Cheap Eats

Viva Mexico Expands: Homemade Tortillas, Gorditas, and Pozole

Living in Miami for a while can leave a diner jaded. So when I was driving down 12th Avenue earlier this week and saw a little spot named Viva Mexico y Algo Mas has opened just up the street from Andres Tovar’s Viva Mexico I figured it to be an impostor.

It’s happened before. The family behind El Palacio de los Jugos keeps lawyers on retainer to tag the fakes with cease-and-desist orders.

Then I met Monica Palacios, Tovar’s ex-wife but still business partner, who said they knew people loved the tacos that they also had a lot more to offer, hence the algo mas.

It starts with the tortillas. Catching up with Miami’s tacos boom, both of their restaurants have started pressing their own tortillas out of white corn masa. Though they require some patience, they’re the long-awaited vessel for Tovar’s beloved carnitas, pig skin, tongue, stomach, tripe, and al pastor. The tortillas are thick and sturdy with just the right amount of char.

But forget about the tacos for a moment. All that masa is also being repurposed into chilaquiles. For gorditas, the masa is being rolled out with chicharrones, shaped into a pair of thick discs, fried, then filled with more pig skin and a salty white cheese. There are also huaraches, with masa formed into canoes and filled with beans, red and green salsa, stewed onion, and beef or chicken.

Palacios seemed most excited for their lunch specials.

“It’s comida corrida,” she said, “It’s everywhere in Mexico City.”

The rotating $7.50 options start with a chicken stock soup splashed with tomatoes, chilies, and some small noodles. Then, expect options like slow-roasted pork ribs rubbed with oregano and topped with salsa verde. On Tuesdays it’s chicken mole followed by paneques – small cheese and bean tortillas battered and fried on Wednesdays. Thursday’s it’s a pair of gorditas.

But Palacio’s description of the Friday pozole, a mostly pork and corn soup, was a reminder of what first made Viva Mexico great and what’s promising about the expansion.

“We throw a whole pig’s head into the pot,” she says. “We don’t mess it up with peppers or tomatoes. We let it cook forever so all of the fat and muscle melt into the soup and that’s what you taste.”

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Zachary Fagenson became the New Times Broward-Palm Beach restaurant critic in 2012 before taking up the post for Miami in 2014. He also works as a correspondent for Reuters.
Contact: Zachary Fagenson