You might have heard a collective cheer when Chavela’s, a popular Prospect Heights shack serving pan-Mexican food, upgraded to a larger space in Crown Heights during the summer of 2011.The old Chavela’s space wasn’t much bigger than a walk-in closet, and the eatery was forced to do most of its business in takeout.
At the new location, there is room to linger. The long wooden bar is covered with colorful handmade tiles, the room features lots of dark wood paneling, and strange chandeliers twinkle overhead–Chavela’s would not look out of place in San Francisco’s Mission District. When the windows open onto the street and the Modelo Especial is exceptionally cold, it’s an especially nice place to be; you can observe young fathers hand-feeding their toddlers morsels of tortilla, couples on dates, and gaggles of ladies ordering a third round. This is a true neighborhood spot, and it gets clobbered at brunch and busy during happy hour, which features slightly fizzy on-tap margaritas ($6).
The menu aims to please with platters of sticky chicken mole with rice and beans ($13) and al pastor tacos with as much pineapple as pork ($3). Vegetarians should order the tlacoyos, flattened masa disks stuffed with beans and piled high with strips of cactus ($5); tacos filled with avocado, black beans, and cheese ($3); and cheese enchiladas drenched in tart salsa verde ($11).
I am most partial, though, to the Chavela’s chorizo and egg torta ($8). The sandwich, roughly the size of a NFL regulation football, is built on an enormous roll that’s airy and porous. It serves as a bland carrier for softly scrambled eggs studded with bits of chorizo, potato, and strands of rubbery oaxacan cheese. A nest of julienned romaine lettuce and slices of bright green jalapeño add a grassy lightness but no heat. The torta is as mild as a ladies’ luncheon tea sandwich and just as pleasant.