Though it operates with little fanfare, Antojitos Mexicanos (107 Graham Avenue, Brooklyn; 718-384-9076), a restaurant on Graham Avenue in Williamsburg, is never empty. There’s always a handful of families dining together, sharing quesadillas, sipping cinnamon-laced horchata, the spot serving as a cheap respite in a neighborhood of perpetually rising rents.
It’s located in a long, boxy space with three rows of tables and chairs, and menus open and preserved under the glass tops of the tables. It’s a big menu, dominated by antojitos, like picadas ($3) with their pinched edges, dressed simply with salsa and chopped white onion and showered with dry, white cheese; sopes ($3) made in a similar manner but layered with beans and a meat of your choosing and piled with lettuce; tostadas ($2.50) with all the fixings; tacos placeros ($4) with strips of roasted jalapeño and eggs, hardboiled longer than you probably would like; or chalupas ($6 for four), the simplest of all, lightly fried tortillas swabbed with salsa and a peck of cheese.
Mole, pancita, and barbacoa specials come out only on the weekend, but there is always chilate de pollo ($7), a simple, spicy chicken soup that threatens to stain anything it touches, even the ceramic bowl it rides in. Plump pieces of chicken stick out from the garish red broth, which is made opaque by the pureed flesh of reconstituted, dried guajillo chiles. Yes, the broth is spicy, but it doesn’t excoriate; the heat is tempered by the fleshy viscosity of the chiles and a slight sweetness from tomato. A flick of the spoon pulls garbanzo beans up from the bottom; wisps of epazote float by, and the chicken pulls easily from the bone. It’s a soup that reinvigorates, a boost of morale to face yet another frigid day.
Scarlett Lindeman is a Brooklyn-based writer, covering the city’s best taquerias, fondas, and cantinas.