When was the last time you went to Old Town? When was the last time you were excited to go to Old Town? When was the last time you were excited to eat something in Old Town? Chef Alam Méndez Florián, who owns Pasillo de Humo in Mexico City, is going to make you feel all of those emotions (and more). His newest spot with Larry Walston, Chad Sparrow and Justin Sparrow (of Common Plate Hospitality) is Urbano 116. It brings the bold flavors of Mexico to Alexandria, transforming a tiny corner of Old Town into a colorful slice of Mexico City.
Despite the neon signs and lucha libre masks, the most distracting element of Urbano 116 is the mole. Dark and dense, it packs a serious amount of flavor and you can find it all over the menu. Fried plantains sit on a bed of red mole and are sprinkled with goat cheese, a cashew mole covers a cauliflower taco and the entree plates are filled with everything from almond mole to the unparalleled black mole. A bright and sweet fruit mole is paired with pork belly, a puree of sweet potatoes and a trifecta of grilled pineapple, grilled plantains and grilled carrots. The combination of fat, sweet, acid and smoke creates a dish that evolves with every bite. Whatever kind of mole your heart desires, chef Alam Méndez Florián and his team are sure to have your back.
These traditional touches expand past the mole. Their heirloom corn tortillas could convince any flour-devotee to switch teams… but their flour tortillas are also pretty damn delicious too. Still, I wouldn’t want to have the carnitas taco (which comes with a sliver of onion and a dash of cilantro) on anything other than corn.
Want to try something new (to you)? Don’t skip the grilled tlayuda, which features a crispy tortilla covered with black beans, chorizo, avocado and a thick layer of Oaxacan cheese. Traditionally, a tlayuda is served folded in half (sort of like a calzone?) but Urbano 116 keeps theirs open (like a pizza). Want to try something (probably) not new to you? The shrimp ceviche was the sleeper hit of our meal. Covered with radishes and featuring hunks of fresh shrimp hanging out in a bright and super acidic broth, it’s magic in a bowl.
You can’t leave a restaurant with a neon pink “churros” sign without ordering the churros. Indulge. Get the chocolate sauce. They’re delicious. As with everything on Urbano 116’s menu, they’ll make you forget you’re in Virginia.