Despite Division's newly diversified selection of restaurants, this standby for no-frills, authentic Mexican cuisine has maintained a loyal following.
The welcoming space is framed by big windows that surround the tables fanning out from the open kitchen. You feel like you're at a friend's place, listening to meat sizzle while the scent of fresh-baked corn tortillas wafts across the airy room. Chef-owners Benjamin Gonzales and Sharon Dooley-Gonzales created a relaxed atmosphere, both in the restaurant's warm aesthetic and the presentation of the food.
Take the barbacoa-style lamb shoulder ($19), which comes elegantly wrapped and tied in a banana leaf, releasing a steamy aroma of onion and peppers when opened. The lime and chicken soup is a standout specialty: Crunchy corn tortilla strips complement the citrus taste, with a hearty boost from the peppery broth and shredded chicken breast ($7).
The drinks are crafted with the same balance of traditional and innovative flavors, like the Besito de Jamaica, which curbs the smoky flavor of Del Maguey mezcal with hibiscus syrup and lime ($9.50). If want to keep dessert simple, the Mexican chocolate ice cream ($3.50) is the perfect blend of cacao and spice.
Pro tip: Don't be afraid of 7pm on Friday. Although they don't accept reservations, you can order appetizers and drinks if you have to wait for a table, and the plates arrive swiftly once seated.
GO: 2135 SE Division St., 232-2135, nuestra-cocina.com. 5-10 pm Tuesday-Saturday. $$.