Mexican street food on display at Antojitos in Sofia | food drink
A month ago, for the Indy’s Summer Guide, I’ve compiled a list of international spots where you can find spicy main dishes and sweet drinks. It was a setting to cool off in style over the coming warm months. Usually I’m good enough to complete one task and move on to the next (thanks 18 years of working in a deadline driven atmosphere) – out of sight, out of mind, enter new stimuli. But something stuck with me this time around, and I craved more of one particular cuisine that I’ve highlighted: Mexican street snacks, called antojitos.
There’s probably more to this psychological urge, like triggering fond travel memories on multiple trips to Mexico. There’s just something about these very colorful treats, both salty and sweet, that brings childlike joy to my heart. That, and they disarm my usual rigidity in trying to eat healthy. For those times I’ll sin with no regrets, sugar be damned – just give me whatever’s there with the layers of fruit and crazy red sauces and whatever’s salty and crunchy with the big straw and don’t mind me while i pretend to share but actually take bigger bites because i want it all, now.
Which brings me to the Antojitos of Sofia. Six months in a mall near the Shamrock warehouse and the Picture Show. It’s run by a family from Jalisco, three generations working at the counter that runs almost the entire length of the narrow storefront, decorated on its opposite wall with a beautiful fresco of skulls from Dia de los Muertos, the food, drinks and music, flowers and a traditionally dressed girl making masa cakes. I’m told they’ve curated street foods not only from their hometown, but also popular items across Mexico. Small bites, tortas, tacos, tostadas, raspados (crushed ice), malteadas (milkshakes), fresh fruit juices and a dozen desserts. We order widely.
It’s been a long day of writing for me, so I’m drawn to the playful name Adios Al Estres Juice (No More Stress), with a viscous coconut water base plus some blueberries, cucumber (notably in flavor) and lettuce, which seems to add hydration with a fine herbal vibe. I can’t say my tension dissipated, but I felt a bit perked up by the initial hit of sugar in my veins. We pair it with Diablito Shaved Ice, a towering construction protruding from a plastic cup with a neon green synthetic layer, a deep crimson layer, and a filling of small chewy tamarind candies and a tamarind candy straw. Some of the somewhat cloying, sweet and sour flavors include lime, mango and a sweet chili – essentially the building blocks of mangonade (another menu option), but in a different form, if I understand what I’m being told. Whatever, it’s fun.
For the salty environment of our meal hodgepodge – not so much dinner, but many small plates to equal a full belly – we start with something totally unusual for us, called vaso choreado. It’s dorm ramen (the wavy, stringy, cheap stuff) saucy with a watery queso dip, set up in a basket with Doritos (or a similar-tasting Mexican fries) that’s topped with sweet corn kernels and pale, fresco of breaded queso and another drizzle of queso dip. For generic commercial items, I have to say it turns out quite delicious, with so much salt and crunch you must be happy with, with a rich, starchy, cheesy finish.
Next, the classic torta ahogada, Guadalajara’s famous item, a long white loaf “drowned” in moist tomato sauce, in this case wrapped with mashed pinto and carnitas and plated with avocado wedges, slices of pink pickled onion, fresh limes for squeezing, and a side dish of tangy and spicy chili-tomato salsa. For those who don’t like the texture of wet bread: Stay away. Everyone else, step in for the joy that resembles an Italian-Mexican mashup, with a bit of oregano essence in the mix: the tender simmered pork contrasted with all the complementary peppery acidity. This one is a winner for $12 – although the entire menu is affordable by the way, averaging between $7 and $8.
Another item you could make a main meal here: tacos, for just $2.50 each. Sofia’s offers eight meat options, among which we choose the barbacoa, pierna (pig leg) and birria. All are better than many others in town, which is to say pretty awesome. The meats are generous and juicy, garnished simply with cilantro and white onion, and the accompanying salsas shine, with lively spices. As good as barbacoa and pierna are, birria are the must-get, especially transformed into quesabirria tacos for a little extra, which adds a serving of gooey cheese and a fantastic side of consommé for dipping. The corn tortillas take on a nice browning with the cheese-melting burn, and the crunch stands up to the broth dip; these are the tacos of dreams. Prepare to kill towels.
Finally: the dessert. Who can resist a horchata milkshake? Not me, never. The cinnamon comes out as expected and the finish reminds us a bit of French toast. It’s not too sweet, despite a hearty whipped cream top. Neither are the fun waffle sticks – waffle batter pressed onto skewers in a mold – with their basic batter flavor enhanced by the drizzle of your choice; we go Nutella and add sprinkles for a festive color. It’s carnival. And finally, the vase of churros, a cup containing four long churros stuffed with your choice of flavor (we’re getting caramel) and presented on your choice of ice cream (we’re going strawberry) under another fluffy whipped cream topping. The churros are ideal in every way – always warm, crispy in the shell but soft inside, sweetened with the caramel – and I really enjoy the strawberry ice cream pairing (because I can’t say that I’ve had this combo in the past). It’s a great one for sharing.
This is perhaps the best way to approach antojitos, to treat them as tapas and a family snack. That’s if you like exploring menus and trying out all the colorful things. If not, there are at least tacos or a torta, and a cold drink with your name on it. Either way, you might just get a little antojitos– obsessed, like me.