Cafe Reviewed: Thursday, February 25, 2004
Religious Experience

A Holy Trinity of Tex-Mex awaits at Uno Mas.

By Jimmy Fowler

Uno Mas

601 W Northside Dr, FW. 817-624-3915. Mon-Thu 11am-10pm, Fri 9am-4am, Sat 8am-4am, Sun 8am-10pm. All major credit cards accepted

Have you heard the epic saga of the houses Loredo and Montelongo? It starts with Loredo’s Mexican Restaurant, a Northside eatery built from the ground up by the Loredo family in the 1970s. When the Loredo owner and patriarch decided to retire three months ago, he worked out a lease with a young man who’d attended public school with some of the Loredo children and, incidentally, was operating a Weatherford restaurant called Uno Mas. After getting the nod, Juan Montelongo stepped into the old Loredo eatery as manager and chef and brought his own family’s book of recipes along. Hence, Uno Mas’ second North Texas location.

Montelongo gives a shout-out to The Biggest Silent Partner, God, for the success that he and his kin are so far enjoying in a very competitive market. The trajectory of the new Uno Mas seems very similar to that of the original Weatherford location. Their lunchtime clientele is growing apparently by word-of-mouth, and night flies are gradually beginning to take advantage of Uno Mas’ very late — that is, very early morning — hours (the place is open until 4 a.m. Fridays and Saturdays). The food, as a pal and I discovered during a recent daytime trip, should keep the momentum rolling forward.

Our meal began — and was never quite surpassed — by two small bowls of tortilla soup. It was excellent, not because it was cleverly prepared or anything but because it contained succulent surprises at the bottom. Starting at the top, cool squiggles of Monterrey Jack and a buttery, ripe, quarter-moon slice of avocado rested atop tortilla strips. Underneath all this delish rooftop architecture was cilantro-tangy shredded chicken, with slightly crunchy slices of yellow squash and green pepper. Those garden flourishes were so tantalizing that the uneventful chicken became an afterthought. Sans the fowl, this bowl would’ve made a fine vegetarian soup.

Keeping in mind that the number “3” has cosmic Aztec reverberations, we chose a trio of complementary entrées from different parts of the menu — from the “Cocina de Mama,” the “Healthy Side,” and the no-nonsense “Mexican Dinners.” They formed a kind of Holy Trinity of pop Mexican fare — the divine specialty Mother, the low-carb Son, and the Ghost of fatty, gooey Tex-Mex past.

Mama’s kitchen concoction was Shrimp Mexicano, one designated “specialty item” that happens to require at least 15 minutes to prepare. Plump, tightly curled shrimp are grilled with chile powder and tossed into a heap of jalapeños, serrano peppers, tomatoes, and onions. Needless to say, most folks will need a flame-retardant tongue to keep the jalapeños and always-aggressive serranos from incinerating any shrimp and tomato flavor. May I recommend several generous forkfuls of frijoles rather than iced tea to get this fire under control? At Uno Mas, the refried beans are thick and chunky as opposed to the thin bean porridge that some establishments dole out — all the better for absorbing excess caliente.

“The Healthy Side” item — chicken lime cilantro — also contained voluminous sides of frijoles and sticky rice, so decide for yourself how health-conscious the dish is. But were you to skip those two sides, you’d definitely have the type of Fatkins — er, Atkins — dish that would make the jolly old nutritionist grin from ear to ear. A wide, fat, skinless breast of chicken is marinated for hours in a cilantro lime sauce and grilled until it fairly sweats a citrus coriander juice. A slice of melted Monterrey Jack is a nice creamy touch, but the marinade would’ve made this bosom of bird perfectly complete without bovine interference.

When it comes to the dark brown sauce known as mole, remove the “Tex” from the “Mex,” because this is about as traditional a Mexican recipe as you can find. Invented by nuns at a Mexico City convent in the late 17th century, mole has as many ingredients, flavors, and uses as Mexico has states. (Its name comes from “molli,” the Aztec word for “stew” or “sauce.”) Families jealously guard recipes, exotic variations that may contain ingredients as traditional as poblano peppers and as unique as pumpkin seeds and carrots.

Uno Mas — whose mole is homemade, not bottled — eschews fanciness and keeps it functional. Although their secret potion is nowhere near dessert territory, it betrays a relatively stronger chocolate flavor than other mole sauces around town. Covering three nicely stuffed chicken enchiladas, this sauce made otherwise ordinary chicken zing.

Since the Montelongos still own that original Weatherford location, they might be better off calling their Northside restaurant Dos Mas or “Two More.” Whatever the case, this family of upstart restaurateurs seems ready to provide area diners with something fresher and more delicious than what just “one more” Mexican restaurant would offer.

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