Planted at Northeast 30th Avenue and Killingsworth Street, scant blocks from a handful of excellent cheap taquerias, Autentica sets itself apart by elevating Mexican cuisine above plastic trays and counter ordering to elegant fine dining. Owner and chef Oswaldo Bibiano marries his roots in Guerrero, Mexico, with an impressive culinary résumé including stints at Southpark and Pazzo. Under his direction, familiar fare takes on a new sophistication of flavor, like pastor tacos with a slow-burning heat and the cooling cut of onion and cilantro. With a pair of enchiladas and a chile relleno, Autentica's Platillo Mexicano might sound like a Chili's combo platter, but the delicate battering of the relleno, the subtly smoky tang of the enchilada sauce and the superb quality of ingredients justifies Autentica's reputation and price point. But no dish embodies the restaurant like its pollo en mole Guerrerense, or chicken mole: a half-bird, meat falling off the bone, smothered in rich, rusty-purple mole sauce. With more than 30 ingredients, from chocolate to chiles, anís and plantains, the flavor of the mole unfolds more like fine wine than anything else, new layers revealing themselves as you savor each bite, just as Autentica reveals culinary layers of Mexican food missing from even the best burrito stand.
Order this: Tostada con puerco frito, chicken mole.
Best deal: Carnitas tacos at $3 each.
I'll pass: Pulpo macho—diced octopus lacks the satisfying bite of larger chunks, and no $13 appetizer should be served with saltine crackers.