Mole: Classic Mexican with West Village Flair
Since I moved to the West Village in 2009 and subsequently left it this past spring, I have wanted to try Mole, a classic Mexican restaurant on the corner of Hudson Avenue and Jane Street that seems consistently mobbed. Owned by the same team behind Yorkville’s beloved Taco Taco and a similar Mole Lower East Side Location, Mole focuses on presenting traditional Mexican fare like sopas, burritos, taquitos, fresh grilled corn, and empanadas in a casual, eclectic and friendly environment.
Situated on Hudson Avenue where the West Village begins to fade into the Meatpacking District, Mole is distinctly more West Village than Meatpacking in character. Instead of flashy, it is quirky and low-key; instead of chart-topping hip hop hits, Latin American tunes and old-school jazz floats from the speakers; instead of gaggles of girls in stilettos and skin-tight dresses, a more mellow hipster crowd comes a-callin’. Mole is to the West Village as Dos Caminos is to the Meatpacking District. The small space is colorful, with rust-colored exposed brick, burnt orange Mexican tile, artwork flecked with bright blues, reds and yellows, and sparkling silver pendant lanterns. Rough exposed ceiling beams, rustic wooden floorboards, and an open kitchen in the back lend a warm and homespun feel to the place. On cool summer nights, the sidewalk patio is a wonderful spot to sit and watch the world go by.
The food at Mole is a sort of greatest hits compilation of traditional Mexican cuisine. Expect tacos, burritos, empanadas, chips & gaucamole, all sorts of salsas, quesadillas, ceviches, taquitos, sopes, fajitas, and carne asada. The mostly simple dishes are well-executed, flavorful, and familiar – a far better version of the cheap takeout Mexican food that appears on virtually every Manhattan block. The queso fundido starter is decadent, consisting of an entirely over-the-top bowl of gooey melted cheese (best when topped with marinated crumbled chorizo), paired with jalapeno slices and a marvelous salsa verde, and big enough for a large group. Rich and delicious, it far surpasses that served as nearby Empellon. Burritos are almost comically large – served over-stuffed like your favorite couch, pillowy, and twice the size of a typical burrito. The grilled marinated chicken filling is light, tender, juicy, and especially marvelous with accompanied by the silky homemade guacamole.
Mole’s tacos come in a dizzying array of mix-and-match options. You can have two stuffed with everything from chorizo and carne asada to three different types of pork (carnitas, chipotle with cabbage, and adobo marinated) or a vegetarian blend of spinach, cabbage and mushrooms. Or, if you want something more than your classic tacos, you can opt for the taquitos borrachos, crispy and slender fried tacos lightly-stuffed with shredded beef and sprinkled with cotija cheese. Seafood tacos are also available, as either baja-style shrimp or fish (a raw seared tuna when I stopped by), and served on blue corn tortillas with light and zesty dipping sauces. The options continue with soft tacos filled with adobo marinated pork and succulent grilled pineapple, ‘american’ style tacos with ground beef, lettuce, tomato and onions, and shredded beef brisket tacos with guacamole.
Mole is a casual and uncomplicated spot – ideal for neighborhood dining, a mellow margarita happy hour amongst good friends, or a casual date spot for long-term lovers. It’s charming and relaxed with a menu that doesn’t attempt too much and pleases in its simplicity. The kitchen executes the classic Mexican fare well, with lots of spices, salt and seasoning – the product just tastes great. Service suits the mood; it’s warm, welcoming and friendly, where your waiter always says good-bye as you walk out and the bartender waves hello when new guests walk in. All in all, Mole is not a game-changing restaurant, a hotspot, or a ‘fine dining’ establishment, but it’s just marvelous for a late weekend lunch, happy hour or an informal dinner with colleagues, family or friends.