Red or Green?
A Taste of Old Mexico
The roadside Mexico Viejo food stand in Silver City serves traditional fare with a twist.
by Peggy Platonos
If you have turned onto Broadway from Hwy. 90 in Silver City any time in the past eight months, you may have noticed a neat roadside food stand with a sign proclaiming "Mexico Viejo."
Mexico Viejo owner Sonya Orasco serves up a shrimp fajitas burrito. It is a dish she has on the menu in honor of her father, who loved shrimp. The same filling is available in tacos, too. (Photo by Peggy Platonos)
"Mexico Viejo. Old Mexico," you may have translated to yourself. "Hm. Wonder what that's all about?"
Well, according to owner Sonya Orasco, Mexico Viejo is all about pride in family and pride in heritage — all served up in old-style Tacos Aztecas, gorditas, burritos and tortas.
"When I put this name, it is to remember not a town or place of Mexico. It is to remember my ancestors," explains Sonya, whose English is not fluent. Since my Spanish is rudimentary at best, I cannot swear that I am adequately or accurately capturing what Sonya intended to say, but I'm pretty sure I got this right.
Born in Mexico with Indian blood in her veins, she says that though she was raised in Texas and loves this country, she was taught to have "respect for my culture and for my people."
Two years ago, she arrived in Silver City to join a sister who had been living here for nearly 18 years. Both of Sonya's sisters live in the Silver City area now and help with the Mexico Viejo business, as does a cousin.
"This business is family, family, family," Sonya says. And by that, she seems to be referring not just to family members who are working in the business but also family members, now dead or in distant places, who have inspired specific dishes on the menu.
"I make mole the way my grandmother used to make it. Shrimp, fish — those were my father's favorites," she says. In his memory, her menu regularly includes shrimp fajitas as an optional taco or burrito filling.
She also seems to mean that she is aiming at being a family-friendly establishment. In setting up tables for outdoor dining under the spreading branches of tall trees behind the food stand, Sonya has included small tables and chairs just the right size for children. "Very nice, yes? And coloring books with crayons — I have those, too," she points out with pride and enthusiasm.
Mexico Viejo has a remarkably extensive menu for a small roadside food vending stand, and the dishes are not what one normally finds in other Mexican restaurants. Menu options range from $3.75 for breakfast gorditas or burritos featuring a choice of bacon, sausage, chorizo, veggies or Mexicano (that last one made with nopales, chorizo, cheese and egg) to big meal taco plates for $8.50. The taco plates include Mexican rice, beans and salad, along with four tacos with a choice of fillings: Asada, Carnitas, Barbacoa, Adovada and chicken, beef or shrimp fajitas.
There are also lunch-style gorditas or burritos for $3.75 with various filling options, "Viva Verde" burritos for $4.75, and tortas (Mexican sandwiches) for $6.75. On Fridays and Saturdays, corn on the cob is available, served on a stick with butter, grated cheese and chili powder for $2.50.
Everything at Mexico Viejo seems to have a bit of a different twist to it. Chile Rellenos are served in burrito form. Tamales are wrapped in banana leaves, rather than corn husks. The corn chips are unsalted and come in an assortment of bright colors. In addition to chips and salsa, you can order chicharones with salsa.
Wimps like me need to be warned that the pico de gallo, as well as the green and red chile dishes, are hot enough to leave you breathing fire. But Sonya says you can indicate a choice when ordering. The choices are "hot, very hot or medium."
Some dishes on the menu, however, are not spicy hot at all. These include the "Big Mouth Burgers" with various toppings for $7.75, some of the breakfast gorditas and burritos, and the fajita-style fillings. The tortas include either red or green sauce, but Sonya says those sauces are mild.
All the food, incidentally, is cooked as it is ordered, so be prepared to wait a bit. And do not expect elegance in presentation. This is a down-to-earth, no-frills type of establishment — although the Taco Azteca does make a pretty picture.
In addition to the usual type of sodas as beverages, there are also a couple of traditional Mexican drinks offered at Mexico Viejo. Horchata is a rice milk-based drink with vanilla and lots of cinnamon and other spices in it. Atole is a shaken drink that also has spices in it. And, in cold weather, there is hot chocolate, served Mexican-style with ground cinnamon and anise.
"My father always told my sisters and me to put our heart in the food," Sonya says. "And we do this here."
Mexico Viejo is open Monday through Saturday from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Send Mimbres freelance writer Peggy Platonos tips for restaurant reviews
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