The most recent addition to the Latin empire of Chef Jose Garces, owner of the popular Amada and Tinto restaurants, Distrito is a playful wink and tweak at all that we love about our South-of-the-border neighbors. The two-floor brightly colored restaurant has to be seen to be believed.
Beyond the mountain of possible margarita options (we recommend the season fruit margarita, $14), Distrito has plenty of bebidas and cervezas to satisfy the most parched livers. The margaritas, definitely a highlight, come in both single glasses and pitchers. Tequila is the poison, and Distrito has more options of high caliber then most cantinas.
For the foodies, Distrito’s menu is as expansive as it is delicious, with plenty of options for vegans or meatatarians and everyone in between. An excellent starter is the ignacio nacho libres ($9), a stunning (and satisfying) mix of black bean, fresh tomato, queso mixto, jalapeno, chile de arbol, and radish. You may also want to try the pulpo ceviches ($9), tasty octopus covered in lime, Serrano chile and micro cilantro. Perhaps a bowl of the Azteca sopa ($7), a deliscious combination of tomato, chicken, pasilla chile broth, queson fresco and avocado is what it will takes to make your mouth water.
Distrito’s plentiful and pleasing plates make ordering dozens of possiblities and sharing them with the table an ideal option. But if you’ve never cottoned to the tapas notion, you can certainly hog a selection all to yourself (pig)! Especially flavorful are the huaraches, either the cangrejo y noplaes ($12) with crab, cactus, tomato and cotija, or the los hongos ($12), forest mushrooms with huitlachoche sauce, queso mixto, black truffle and corn shoot. For tacos, you’ll find the cachetes de ternera ($8) made from tender veal cheeks and salsa verde, simply can’t be beat. Melt in your mouth marvelous! Coming in a close, but still delicious, second us the carne kobe, a flat iron steak, truffle potato, tomato and horseradish escabeche with paper-thin and crisp Yukon fries.
The highlight of our modern Mexican experience was the daunting tuetano ($7). Bone marrow, bacon marmalade, onion, cilantro and jalapeno (it honestly didn’t sound appealing or appetizing), but under Garcia’s direction, this dish is a can’t miss. We found ourselves scrapping the marrow out of the bone for more! Plus, the bacon marmalade makes our mind reel with breakfast possibilities.
For the more conservative snackers, the enchilada ($6) is absolutely unbeatable. Chicken with Chihuahua cheese, epazote, and red chile sauce is perfectly wrapped and baked. Accompany that selection with a portion of the esquites ($5) full of sweet corn, queso fresco, chipotle and tangy lime, for a fantastic double whammy.
If all these options are befuddling you, because like us, you failed high school Spanish miserably, then we suggest the Chef’s Tasting menu ($40). Less provincial and more devil-may-care, is simply having a bit of a confab with your (tremendously knowledgeable) server and finding some options that please and push your palate.
So for those of you who don’t have the pocketbook or available credit for a jaunt to Mexico, just hop on SEPTA and head up to University City. You can spend on tequila what you would have spent on airfare! Distrito’s charm and over-abundant delicacies make it the perfect Philadelphia fiesta.