. You can find many Mexican classics, such as tacos, tostadas, quesadillas and tortas among others. They also serve fresh Jamaica and horchata juice and make fresh salsa daily.
Chavez is passionate about serving the freshest food for the lowest price possible and knows his ingredients well. Prior to moving to the U.S. in the late 2000s, he worked for decades as a food distributor in Mexico City, which brought him into contact with both unusual ingredients, such as poppy seed, as well as chefs throughout the city.
“I was able to give the chefs ingredients that they didn’t have,” explains Chavez.
Going forward, Chavez is working on two major projects to transform the business. The first is opening another location back in North Philadelphia near where he first served customers along Castor Avenue. The other plan is to acquire another food truck to travel around the city and participate in food festivals.
Also in the works are new seafood dishes from Chiapas as well as a new sign for the restaurant on the outside. Don’t be fooled. Currently, the exterior says Maribel, the location’s previous restaurant, but Mexico Lindo really is on the inside.
To learn more about Mexico Lindo … y que rico, or to make a catering order, go to their Facebook page or call 215-755-1005. Prices: $8 - $14. Hours: Sunday – Thursday from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., Friday and Saturday from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. Address: 700 Moore Street Philadelphia, PA 19148.