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Originally published Friday, January 25, 2013 at 5:31 AM

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Tenoch Mexican Grill: Satisfying home cooking in the Chinatown ID

Tenoch Mexican Grill brings homey lunchtime cuisine to the Chinatown International District.

Seattle Times staff reporter

Tenoch Mexican Grill

Mexican

208 Fifth Ave. S., Seattle206-381-8994

Hours: 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday-Friday, lunch only

Etc: Credit cards accepted; paid parking in nearby lots or on the street; wheelchair accessible; no alcohol.

Prices: $

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I agree with this review. Tenoch always reminds me of the Laura Esquivel novel Like... MORE

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The first thing that hits me when entering Tenoch for a late lunch, aside from Diana Krall crooning “Popsicle Toes” on the speaker system, is the smoky redolence of roasted Mexican peppers and slow-cooked meat. In the open kitchen, owner Rebeca Gonzalez takes a break from stacking tortillas and stirring an oversize pot to flash a broad smile. The place feels and smells like a home kitchen, as it should, considering many of the items on the menu come from family recipes Gonzalez recalls from growing up in the Mexican state of Guanajuato.

The menu: Gonzalez boasts that her restaurant, unlike some other lunchtime Mexican eateries, offers several kinds of chicken and beef, along with succulent pork among the toppings on a menu made up of standards like fish tacos ($9.50 for two with beans and rice) and burritos ($7.75) and specialty items like enchiladas ($7.75) and chilaquiles ($7.25).

What to write home about: It’s amazing what you can do with a flour tortilla, beans, rice, pico de gallo and lovingly spiced and simmered meat. My burrito with puerco en pasilla — pork slow-cooked with a pepper sauce that packs layers of flavor and subtle heat — was simple, huge and delicious. Ditto for my chilaquiles, a dish of crispy corn tortilla chips smothered with pollo en pipian — chicken that has been cooked with guajillo peppers, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds and a dash of clove.

The setting: The narrow space has eight tables around the open kitchen and four stools facing the street. It’s a welcome respite from this rather blah stretch of Fifth Avenue South in the Chinatown International District. Sepia-toned pictures of Mexican icons like artist Frida Kahlo and a laid-back jazz soundtrack (at least on my visit) add a touch of elegance.

Summing up: A burrito, order of chilaquiles and a Jarritos pineapple soda came to $15.41, plus tax and tip.

Tyrone Beason: tbeason@seattletimes.com

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