The postcard-model Mexican restaurant should have walls adorned with hand-painted folk art, sprawling sombreros, and lushly colored woven scarves. It should have lights bright enough to make you forget itís nighttime and a burly chef commanding the grill with a grin. That said, someone ought to schedule a photo shoot, because an archetypal Mexican oasis recently opened in Cambridge.
Entering Sonora Mexican Grill, the pungent scents of cilantro and chili peppers engage your senses in a rumba, as does the background music of bouncy mariachi rhythms and Spanish renditions of í50s pop songs. The melodies are just one of the restaurantís many authentic accents. " We try to make everything as mommy and daddy would back home, " explains owner Rudy Salvador. The emphasis here is on " everything. " Salvadorís home is in the Northern Mexican state of Sonora, and thatís the point of origin for the art on the walls, the flour in each hand-rolled taco tortilla, and the tamarinds in the made-on-the-premises drinks ($2).
The model Mexican restaurant should also supply complex blends of simple ingredients in every dish, from the salsa bandera and burritos to the nacho chips. Done: Sonoraís flavors run like a bull at the taste buds. Start with a Taco Sonora ($2Ė$2.25), an open-face mini-quesadilla of sorts. Your choice of meat or grilled veggies comes piled on a hand-rolled tortilla garnished with crunchy cabbage and piquant salsa. The in-house-seasoned chips are a necessity if youíre looking for something with which to scoop the satiny guacamole ($2), the edible equivalent of luxury bedding.
As you might expect, the traditional burritos are crammed with chicken, steak, or veggies, and all the fixings ($4Ė$5). The ones prepared Sonora-style offer a wider selection of meats (lean pork and Mexican sausage, $5) in an equally various array of sauces. But if youíre looking to defy expectations, ask for the chimichanga ($6.50). The chef will give your burrito a fried-kissed-flavor rush, pat it down with guacamole, and serve it with a side of refried beans and seasoned rice.
So shake your maraca and shake a leg. Picture-perfect Mexican isnít a mirage.
Sonora Mexican Grill, located at 319 Western Avenue, in Cambridge, is open Tuesday through Sunday, from 11:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Call (617) 576-6672.