When Chef Eric Williams first opened Momocho in 2006, he introduced Cleveland to a new wave of modern Mexican food. “It was unique, it was different, it was special and it was something people haven’t seen before,” Williams says. “I embrace that quality.”
Now tacos and eclectic Mexican cuisine are practically one of Cleveland’s primary food groups, a trend Williams, who also owns the crowd-pleasing El Carnicero, is partially responsible for. A lesser chef might allow themselves to grow fat and happy on those laurels. But Williams hasn’t stayed in Cleveland’s culinary vanguard for more than a decade by being comfortable. Like the luchadores he admires, Williams keeps fighting to find new, creative flavors. And at Ohio City’s Momocho, the smaller of his two restaurants, Williams has created an ideal ring in which to experiment.
“The [Momocho] menu is developed to entice people, to gain trust,” Williams says, “We’re gonna taste different and we’re gonna look different, but it’s gonna be bold and unique.”
Take Williams’s latest iteration of the perfect Momocho meal. Start with smoked trout and pork belly guacamole ($9.50), and a side of the fried Brussels sprouts ($5), which are tossed in gluten-free coconut vinegar and spiced peanuts. For the main course, dig into the beef tongue pastrami tacos ($14), served with pickled jalapeno and mustard crema — and ask for a fried egg on top.
To drink, Williams recommends the honey-ginger margarita ($9.50) with a black ant salt rim — and yes, those are actual ants. “[They] have a Pop Rocks type of toothiness to them,” he says, “and a very slight acidic lime zest.”
1835 Fulton Road, Cleveland, 216-694-2122, momocho.com
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