The steam table shines inside Maravillas (37-64 90th Street, Queens; 718-507-5678), a Mexican restaurant in Jackson Heights that keeps the lights dimmed low. “Somos los Maravillosos en Comida Casera” says the menu. This means, “We are marvelous with homestyle food,” which is certainly true of the soups and stews, braises, and anything saucey.
The salsa verde, an olive green slurry of cooked-down tomatillo and chile, is particularly nice. It’s a vehicle for eggs ($7.50), enchiladas ($12), chicharron ($10), or short, stunted pork ribs ($9), dominos of meat barely clinging to bone with nopales or verdolagas, the green succulent purslane. The tart green-ness of the sauce is an astute foil for rich pork, with a slow, growing heat.
Owner Jose Espinoza hails from Oaxaca, and he opened this restaurant eight years ago off the main drag of Roosevelt Avenue. The menu doesn’t read Oaxaca specifically, but draws from the full Southern Mexican canon. One afternoon, there were tortitas de pollo, shredded chicken mixed with egg and cilantro, fried into fritters, and set bobbing in salsa verde. There is always mole poblano ($13). All of the stews come with hand pressed tortillas, a clarion call to put down the dry corn circles, languishing at the back of the fridge.
There is even liver ($13), penne a la vodka with shrimp ($14.95), and t-bone steaks ($25), though most people come for quesadillas, tortas of braised beef tongue, and platters heavy with rice and beans. The full bar, a karaoke machine, and loud big screen TV draw crowds on the weekends.
Scarlett Lindeman is a Brooklyn-based writer, covering the city’s best taquerias, fondas, and cantinas. She writes the ¡Oye! Comida column for Fork in the Road.