By: Robert Hollinger
I love Mexican food. I love spicy food. While Mexican food isn’t always spicy it often has great flavors, and if it’s spicy all the better. Granted, usually when I say “Mexican” food I am referring to the typical Americanized Tex-Mex style.
I haven’t found very many Mexican/Tex-Mex restaurants that I really enjoy; certainly not near my home. I used to love Cielito Lindo Dos in Lighthouse Point which is no longer there, although the original owner-run locations are still around and are quite enjoyable. Unfortunately I don’t get down that way very often. Then there is El Agave Azul in Davie which is more authentic and quite good but it is more of a fast casual place and not exactly local for us. There are also the chain restaurants like La Bamba and El Mariachi which are quite good in a pinch. And of course there are the more trendy joints like Tijuana Taxi, Chipotle, Tijuana Flats, and Zona Fresca, that all have their place.
So yeah, there are a lot of options nearby but nothing that really fills the void of what I’m truly looking for.
Until now. A couple of months ago we were dropping off a package at the post office in Turtle Run Shoppes Plaza in Coral Springs, when to my excitement, I saw a sign for a new Mexican restaurant opening where Giovanni’s used to operate. This excitement, however, came with a healthy dose of “don’t get your hopes up” as I expected either more of the same – which probably wouldn’t last for long, or a more authentic place that one might actually be concerned about drinking the water so it probably wouldn’t last long either.
The other day we were headed to the same store and I saw a gentleman on the corner wearing a sombrero while holding an arrow sign. I couldn’t read it as I was looking at the back but I immediately knew what it was for. Yes! The new place was open. My son and I had to stop by and check out the menu on the way home.
The restaurant is called Ayotli Mexican Restaurant. It wasn’t very busy as they had only been open about two weeks. A gentleman named Pablo, who appeared to be the owner, greeted us very pleasantly and asked to seat us. We told him we had just eaten and were just grabbing a menu. He was still thrilled we had stopped in and asked if we had any questions. I always judge a Mexican style restaurant first and foremost on their salsa. So my first question was do they supply chips and salsa when you are seated. His reply was “of course, and we also provide refried beans”. Actually I don’t recall exactly what he called them but that’s what they appeared to be. He then invited us to take a seat and he would provide us a free sample. Like I said, we weren’t hungry but who can turn down some free chips and salsa?
I have to say it was different than I expected. The chips were obviously made on premise; a couple were slightly overcooked but I wasn’t complaining. The salsa was not the traditional style. It was mostly sauce though there were some chunks. The flavor was quite nice, however. I asked if they had a salsa mas picante and his response was “of course”. They brought out another which definitely had more of a kick but was very similar in flavor to the first. Both mixed nicely with the beans. He then provided my son a sample of the horchata (rice water) and some other red drink that tasted like iced tea with a lot of fruit juice in it.
While we were enjoying the chips and salsa we looked over the menu. There were a lot of interesting entrees that I haven’t seen in a Mexican restaurant before. There seemed to be a sampling of some traditional authentic Mexican items along with some nice twists on the expected Tex-Mex style items. We asked him about a few things, and the one thing that he kept mentioning was that everything is fresh.
On the way out I asked if he was the owner. It turns out the owner is his niece, Nubia Uribe, who was working diligently in the background. We would definitely have to try to meet her later as it was inevitable that we’re coming back for dinner; probably later the same day. My son agreed. Actually, he insisted because we had to – after all, they gave us the free sampling.
So we came back for a late dinner adding my wife to the party. As expected, when we sat down, we were immediately presented with chips, the mild salsa, and the beans. I requested the spicier salsa and another salsa that we weren’t presented with earlier was brought to us. It was their tomatillo salsa. Wow, that had some complex but pleasant flavors. They were surprised that it wasn’t too spicy for us. Apparently the mild had been too spicy for many customers and they are going to carry a version of the same mild salsa with no spice for those customers. That certainly isn’t us. Knowing that we could handle it, she brought out the even spicier version which was what we had sampled earlier.
Now it was time to order. My wife wasn’t particularly hungry and so she ordered the vegetable soup. It was quite a large bowl with lots of fresh vegetables and had a very nice flavor. Apparently I’ll be coming here frequently when she is not feeling well to grab her some soup. I tried the chipotle chicken salad because it sounded incredible, and no one else wanted to split the fajitas for two. At first, while the plating was very nice, I thought it was a little weird because all of the chicken was on the bottom of the tortilla bowl in the “secret” chipotle sauce with peppers and onions that it was cooked with. I tried mixing it, but I did end up eating mostly the salad first and then the very saucy chicken. I wasn’t complaining because the flavor was out of this world. My son had the Burrito Chile Colorado which he thoroughly enjoyed. I grabbed a bite too and was quite impressed. Very nice flavors going on there.
Nubia, the owner had been serving us intermittently, and since it wasn’t very busy we took the opportunity to talk to her and found out she is from the Guadalajara region of Mexico where she learned to cook.
We provided mostly positive feedback on the food, with one minor issue with the soup that since it is prepared fresh can be ordered custom next time. I also communicated my concern that many people may expect the chunkier traditional-style salsa. She mentioned that they had pico de gallo, and she brought some out. It was good but it was definitely pico – not salsa. Then it hit me. If you really are set on the “traditional” style of chunky tomato salsa, order the pico and mix the mild (or hot) into it. Perfecto!
Since our first visit we have ordered carryout. On Nubia’s recommendation I tried the Carne Asada Chipotle which is cooked with ham and bacon and was absolutely phenomenal and my son had the Burrito Chile Colorado again because he liked it so much. They are prepared for takeout with every item being nicely plated in to-go containers. It also includes the chips and salsa which some other restaurants that serve them on the table charge extra for when ordering to-go.
Overall, Ayotli Mexican Restaurant has a lot of potential. It has a very different menu including omelets, spinach quesadillas, lots of seafood options, and cheesecake chimichanga fried ice cream (though not exactly “authentic” I still must try this!) and a lot of other wonderful flavors.
I hope you give this restaurant a shot and enjoy it as much as we have. If Nubia continues to bring it, she deserves many years of success at Ayotli.
Ayotli Mexican Restaurant
Turtle Run Shoppes Plaza
Open Mon – Friday 11:00 am – 9:00 pm
Thurs – Sat 11:00 am – 10:00 pm
Sunday 11:00 am – 9:00 pm
6291 W Sample Rd
Coral Springs, FL 33067
Phone number 954-509-9971
Robert Hollinger has been a resident of Margate for 16 years and has two boys who be attending Coral Springs High School this year. Robert works as a software tester for software development company and spends his time volunteering for the Coral Springs High School marching band building props and helping to move equipment on and off the field. He also enjoys playing trombone at his church.