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EN FUEGO: Zocalo fires up taste buds at Barclay Commons

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All in all, Zocalo has come out of the gate strong with creative flavors and culinary delights.

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Pardon my Mexi-coma. I am currently bursting with chimichangas and queso—and I’m not mad about it. Though the Pointe at Barclay still, quietly, is getting on its feet, the shopping center’s restaurants are actively bringing their A-game. Zocalo may have a slower crowd flow during the day, but that isn’t stopping their kitchen from putting out authentic, mouth-watering Mexican street food on the reg.

Chimichangas, tasty guac, salsas, and sides of beans and rice abound at Zocalo Street Food and Tequila, one of several new eateries at The Pointe at Barclay serving moviegoers and Wilmington residents. Photo by Tom Dorgan.

NEW EATS: Chimichangas, tasty guac, salsas, and sides of beans and rice abound at Zocalo Street Food and Tequila, one of several new eateries at The Pointe. Photo by Tom Dorgan.

Having already tasted some of Zocalo’s treats on an unofficial eating and drinking visit, I was familiar with the place. As far as spirits go, I sampled several and was blown away equally by each one. The margaritas are made fresh-to-order (no bottled mixes here). There are 50 types of tequila to make your clothes come off, and the caramelized-pineapple mojito is particularly refreshing.

Although, the cuisine here doesn’t resemble popular Mexi-American chains, like El Cerro, Zocalo is an extension (kind of like the sophisticated cousin) of the successful restaurant group. Thanks to Chef Julio Camberos, the modern eatery has a fierce, authentic flair and is delivering flavors to tingle taste buds.

The bright, spacious interior is made three times more colorful when the salsa trio is delivered to the table. No dinky chips here. Every yellow triangle was thick, salted and fresh out of the fryer. The chips have substance and texture—and when I crunched into a bubble, the open hole produced the perfect pocket for capturing queso. Salsa-wise, go for the zippy green tomatillo, with its vibrant citrus notes. The other two are traditional, oniony and red—one mild and one that will light up diners.

Three dips and housemade chips are a hell of a complimentary starter, but I couldn’t resist the guacamole or queso. Why have three places to put a chip when  there can be five? The guac—loaded with red onions, serrano peppers and cilantro—comes with just enough lime and salt. For a show-stealer at dinner time, order it prepared table-side and try it Acapulco-style, with shrimp, orange and habanero. Queso tastes rich, warm, creamy, and cheesy.

I had seen several Yelpers rave over the lunchtime chimichanga, so I got mine with chicken tinga. The flour tortilla doesn’t come overly fried and is generously packed with juicy shredded chicken in a tomatoey sauce. Along with all the dippers, it was a monster of a meal. Filling is an understatement as the chimichanga swims in a pool of melty queso, guacamole and pico, alongside arroz Mexicano (traditional Mexican rice) and black beans. The rice is tasty, and the beans—pureed into a savory paste and garnished with crumbled white cheese—amps up any food addiction.

Next on deck, after my server’s suggestion: enchiladas. For the best of all worlds, there is a trio: three rolled corn tortillas with shredded beef, chicken and shrimp. The sauce medley of entomatada, mole and poblano chile sauce tastes lively, colorful and is responsible for most of the interesting action on the plate. Though the beef is good, it’s not knock-your-socks-off good. The shrimp enchilada is smothered in the creamy, smoky green poblano sauce and also isn’t memorable. The mole sauce, however, is earthy and by far provides the most depth and character.

Zocalo specializes in hand-making several different varieties of corn tortillas, and the Blue Corn Huarache is a great way to really experience the masa’s flavor. The oblong, thick, fried tortilla comes vegetarian (so, naturally, I garnished it with pork). On top of the tortilla is a base of black beans, roasted veggies, salty cojita cheese, a drizzle of cream, and tender shredded carnitas. It is by far my favorite; each bite of the Mexican-style pizza is layered with unctuous pork and tender veggies: beans, delicate squash blossoms and sautéed spinach. The homemade tortilla has a wonderful chew and is easiest to tackle by hand.

The Pambazo DF (Mexico city-style sandwich) comes with  its cushy, oval adobado bread soaked in pepper sauce. Though the filling’s spices are solid, the amount of chorizo, potato, cheese, and veggies is on the meager side. Lots of people mention the Pambazo DF reviews online that while the sandwich is good, the fries are a miss. Ancho-spiced fries certainly sound intriguing, so I hoped for the best. Unfortunately, the soggy potato sticks are in fact unseasoned (no sign of chili powder anywhere) and radically underwhelming.

(Zocalo, you’re doing everything else so well. Take a tip from your fickle feedback and make a move.)

All in all, Zocalo has come out of the gate strong with creative flavors and culinary delights. Fried things drenched in cheese are an obvious win. But from light, zesty seafood ceviche to seasonally inspired salads and traditional soups, there’s a whole lot to love.

Zocalo Street Food and Tequila
1474 Barclay Pointe Blvd.
Ste. 206
Mon. – Thurs., 11 a.m. – 10 p.m.; Fri. – Sat., 11 a.m. – 11 p.m.; Sun., 11 a.m. – 9 p.m.
*Bar menu only on Fri. and Sat., 10 p.m. – 11 p.m.

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