el vez

El Vez restaurant is situated above Philly's historic gay district on 13th street. From a block away, you can hear crowd noise bursting out of the establishment as doors open and close. Packs of young-ish professionals dressed in afterwork/pre-clubbing clothes loiter outside around the sidewalk dining tables. The interior is a huge open space made intimate by deafening noise and crowds of standing people clustering around the centrally located bar and in random places. At least the vibe is more fun than pretentious. El Vez on a Friday night is more appropriate for group dinners rather than for couples - especially a married couple ready for a quiet conversation recapping the work week. The dimly lit room is splashed with bright colors and walls of mosaic art carrying a Mexican flair with a modern twist. Our table sat us near the bar with single people mingling and hovering above us. Nonetheless we were unfazed and I was prepared to tune-out stumbling margarita influenced pick-up lines in between bites.

We shared a bountiful Mexican chopped salad, which included watercress, corn black beans, tortilla strips and a lime/chipotle dressing. Really refreshing and tasty. My shrimp quesadillas were very light and equally flavorful. Nice harmonious blend of chile sauce, cheeses, fresh shrimp and crispy tortillas. Sitting by the bar, I couldn't pass up their renowned margaritas and ordered the El Vez version, which was as good as advertised. A wonderfully complimentary concoction with hand-squeezed lime juice and fresh lime puree. I was initially caught off guard by my main course - negra modelo braised short ribs. I expected actual ribs but received more of a beef brisket. Still, the meat was tender and worked well with the accompanying chorizo taquitos and creamy horseradish topping. My wife's yucatan salmon with green rice and chile sauce would have been perfect if the inside of the fish wasn't as undercooked. We topped off the night with a white chocolate mango tart and a cinnamon orange flan - both delicious and leaving us wanting more.

All in all, I was impressed with the menu at El Vez. Great splashes of citrus, salsa and proper amounts of cheeses and creams. The flavors of the food were as loud as the atmosphere - but in a light refreshing way. I didn't feel heavy or unhealthy after eating any of my selections...just a little buzzed from their incredible margaritas.


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