The Gem of Jefferson Street

Where the chips, margaritas, and exceptional service flow freely.

The graceful wooden beams of the high ceiling and the tiny tables covered with checkered tablecloths scattered about the expansive floor make this Latin bistro seem more like an Italian cafe on some Milan plaza than your typical taco joint. But just as Mundos is the only Latin restaurant among the numerous Ethiopian eateries on Jefferson Street, it is this eclectic and strange mix of cultures that makes the restaurant interesting. Upon entering Mundos, it becomes apparent that this is one of those places frequented by the neighbors and maybe the close friends and family of the owners ... and that's about all. We were impressed by the simple interior and the friendly, welcoming smiles of the wait staff and the locals hanging out at the bar sipping margaritas, but we were disturbed by the lack of people in the remainder of the restaurant; could this be due to bad food or service? That was quickly disproved as my companion and I were immediately whisked away to a comfy booth (no waiting necessary) and offered an overflowing basket of hot, salty chips and a not unbearably spicy salsa that was only made better by what is possibly the creamiest, most refreshing strawberry margarita in town (served with an extra cup for whatever's left over in the blender, $4.50). We decided to start with the veggie quesadilla ($4.50) as an appetizer. It came stuffed with fresh corn, mushrooms, and roasted peppers and was served with a red, creamy sauce with a bit of a bite and loads of smoky flavor giving it a Southwest feel. No sooner had we shoved the last of it in our mouths, between ongoing assaults on the chip basket, than our smiling waitress appeared with our main dishes, steaming plates of enchiladas, chiles rellenos, and shrimp. For me, chicken enchiladas are the basic unit of measurement when it comes to deciphering the quality of Latin cuisine, and the chicken enchiladas rojas ($11.50) at Mundos proved that this restaurant has the heart, and the taste, to be frequented by more than just the owner's relatives. The shredded chicken inside was juicy and tender, the tortilla fresh, and the red sauce smothering it rich and creamy without being overbearing. Unfortunately, my companion was having some problems, because she ordered the chiles rellenos ($12.99) without noting that they would be served with the "chef's choice of stuffing." The chef's choice that day was fish, which she isn't a fan of, especially as a surprise (though I tried a bite and was impressed by the flakiness of the fish and the spiciness of the creamy sauce). When the waitress noticed her dissatisfaction, the chiles rellenos were quickly scooped up and replaced by more of the chicken enchiladas that I couldn't stop raving about. The last dish we dove into was overflowing with sauted jumbo shrimp sitting in a garlic-spiced butter sauce ($12.99), and seafood lovers beware, their gargantuan size won't deter you from cleaning your plate! In another impressive service move, the chef personally wandered over to our table toward the end to ask about our dinner. We could only smile and try to wipe the salsa off our fingers and drain the last of our margaritas. Such warm and enthusiastic service, reasonable prices, and attractive atmosphere (aside from the strange 1950s tunes that were blaring in the background) made us both eye the bar in the corner that was housing the local groupies and wonder which stools might become our designated perches. Mundos, 1212 Jefferson St., 206-328-6493, CENTRAL DISTRICT. 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Sun. Wed.; 11 a.m.-2 a.m. Thurs. Sat.

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