Stuffing my soul at Cascabel Mexican Patio

Cascabel Mexican Patio
Pipián, or green mole, at Cascabel Mexican Patio.

One of the joys of living in Mexico was being able to enjoy some truly transcendent dishes that seemed to speak directly to my soul.

Those dishes instilled new level of appreciation of the cuisine of my ancestry, but they also left a hunger for that feeling, the experience of discovering flavors that were brand new for me, yet deeply familiar.

To be sure, I didn’t grow up eating Michoacán-style carnitas wrapped in fresh corn tortillas. No, I grew up in suburban Houston and my treats were barbacoa or chorizo with eggs with my mom’s fresh flour tortillas.

But after three months of home, restaurant and street food in central Mexico, those flavors became imbedded in my memory just as much as my mom’s enchiladas.

Memories of Mexico

The quest to find those flavors again has often left me frustrated, but a visit to Cascabel Mexico Patio put my soul and memory at ease. It’s a small, family-run spot, and the hours often change. Still, one taste of the squash blossom quesadillas, the tacos al pastor and the green mole called pipián, and I knew I had found a home.

I raved about it in a 2010 review and named it as one of the city’s Top 100 restaurants three years in a row.

Don’t look for chips and salsa. Instead, meals here start with a complimentary cup of light chicken broth with fideo. It’s part of the Mexican tradition of beginning with some type of soup.

I have yet to try something here I didn’t love, but for a couple of favorites, I’d suggest the quesadillas de huitlacoche (a corn fungus that’s a delicacy in Mexico), a huarache (like a thick tortilla, but shaped like a sandal, which gives the name), or the pipián.

The puerco cascabel balances heat with the deep roasty flavor of dried chiles, and an underlying touch of sweetness with the pork, while an accompanying salad of sliced cactus paddles, or nopales, add a bright, tart fresh note to the plate.

The limonada pulls its weight just as much as the dishes, but it’s BYO — so you can bring something stronger, if you’d like.