And all three of them — co-owners Dina Torres and David Levin, with assistance from Jorge Cruz — were even cheerful.
Levin gave me helpful input about the simple but interesting menu, which included five main dishes from various parts of Mexico: Oaxacan Enfrijoladas, Enchiladas Verdes and Tinga from Mexico City, Puebla-style Chicken Mole, and Calabacitas, a vegetarian dish typical of Torres’ native Queretaro. Homemade tacos and gorditas were also available, with a dozen choices of primarily vegetarian fillings including nopales [cactus].
I chose Calabacitas [$9.95] to eat there, along with a Tinga Plate [$10.95] to go. Spotting one of my favorite drinks, I asked Levin about the hibiscus tea, or Jamaica [pronounced “hah-MY-kah”].
“We make our own — the horchata, too,” he replied.
I ordered both Jamaica [$2.99] and Horchata [$2.99], as well as the two housemade soups: Frida Kahlo [$6.95] and Tortilla Bean [$6.95]. Nine black metal tables surrounded the forest-green kiosk; I chose one beneath a sign with Campesino’s logo and the words “Organic and natural Mexican farmhouse food since 2002.”
Jorge brought my drinks in compostable Greenware cups and I sampled the hibiscus tea first, relishing the vivid tang of earthy citrus unique to this refreshing, antioxidant-packed drink. Could the horchata be as good? One sip answered that question: lightly spiced, it was the richest, creamiest version of the rice milk drink I had ever tasted.
My calabacitas was prettily presented in a cobalt-blue, flat ceramic bowl and filled with zucchini, tomatoes, onions, corn, tender pinto beans and a side of clean-tasting grilled potatoes; pieces of fresh-cut romaine lettuce contributed color and crunch. I had added roasted poblano peppers [$1.50], which created a touch of “poblano roulette” whenever the hot ones kicked in. Crumbled queso fresco and sour cream topped the dish, melting luxuriously in my mouth and harmonizing the flavors and textures. A tender, hot tortilla completed the dish; unrolling its foil wrapping, I inhaled the homey aroma.
Both soups impressed me. The base for “Frida” was a light, creamy tomato broth combining good-sized pieces of tender hormone/antibiotic-free chicken with cilantro, onions and tortilla chips, topped with avocado and sour cream. My vegan tortilla bean soup contained most of the same ingredients [except chicken] but was thickened to a hearty stew with corn tortillas simmered to rich softness.
Like the calabacitas, my tinga entree was served with the same nicely cooked pinto beans, grilled potatoes, queso fresco and sour cream. This dish, however, was noteworthy for its thick, chipotle-warming sauce and a wealth of big, sweet slices of caramelized onion and juicy chicken breast meat.
Cafe Campesino was a pleasant surprise on nearly every count: friendly service, high-quality organic ingredients, luscious sauces and some dishes and flavors new to me. The people-watching experience was entertaining and even endearing — my favorite moment was witnessing a young couple whispering to their sleeping baby — although I did have to contend with the occasional drift of cigarette smoke and booming-bass music from cars cruising past.
A word of warning. Because this diminutive eatery is so small, don’t expect super-fast service — and peak meal times can be slow. To avoid a wait, customers can phone in to-go orders in advance, or visit during the eatery’s slower times — 3 to 5 p.m.
Or just hang out and be patient: Cafe Campesino is worth it. This little peasant-food kiosk has the heart of a full-on restaurant.
Ann Parker welcomes comments, feedback and suggestions about reviews for area restaurants. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org