Out on Kildaire and Maynard across from the Trader Joe’s plaza is a newer Mexican eatery, Totopos. And with all the Mexican restaurants in the area you may be thinking so what? Reviews for Totopos online had a been a bit uneven so when a co-worker suggested we check it out, I was curious. Would it be better or worse than expected, I wasn’t sure. A quick lunch at Totopos told it all and it was better than expected, gracias…
Stepping into Totopos you’ll notice some cool Mexican decorations and pieces to liven up the interior. A faceless luchador (wrestler) mannequin sits on a bench at the entrance and a wall hanging of Mexican baleros (wooden toy) give Totopos an authentic feel. The space is large with a bar area and two side dining areas. As we’re seated the waiter takes our drink orders (lunch comes with a free drink) and asks if we’ve been to Totopos before. He preps us by saying that they are not Tex-Mex but really about Mexico City street food. I’m guessing he’s trying to avoid any more scathing reviews from unknowing patrons.
I scan the menu and it looks a bit different. I order up some Mexico City-style quesadillas ($9.95) that come in three flavors: poblano pepper, chicken tinga and chicarron. The chips and salsa brought to the table are excellent, lots of roasted chunks of tomato in the salsa. It takes about 10 or 15 minutes and my plate looks dee-licious. Three lovely looking tacos with grilled exteriors along with a small cup of rice and beans. Portion size is ok but less than your average Mexican place which usually relies on quantity. The quesadillas look more like tacos but they’ve been seared on the outside, melting the cheese inside. And then stuffed with the goodies. My first two (pepper and chicken tinga) are well done but I’m not so much a fan of the chicarron. The pork belly tastes flabby (get it!?) and seems to be braised which gives it a super, soft texture. The beans and rice are fine and plenty. So while the portion sizes at Totopos are a bit smaller, there’s plenty here to eat, still.
Service is attentive and talkative. We learn that the chef at Totopos has history going back to Gonza Tacos and Dos Taquitos in Raleigh which is why the food may taste familiar. And yes, the food at Totopos is a cut above your usual Mexican restaurant which is why the place is a bit different. Focus on the flavors and ingredients over quantity and you’ll understand what they’re doing here. I’d compare it to Jose and Sons out in Raleigh as a similar option. So glad I could try you out to Totopos and I hope to come back to try out more. And yeah, you’re more like four stars than three if you appreciate quality over portion size.