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Cholula's Deli: Best Mexican in Tristate Area

Jim Leff Mar 13, 2013 03:16 PM

Best homestyle, grandmotherly Mexican I currently know in the Tristate area:

Cholula's Deli
257 Battle Ave
White Plains, NY
(914) 686-1731

It's next door to Ruth's Jamaican (which is known and very good), and about 1/2 mile up the hill from Central Avenue circa the new H Mart. You can be there in 5 minutes off of Rt. 287 (take exit 5, and hang a right at City Limits Diner, which has been slipping).

It's just another humble Mexican deli with steam table. But it's not marginally better, it's off the scale. Not in a "fabulous" way. No clever regional cooking, no impressive ingredient sourcing. Just staunchly authentic (not an iota of gringo pandering) and exceptionally delicious. this is how your Mexican grandma cooks you lunch...if she's a particularly talented Mexican grandma.

I've had a bunch of things. Even the tortillas - crummy store bought, but heated to order on a hot seasoned grill and brought to your table with radiant delight - have tons of je ne sais quoi.

Today I had ribs in a brown sauce that was bewitchingly complex and soulful. Rib meat was awesomely tender, and every bit of possible flavor was extracted. Chicharrones with calabasa (pig skin stewed with squash) was every bit as homey/soulful as it sounds. Carnitas are exactly like Mexico. Everywhere else, it's just cooked meat, spiced up hastily. Here, it's knuckles of pork, good-chewy, and so loaded with flavor you can't keep your eyes open.

Rice is moist and you can't get enough of it (that alone stands this place out; I can count on one hand the Mexican places with truly great rice). Homemade horchata is just perfect. Just like Mexico, but better than that - it's just like a GOOD place in Mexico, much more grandmotherly than the usual.

Staff is guarded but open up with effort (they like compliments on their cooking).

Customers are a step up in eating intensity from the usual blase Hispanic worker dudes. I get the feeling they travel an extra few miles to come here. Not crowded yet, though.

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  1. f
    foodiemom10583 RE: Jim Leff Mar 13, 2013 03:27 PM

    The title alone is quite high praise. I look forward to trying it!

    1. sbp RE: Jim Leff Mar 13, 2013 05:10 PM

      Sound like the late, great Fonda Cayoacan in Huntington.

      1 Reply
      1. re: sbp
        Jim Leff RE: sbp Mar 13, 2013 07:01 PM

        Not a bad comparison, sbp. Different touch, and way different ambiance and ambition (both barely subsistence-level), but it's in that league.

      2. w
        weedy RE: Jim Leff Mar 13, 2013 07:33 PM

        Your Mexican grandmother would make her own tortillas and cook the food of her region.
        It's odd to dismiss "clever regional cooking"; would you do that about Italian food?
        Mexican food IS regional.

        1. roxlet RE: Jim Leff Mar 14, 2013 05:09 AM

          Best Mexican in the Tri-State area? That's saying something. I happen to love Los Gemelos in Port Chester, which is very authentic, and they make their tortillas, which are awesome. But bring your HS Spanish with you -- there's not a lot of English spoken there.

          1 Reply
          1. re: roxlet
            Jim Leff RE: roxlet Mar 14, 2013 07:44 AM

            I love Los Gemelos! Was one of the first to write about them here, back in 1990's. but that's not very grandmotherly. It's bachelor taco shop cooking....sizzly/grilly. This is, as I described, steam table greatest hit dishes, made with love and flair. Best place for THAT.

          2. Sra. Swanky RE: Jim Leff Mar 14, 2013 05:47 AM

            No puedo esperar! (Can't wait!) Sounds fantastic. I never got to try Sunshine Deli or Fonda Cayoacan. Will GPS this very soon! Thank you!

            1. k
              kdgchow RE: Jim Leff Mar 14, 2013 06:07 AM

              High praise indeed, will definitely have to check that place out since it's so close to me. How much sampling of its antojitos did you do? Anything stand out there?

              BTW, have hit Veracruz on Post Road just south of Lexington Avenue a few times recently and one dish I've particularly liked is their chilaquiles. Their green sauce is pretty spicy - I can only imagine that their red sauce is fiery - and I got it topped with their carnitas, which was fork-tender. Only thing was, I had to eat it quickly before the tortillas got soggy. It cost $12, but could easily feed two.

              11 Replies
              1. re: kdgchow
                Jim Leff RE: kdgchow Mar 14, 2013 07:46 AM

                Just a sprinkling of antojitos (chiles rellenos and, a little later, fried taquitos). And if they do tacos, et al, they're not advertising it (I bet if you asked for a burrito they'd stare in confusion).

                Again, one thing: steam table motherly dishes.

                And a big jar of horchata.

                1. re: Jim Leff
                  foodiemom10583 RE: Jim Leff Mar 14, 2013 08:12 AM

                  Just had breakfast from there. I'm happy to say it is praise-worthy.

                  I would swear the black beans in my beans, rice, and eggs had never been inside a can. They were pleasantly spiced, plump and meaty. The rice was fine, and the eggs were cooked well.

                  If grandma's making the steam table specialties, her stoner nephew is making the taquitos. The fried shell, which shattered irresistibly with every bite, was stuffed to bursting with a chipotle-redolent chicken tinga. Shredded iceberg and crema tempered the heat and a sprinkling of cotija gave a final bit of saltiness. Dude, that was friggin' awesome.

                  Thanks, Jim! We'll be back.

                  1. re: foodiemom10583
                    Jim Leff RE: foodiemom10583 Mar 14, 2013 08:46 AM

                    Crap. I was too over-full from lunch (a full plate of ribs with samples of three other things, plus I always eat a double order of tortillas to counter the stereotype that gringos never eat - ie waste - the tortillas you bring them) to have at the taquitos, which had just come out and looked fantastic.

                    So now I grieve.

                    1. re: Jim Leff
                      Sra. Swanky RE: Jim Leff Mar 14, 2013 08:52 AM

                      I always eat the tortillas too, Jim! I'm so hungry for taquitos now...maybe a dinner run is in order.

                      1. re: Jim Leff
                        foodiemom10583 RE: Jim Leff Mar 14, 2013 08:55 AM

                        Oh man, I feel for you. You've got to get back there. Mine were already cooled off by the time I got to them and they were still ridiculously good. I can only imagine how great they would be when the taquito still flaming hot with the cold toppings.

                        1. re: foodiemom10583
                          Sra. Swanky RE: foodiemom10583 Mar 14, 2013 09:03 AM

                          "The fried shell, which shattered irresistibly with every bite, was stuffed to bursting with a chipotle-redolent chicken tinga. Shredded iceberg and crema tempered the heat and a sprinkling of cotija gave a final bit of saltiness."

                          foodiemom - your description made my mouth literally water! And the stoner nephew reference - love it!

                          Jim - I'll probably see you there! Hasta pronto! LOL!

                      2. re: foodiemom10583
                        Jim Leff RE: foodiemom10583 Mar 14, 2013 08:48 AM

                        Oh, also, I need to quickly dispel one thing: There is no grandma. The chef is the youngish woman. There's an older women with an apron running around, who I mistakenly assumed to be the chef because it was such a chefly apron, but it turns out she's not the main character here.

                        So this is extremely grandmotherly cooking, but it's not cooked by an actual grandmother. Got it? :)

                        1. re: Jim Leff
                          foodiemom10583 RE: Jim Leff Mar 14, 2013 09:21 AM

                          Thank you for salivating! ;) That makes my day!

                          I wasn't taking you literally, but riffing on the homey, typically "grandmotherly" comfort foods at the steamtable compared to the snacky, "fun food" style of the taquito.

                          I'm psyched to go back Saturday for their tamales (available only on weekends).

                          1. re: foodiemom10583
                            Jim Leff RE: foodiemom10583 Mar 14, 2013 07:16 PM

                            God damn it. When we were selling Chowhound branded products, circa 2002, we were trying to come up with super chowhoundish aphorisms to incorporate into products.

                            And, now, "Thank you for salivating" comes eleven years too late!

                            1. re: Jim Leff
                              foodiemom10583 RE: Jim Leff Mar 15, 2013 05:48 AM

                              Sorry to be so late. There was a lot of traffic. ;)
                              You are too kind.

                              1. re: Jim Leff
                                JMF RE: Jim Leff Mar 23, 2013 06:01 AM

                                Just an aside, I still have a CH button and the translator hanging around somewhere. The translator is practically worn to pieces.

                    2. r
                      ryanallday RE: Jim Leff Mar 15, 2013 04:02 PM

                      I will have to try this out, I am a lover of Laguna Cocina Mexican Deli in Mahopac, I believe they also have a white plains location

                      1. p
                        pabboy RE: Jim Leff Mar 16, 2013 09:55 AM

                        I will try any place The Alpha Hound recommends.

                        1. Cheese Boy RE: Jim Leff Mar 16, 2013 01:57 PM

                          Great, now there's two places I need to try whenever I'm near the County Center. Cholula's is one, and Varvaro's is the second. Maybe I can do both on the same day. Varvaro link here ... http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/882156

                          2 Replies
                          1. re: Cheese Boy
                            JMF RE: Cheese Boy Mar 23, 2013 05:57 AM

                            I didn't think much of Varvaro.

                            1. re: JMF
                              foodiemom10583 RE: JMF Mar 23, 2013 06:32 AM

                              Sorry, I'm hoping it was an off-day, though we haven't been back in a few months.

                          2. JMF RE: Jim Leff Mar 23, 2013 05:57 AM

                            I'm slapping my head I never stopped in there. I drive past 2-3 times a week on my way home from H-Mart since Battle Ave is a short cut to the BRP. I usually check out Ruth's as I drive by and stop by occasionally when I am in the mood for their Jamaican food. But never really did more than glance at the deli. I'll have to stop in soon.

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