At Casa Azul Taqueria, Big Female Energy Meets Mexican Spice
Our must-gets at the Providence restaurant include chilaquiles, handmade tacos and choco-flan.
asa Azul is a small restaurant with big female energy, which emanates from Frida Kahlo’s monobrow hoisted up on the shop sign, as well as chef Carmen Anaya, with Javier Soto, in the kitchen. It’s a small space that holds a handful of tables, but it’s adorned with smoldering images of Kahlo alongside Pablo Neruda peering out from the walls. Their own work is worthy inspiration for a homestyle Mexican kitchen that offers enough artistry to match its earthy approach. (Dishes are familiar but so is a table and Neruda thought it warranted an ode.) This is a homegrown endeavor with husband and wife Javier Soto and Alejandra Ruelas at the helm and a great many ancestors for inspiration.
To know Casa Azul in a single bite is to start with the handmade taco ($3), which is thicker and softer than its street taco and, stuffed with piquant chicken tinga, it’s a brief, heavily spiced poetic expression in its own right. Anyone who loves Mexican food will tell you that its sublime simplicity lies in the tension between universal accessibility and committed heritage. That dichotomy is apparent in the chilaquiles ($10.99), an amalgam of chicken and fried corn tortillas simmered in salsa — half snack and half stew.
But there is a modern side to Casa Azul as well, evident in the animated, Haring-style Day of the Dead mural that runs on the restaurant’s largest wall. Soto and Ruelas aren’t looking to scare anyone off with pernicious heat or abstract interpretations of burritos. But they are game for offering vegan chicharrons (fried tofu) as well as a plant-based chorizo, and they’re keen on keeping things light. Cheese is doled out judiciously rather than in oppressive fistfuls and even nachos ($8.50) are served more like salad — topped with tomatoes and greens — than a hardened volcano of queso. As much as it’s tied to an ancient culture, there’s something youthful about Casa Azul’s approach: Colorful and heartfelt, it’s a direct path to a distant land.
890 Allens Ave., Providence, 414-7799, casaazulri.com.
Must get: Chicken chilaquiles, burritos, handmade tacos with avocado salsa verde, choco-flan.
Takeout and delivery available at press time; call for details.