Tucked away in Somers Point, El Costeño is a new Mexican restaurant worth seeking out.
The first thing you’ll notice upon meeting chef/owner Paulino “Pablo” Eulogio of Somers Point’s new El Costeño restaurant are his hands.
More accurately, the burns.
A large swath of the 30-year-old’s left wrist and palm remains gruesomely beet-red from an unfortunate dispute between hot oil and a sauté pan.
For those of us who’ve spent any time at all working in kitchens, this sort of thing is both an occupational hazard as well as a verifiable badge of honor. Being able to withstand pain — especially the unique scorch of burning — is pretty much a requisite skill set for quality cooks. Eulogio’s first venture (El Costeño translates as “The Shore Dweller”) provides an obvious reference to his current locale, but also serves as an accurate homage to his homeland.
Native to the Pacific coast Mexican resort community of Puerto Escondido, he has been working professionally in kitchens in the Atlantic City area since arriving 14 years ago.
The tiny, blink-and-you’ll-miss-it business shares nondescript strip mall space with a Chinese restaurant, but drive slowly down Maryland Avenue between Bay Avenue and Shore Road and you’ll find it.
With seating for 30, customers are afforded plenty of opportunity to interact with the gregarious young chef, who encourages special orders.
His partner is wife Delfina Villavicencio — perhaps the most lyrical name in our local restaurant biz — providing house-made tortillas, sauces, desserts and a half-dozen luscious “agua frescas.” These naturally refreshing beverages include watermelon, cantaloupe, pineapple, tamarind, Jamaican (berry-red, brewed from hibiscus) and horchat, a creamy, but dairy-free froth composed of rice starch, cinnamon and sugar topped with crushed pecans.
Their exotic essences pair nicely with Eulogio’s cuisine, which is both authentically Mexican and distinctly regional. Calling his hometown “the world’s third biggest surfing area, after Hawaii and Australia,” he describes native foods as being Oaxacan, with a seaside influence.
Buried deep in southernmost Mexico, this means prolific use of traditionally sweet items in savory cuisine.
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There are quite a few Mexican restaurants in the area, and Mexico Restaurant and Bar is one of the best. You enter the restaurant through the friendly lounge with a long, full-service bar, which serv...
You've heard the cliché about the eyes being too big for the stomach? Well, that aphorism certainly held true for dining partner Dan and me during our visit to Mexico Restaurant & Bar in Atlantic City. We found the restaurant's extensive menu so-o-o tempting, and observed the dishes being served to diners at nearby tables to be very colorful and eye-appealing. Since brothers Marcos and Baruh Villa, natives of Oaxaca, Mexico, opened Mexico Restaurant & Bar eight years ago, it has become a favorite place for diners seeking authentic Mexican cuisine (not Tex-Mex) served in a bright, cheerful atmosphere. While Marcos keeps everything running smoothly in the front of the restaurant, Baruh puts his 20 years of chef's experience to good stead by turning out "made from scratch" Mexican goodies from the kitchen. Mexico Restaurant & Bar has a plain storefront exterior, but the décor of the dining rooms and bar exhibit pleasing Mexican influences. The main dining room has pottery, serapes and sombreros decorating the walls, and red, green and white banners (the color of Mexico's flag) with images of famous Mexican heroes hanging from the ceiling. The tables are topped with glass-covered white cloths. Although the restaurant was very...
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