Old Jun 11, 03, 8:07 pm
Sweet Willie
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Mestizos Memphis (near U of M.) Venezuelan

Like a childhood riddle, Mestizos Venezuelan Restaurant is black and white and red all over. That is, Mestizos took over a spot on South Highland near Walker once occupied by a Subway sandwich shop whose interior featured those basic colors. Owner Louis Garcia made no attempt to change anything inside, not even the hyperbusy (and sort of witty) black and white wallpaper on which cartoon characters cavort with sub-type sandwiches in various circumstances and contortions.

The one element that tells you something different is going on here is the menu board over the counter.

No restaurant in Memphis, and certainly no sub shop, ever served a patacon, a "sandwich" made of two slices of smashed thin and fried plantains enclosing shredded lettuce with chicken, pork or beef enlivened by a "mestizo" sauce made of green onions, parsley and cilantro. Not surprisingly, the sauce is a beautiful pale green color. It comes with just about everything at the restaurant. It's a terrific dish, earthy and tasty and absolutely unique.

Other Venezuelan items are available.
One is a version of the familiar empanadas, made from what manager Jorje Garcia (Louis Garcia's brother) calls "corn-wheat flour." These are larger than the usual plump pocket and are deep-fried but come out fairly light and delicate. They can be filled with beef, chicken or cheese. My advice is to try all three.

Also good, though denser and a bit heavier than other fare at Mestizos, are arepas, bunlike sandwiches made from that corn-wheat flour and stuffed with cheese, onions and tomato and then with a choice of beef, chicken or pork.

Resembling a Cuban sandwich is the monocho, a long thin sandwich - they like to press that bread - with lettuce, tomato, a bountiful supply of sliced ham and, of course, mestizo sauce.

Finally, on this roster of Venezuelan treats, comes mandocas, little oval shapes of fried dough made of flour slightly sweetened with brown sugar. These are, interestingly, served with shredded mozzarella cheese and butter.
Mestizos serves a few Mexican dishes, of which I tried only the well-made, corn husk-wrapped tamale, filled, in this case, with beef.

This is not a fast-food restaurant, though service is all on plastic. After placing an order at the front counter, you'll have to wait a few minutes as the cooks actually prepare everything fresh.
And the wait isn't bad. Not when you can listen to the infectious rhythms of South American music or puzzle through that frenetic wallpaper.

East Memphis
546 S. Highland, near Walker
Memphis, TN

Review from Gomemphis.com:
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