Adelita: Authentic Mexican restaurant run by a welcoming family
Adelita in South Philly's Italian Market specializes in foods from Puebla and Mexico City, including a wide variety of taco options.
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The song “La Adelita” is one of the most famous ballads from the Mexican Revolution. The lyrics tell the story of a Durangan woman who fought in the conflict in the early 20th century.
This hero, Adelita, has come to symbolize female warriors in Mexico and those who struggle for their rights. Philly has its own homage to Adelita in a small family run restaurant near the corner of 9th and Washington.
“I chose Adelita for the name of the restaurant because it symbolizes strong women,” explained Andres Hernandez. “We are a family run restaurant. Both of my sisters and my father are involved in the business.”
The Hernandez family’s charming little restaurant in the Italian Market has been in operation since 2007. It originally was called Montezuma in honor of the Aztec ruler, but a little over a year ago the family changed the name to Adelita.
“When I first named the restaurant Montezuma, I didn’t realize it reminded most Americans of Montezuma’s revenge,” Hernandez said with a laugh. “We wanted to create a new face for the restaurant with more visually attractive dishes. It’s the same high quality ingredients and flavors, but with a better presentation.”
The restaurant specializes in foods from Mexico City (where Andres grew up) and Puebla (where he was born). The most typical elements from Mexico City are the wide variety of tacos on the menu. On offer are classics, such as Al Pastor, Suadero and tripe, as well as house specialties, such as shrimp and fish.
“The tacos are some of the most popular things on the menu,” said Hernandez. “We added taqueria to our name because they were so popular.”
The tacos are discounted on both Tuesdays and Thursdays when you can get three hulking ones for $7 instead of the normal $9.
“We say, 'Why have one taco day when you can have two?'” Hernandez smiled.
I particularly enjoyed the tacos al pastor as well as the ones with succulent lamb barbacoa. Lamb Barbacoa is a classic dish from the Mexico City area that you can order on weekends when it's served as a main dish.
The plate perhaps most emblematic of Puebla are the wonderful Mole Enchiladas. Like typical mole poblano, chef Encarnacion Hernandez (Andres’ father) creates the rich flavor using pasilla chiles alongside nuts, chocolate, raisins, garlic, cinnamon and a variety of other spices. The result is a magnificently sweet, yet softly spicy flavor that one expects from a mole dish.
The restaurant is also a BYOB so you can bring your drinks if you’d like, or Andres can make you a margarita with the mixers they have in-house. If you’d rather pass on the alcohol, they also offer delicious aguas frescas, such as jamaica, horchata and watermelon juice.
Looking forward, the Hernandez family aims to grow the business by attracting a wider variety of customers.
“Right now we have about 60 percent of customers that are Mexican and about 40 percent that are the general public. We’d like to reach as many people as possible in a very competitive market,” said Hernandez. “We invite everyone to come try the food, give it a review and tell us how we can improve.”
To learn more about Adelita visit the restaurant's Facebook page. Hours: Monday – Tuesday 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., Wednesday closed, Thursday 11 a.m. – 10 p.m., Friday 11 a.m. – 3 a.m., Saturday 11 a.m. – 4 a.m. .Address: 1108 S. 9th Street Philadelphia, PA 19147. Prices: $7 - $20.