Move over, Mama’s.

Share story

Villa Escondida is not your Mama’s Mexican food. That is to say, it’s far better than the (bewilderingly) beloved Belltown staple Mama’s Mexican Kitchen, nearbyon Second Avenue. Though they are of the same ilk — sizable servings of mostly familiar dishes, reliably accessorized with rice and beans — the difference is that Villa Escondida is among the best Mexican restaurants in town, while Mama’s is among the worst.

Recently relocated from the Broadway Alley complex on Capitol Hill to the former Frontier Room space on First Avenue, Villa Escondida is worth a trip to Belltown.

The menu: Everything here is house-made, and you can taste it. Even the basics are terrific: handmade tortillas, fresh-fried chips and salsas you’ll want to take home by the quart.

Villa Escondida


2203 First Ave., Seattle


Hours: 4-10 p.m. Monday, 8 a.m.-10 p.m. Tuesday and Wednesday, 8 p.m.-11 p.m. Thursday-Saturday, 8 a.m.-2 p.m. Sunday

Etc: credit cards accepted; full bar; wheelchair accessible; street parking

Prices: $$

What to write home about: Oaxacan cuisine is a specialty, so the mole is a must — deep and complex flavors of chocolate, smoke and spice, without being cloying. The enmoladas feature a perfectly cooked cut of carne asada generously dressed with that sauce. The carnitas tacos will make you wish for more than two in an order. The vegetarian chile relleno’s egg batter is almost cloudlike, it’s so light, and the queso fresco inside is far superior to the gluey Monterey Jack found at many places.

The setting: No frills, with a bar area for watching the game (whether Mexican league soccer or the Seahawks).

Summing up: Guacamole, shrimp ceviche tostadas, chile relleno, enmoladas and carnitas tacos were enough to feed three and came to $46.75 before tax and tip.