Who needs pork and margaritas? Corte Fino Mexican Cuisine, a family affair, serves delicious house-made beef chorizo and horchata that's a strong contender for the best in town.
If you think pork and margaritas are necessary components of a Mexican restaurant, it’s time to reconsider. You won’t find either at Corte Fino Mexican Cuisine — it’s halal — and with house-made beef chorizo and a strong contender for the best horchata in town, there are plenty of reasons to set aside any expectations. Yes, halal Mexican is as unusual here as you might be thinking — the next closest is believed by Corte Fino’s owners to be in Carson, California. This makes it a novelty for trend chasers and a welcome spot for halal diners who are trekking in from Samammish and Lynnwood, but it’s also just very good Mexican food.
This is a family affair, owned by Martin Perez, his wife, Zahra Sheikh, her brother Mohamud Sheikh and their cousin Abdurahman Noor — the first restaurant for all of them. When the space came available, they decided to take the leap that food-loving Martin and Zahra had been dreaming of for many years, and hired chef Gregorio “Ivan” Gutierrez to develop the menu. It’s a family-friendly, full-service restaurant, with about a dozen tables divided between three rooms, gray walls, white subway tiles, colorful artificial flowers on every table and a lobby space with a bench that makes all kinds of sense in the rainy season.
None of the dishes shy away from chile. The beef chorizo has fantastic depth, and when perched on top of gooey queso fundido ($7.99), the fact that it’s leaner than the more common pork is a good thing. The scoop of pico de gallo accessorizing the queso has a spiky, fresh jalapeño flavor that brightens the dish — and house-made agua de Jamaica (a sweet-sour-herbal hibiscus drink; $3) and horchata (cinnamon rice milk; $3) cut through the heat.
Pollo en crema de chipotle ($13.50) was suggested by the server, and it’s a solid choice, with the smoky cream sauce turning boneless, skinless chicken breast into pure succulence. Tacos ($10.99 for five) are small, single tortillas heaped with your chosen protein, and both the pan-fried tilapia and juicy, spicy shredded beef elicited the muffled noises one makes when eating a great taco — loosely translated as, “This is outstanding and if I pause to say so the tortilla might fall apart plus my hand is all drippy, give me a minute.” There are several salsas to choose from; they’ll bring you little dishes upon request. Salsa verde added more freshness than heat, nicely suited to the shredded beef.
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Pro tip: The restaurant isn’t visible from the street; it’s in the back of a building that currently houses a defunct Vietnamese coffee bar. Use either of the two driveways immediately past South Holly Street heading southbound on Martin Luther King Junior Way South. You’ll find the well-lit entrance on the south side of the building, with parking on all sides.
Corte Fino Mexican Cuisine, Mexican/halal; 6721 Martin Luther King Jr. Way S., (Othello/Rainier Valley), Seattle; Sunday-Thursday 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., Friday-Saturday 11 a.m.-10 p.m.; 206-687-7491, facebook.com/cortefino206