Cheap Eats

Viva Mexico y Algo Mas Blows Out the Menu and Expectations

There are two reasons Monica Palacios and Andres Tovar opened Viva México y Algo Más just doors from their beloved Viva México. The first is so loyal fans can get hold of tacos filled with various pig parts delicately braised in their own fat on Mondays, when the original restaurant is closed.

The second is for the cacophony of dishes spanning Oaxaca, Michoacán, and Mexico City they wanted to share, starting with paneques.

The soup sucks its meaty, layered flavor out of a whole pig head, boiled for countless hours.

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"These are something you see all the time in Distrito Federal," Palacios says, using the capital's alternative name. It's built on corn tortillas both restaurants are now pressing in-house. They're off-white, chewy rounds that receive some auburn spots from a few minutes on the grill. They're rolled up with a salty white cheese, dipped in a batter of eggs beaten to the point of a meringue, fried until golden, and doused in a red chili sauce.

"This kind of food is very simple, very easy to make," Palacios says while standing on a patio strewn with vibrantly colored prayer flags, "but no one here does."

Her personal favorite, the one that makes her beam when an order is placed, are the gorditas. They begin as a near football of masa studded with tiny chunks of fried pork skin that are hand-rolled into a flying saucer. They're fried, split open, and packed with chopped tomatoes, cilantro, and more of that salty white cheese. "You can put whatever you want into it — chicken, carnitas — but I like it best with chicharrones," she says.

The most important thing, however, isn't to muddle flavors. The pozole, served only on Fridays, is a perfect example. The soup sucks its meaty, layered flavor out of whole pig head, boiled for countless hours to melt all of the sinew and connective tissue into a savory, glossy broth.

When I ask Palacios what kind of chilies she uses, I'm quickly remanded. "We don't mess it up with peppers or tomatoes," she says. "We want you to taste the pig — that's the real flavor of the soup."

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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