The vibe: The outside of Mezcal Restaurante Mexicano y Cantina didn't look like much; the pink walls and deep blue window frames did not pop as they probably do in the warmer months. But inside, pumpkin-colored walls in an open-seating area provide the warmth. Spanish music plays over the speakers, and wall decorations include a flag of Mexico and some bright woven tapestries. The furnishings are well-worn: scuffed wooden chairs and tables with glass over the tablecloths.
The food: We were immediately brought homemade tortilla chips and thin and spicy salsa to enjoy while we browsed the large menu, also well worn (seemingly held together with packing tape). But there was nothing threadbare about the food. We ordered the Coctel de Camarones, a sort of shrimp cocktail that arrived in a large chalice-like glass with a thin cocktail sauce, cilantro, onion, lime and avocado. We also ordered the quesadillas with mushroom (also available with cheese or chicken). The mushrooms had a sharp taste and had some chewiness left to them, very yummy. We also ordered the tostadas de tinga: shredded chicken in a chipotle sauce with lettuce, tomato, avocado and crumbled cheese on top, all on a toasted tortilla. It was spicier than expected but good and filling. Soon after it was brought to the table, I overheard the other diners saying they would order it next time.
The bill: All three items came to $29.70, and we had a full plate to take ome. The appetizers range from $7 to $12. Prices vary, but none of the dishes are particularly expensive: Most don't even approach the $25 to $30 range, and the portions are all large. We did not order any alcoholic drinks, but Mezcal is well known for its crowd-pleasing margaritas.
The particulars: Street parking is challenging in this neighborhood, which is right off I-91, so watch for a driveway between The Pantry and Mezcal that leads back to a parking lot. Its entrance is to the left of the front entrance of the restaurant. Hours: Monday 5 a.m. to 9:30 p.m.; Tuesday through Thrusday 11:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m.; Friday and Saturday 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Sunday 11:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. No reservations.
>>Mezcal Restaurante Mexicano y Cantina is at 14 Mechanic St. in New Haven. Hours are Monday 5 a.m. to 9:30 p.m.; Tuesday through Thursday, 11:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m.; Friday and Saturday 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m.; and Sunday 11:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. Information: 203-782-4828.