Appetite for crustacean

Jose Jimenez mans the grill at Antojitos Mexican Restaurant.

Jose Jimenez mans the grill at Antojitos Mexican Restaurant.

Photo By amy beck

Antojitos Mexican food is open, 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., Mon-Fri; and 10 a.m. to 9 p.m., Saturday and Sunday.

Antojitos Mexican Food

3374 Kietzke Ln.
Reno, NV 89502

(775) 829-1537

My husband and I, along with out-of-town friend Lacey, recently walked into Antojitos on a bright weekend during lunch hour to an exhilarating and promising atmosphere. Friendly and nimble staff careened through the large but still nearly packed dining room keeping tables cleaned and orders moving. A large flat screen showed a soccer match broadcast on Telemundo. (Brazil took Scotland two-nil and it wasn’t even that close.) The Spanish to English conversation ratio of the clientele was on the order of five to one. All signs were positive as a pressed but cheerful server gestured us to one of the few open tables.

As I understand it, one of the translations of antojitos is “appetizers,” so it’s ironic we didn’t try any. But why would we? The complimentary chips and salsa—finely blended, relatively heavy on the pepper and lime, not sugary as is so tragically standard—were top nacho. My husband scolded Lacey for double dipping, then pestered our server for a private bowl, thereafter hovering over it like a ravenous Iditarod team dog guarding a bone.

Enchiladas and I are currently going through a trial separation, so, along with my husband, I decided to see how Antojitos came through on unwrapped seafood. After verifying that his personal salsa bowl was unmolested, my husband dug into a scrumptious tostada mixta ($3.75), with cocktail-style, cooked-then-chilled shrimp and octopus bits over a foundational layer of ceviche. He also had a decent fish taco with an appropriately flakey fillet embedded in fresh cabbage ($2.50), although because of some delay in the obviously stressed kitchen, the fish wasn’t piping hot from the oil strainer. One serious downer was the lime wedges, which were pulpy and paltry in their juice yields. (Limes are out of season right now, right? These might have been rescue limes from a freezer or preseason mediocrities.)

I am not usually squeamish at the dining table. However, when I pulled a whole, uncut octopus (about 5 inches from top to tentacle tip) from my 7 Mares soup ($8.95), my mind went straight to Pearl in Finding Nemo, and I couldn’t bring myself to dishonor its corpse. I like my food to have the anonymity of dismemberment. After laying the slain cephalopod aside into a dignified repose, I dug into what turned out to be a deliciously gamey blend of flavors and aromas in a fresh tomato soup base, even if it was a bit of a chore to pick out all the various bones and exoskeletons from the fish and crustaceans. It was also a generous portion that I couldn’t finish and would have saved but for my hesitancy about leaving seafood in a car on a warm day.

Lacey hails from Seattle, which has its allotment of great Mexican places, but she insisted her chicken chimichanga combination with Spanish rice and beans ($7.95) was on a par with any she’d had. Thus, everyone had a great meal, although I’m exacting my standard deduction for a presentation foible that always irks me: Our food was brought out piecemeal instead of simultaneously. Unfamiliar with the constraints cooks and servers face, I will always huff and grouse about this from the safe distance of ignorance. Other than that, Antojitos comes off as an excellent local Mexican option.