For nearly a decade, the family of Antonio Martinez, originally from Mexico City, has favored Memphis with its genius for delivering fresh food, perfectly composed, at prices that are more than fair.
And Memphis has been grateful. The first two Las Delicias locations — on Mendenhall near Winchester, and on Park at Getwell — handle robust crowds, those on Park often spilling out of the building on weekends. This year, the family made the logical decision to expand its dining empire, and found an ideal site at the pristine Yorkshire Square shopping center on Quince west of Ridgeway, in the bay occupied for 15 years by Jarrett's.
Little had to be done to make this site the right backdrop for the minimal and elegant style of Las Delicias' food. It's a warren of alcoves and small dining rooms, walls painted an earthy gold, decorated with high-color-contrast paintings and pleasantly lit by tracks of halogen bulbs.
The menu, which Las Delicias executes with finesse, is the same one presented at its other two locations. As Martinez told The Commercial Appeal last spring: "People are always saying that I should change the menu, and that I should add certain items, but I like the menu the way it is."You won't want to choose only one among the tacos of chorizo, grilled steak and marinated pork, or pastor. So don't. They're only $2; try as many as you can. They come on appetizer-size soft corn tortillas.
The refreshing ceviche, chopped tilapia "cooked" in lime juice, will have a more natural setting on the patio when the weather is hot, but even in December, it's a perfect lunchtime balance for the tortilla soup, which comes in a chili-spiced broth filled with shredded chicken, avocado slices, dense balls of Chihuahua cheese, and, in my bowl, one chipotle pepper that I held to savor at the end.
The tortas — sandwiches on hoagie loaves smeared with sour cream and refried beans and garnished with onion, jalapeño pepper, tomato and avocado — come with the exceptional chorizo, or with steak, pastor, ham, chicken, eggs or cheese.
Burritos of savory steak, chicken or pastor are grilled with onions and bell peppers and come with a generous serving of the restaurant's unusually good sour cream and pico de gallo.
The enchilada plates each include three soft corn tortillas stuffed with shredded chicken and covered in tomatillo, mole or tomato sauce. The tomato sauce flavored with dried peppers on the rojas enchiladas was aromatic and subtle.
Las Delicias' excellent tortilla chips, which the Martinez family packages and sells as a side industry, are famous locally. As you might expect from such a high-performance enterprise as Las Delicias, other mainstays of Mexican cuisine — refried beans, salsa, pico de gallo — are done at an extraordinary standard as well.
The avocado is omnipresent on Las Delicias' dishes — layered in sandwiches, stirred into soup — but you would be missing that fruit's best performance if you didn't order the guacamole, very chunky, firm but tender and perfected with pico.
The word "fresh" defines what's served at Las Delicias, extending even to the lime-infused margaritas. The proprietors obviously consider it their byword. It's repeated on the cover of the menu like a chant: "Fresh, fresh, fresh, fresh ... And Mexican."
The service we had was generally easy, light-hearted and certainly competent, and because dining at Las Delicias is such a thoroughly gratifying experience, I criticize it reluctantly. But... we arrived an hour before closing one Monday night, and though there were still diners seated at two or three tables, someone was cleaning the carpet with a manual sweeper. A rag rested on the table to our left, and a serving tray was on the table to our right. Our server noticed the tray on her second visit and whisked it away. It's worth noting that no one wants to feel like their meal is keeping the staff from clearing out.
Address: 5689 Quince
Hours: Opens at 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Saturday; closed Sunday.
Reviewer’s choice: Margarita ($4.75); Guacamole ($4.50); Pastor taco ($2); Tortilla soup ($4.50); Rojas enchiladas ($9.15); Steak burrito ($5); Chorizo quesadilla ($4.50).
Alcohol: Margaritas, beer.
Poor: Zero stars
Good: One star
Very Good: Two stars
Excellent: Three stars
Extraordinary: Four stars