For months now, I’ve been watching the vacant little Clifton storefront where Sari Sari Filipino used to be with a joyous anticipation not unlike a kid waiting for Christmas. Or maybe Christmas with a touch of Cinco de Mayo thrown in.
It all started when a little sign went up in the window last winter. Right before Christmas, as a matter of fact. A neat, professional logo – a fried egg, sunny side up – with the Spanish words, “Con Huevos!” “With eggs?” Cool! Plus just a little edgy note of manly manliness in Spanglish slang, too.
A Mexican breakfast place! Coming to my neighborhood!? YES! YESYESYES! I could not wait! The sign stayed up for months, though, while progress within, though apparent in a gutted interior followed by bright egg-yolk-color walls and a new rustic-look bar, seemed to move glacially. I wanted my Con Huevos, and I wanted it now!
Finally, on a sunny but brisk weekend as March gently lambed into April, I got to try it. The doors swung open on a Saturday morning, and the place was packed! We duly lined up, eventually worked our way to the front of the line, and, si se puede!
Breakfast on opening day was really, really good. So good that we came back again the next day for Sunday brunch, and again the following Tuesday for lunch. I think I would eat here every day if I could.
The husband-and-wife team of Jesus Martinez and Izmene Peredo, who moved here from Guadalajara, Mexico, last year and have been planning Con Huevos almost ever since, with Chef Keith Jones, a Norteamericano who cooks Mexican cuisine like a native, seem to be doing just about everything right.
They’re committed to authenticity and quality, using pastured eggs from local farmers, torta breads from a local panaderia, and locally sourced meats and produce via Creation Gardens.
The place looks sharp, bright and very, very clean, and service has been fully bilingual and warmly cordial throughout the opening days, even when the unexpected crowds caught them running out of food before they ran out of customers on Sunday.
The commitment to locavore sourcing really pays off in the meat department, particularly the pork, which graced a taco de cerdo (pork taco, $3.50) with green tomatillo salsa on doubled soft corn tortilla garnished with a tiny cilantro sprig and a few pink pickled onions. Ah, that pork! Juicy and tender, it would have fallen off the bone if there had been a bone; it was rich with the pastured flavor that’s lost in industrial meat.
Egg dishes are consistently prepared well, as one would hope from a place with “Huevos” in its name. Sunny side up in particular, reflecting the eatery’s logo, show the brightly colored yolks and full flavor of henfruit produced by birds who eat what they like.
Chilaquiles con huevos ($8.99) offered two perfect eggs on chilaquiles, tortilla pieces fried and dressed with cotija cheese and green tomatillo salsa. (A bowl of chilaquiles also comes with most dishes, an attractive alternative to the usual chips ‘n’ salsa.)
Huevos Rancheros ($8.99) were splendid, too, another pair of fine henfruit served over a corn tortilla stuffed with black beans, queso fresco farmer cheese and spicy red salsa ranchero, garnished with avocado and cilantro.
Other dishes also pleased: Burrito de Mamá ($7.99) packed scrambled eggs, Oaxaca cheese and mixed veggies into a fat tortilla roll. Tortas are built on authentic bolillo bread: Both the breakfast torta with eggs and chorizo ($7.99) and the veggie torta with fresh grilled veggies and cheese ($8.50) won two thumbs-up.
Even the small stuff gets done right here: Pico de gallo was no mere garnish but a thoughtful, neatly made and fresh-flavored salsa. Frijoles refritos, too, was no afterthought plate-filler, but brought a bright flavor to the party.
A side dish of papas con chile ($4) kicked up simple steamed potatoes with aromatic onion and piquant green poblano pepper. A cup of sopa fideo, the soup of the day ($3) on this day was a spicy, consoling rough puree of fresh corn and spicy poblanos. I could buy this by the bucket. Black bean salad ($9.99), enough for a dinner salad or generous sharing, was elevated with spicy baby arugula greens, tender beans and fresh corn niblets in a spicy-sweet dressing.
We passed on desserts but, during a crowd wait, gladly accepted a complimentary offering of tender, delicate cinnamon-scented churros cookies with a thick, comforting dulce de leche for dipping.
Con Huevos is ready for prime time, but that being said, bear in mind that this is a tiny space, with room for a scant two dozen including five stools at the bar, and they make everything to order with an eye to quality. You should expect a wait for a seat, and it may take a while to get your food. Bring patience and a sense of humor. It helps.
Con Huevos is open for breakfast and lunch only, daily except Mondays. Our meals for two or three have ranged from $18.54 to $26.47. The iPad payment system allows you to select a tip up to 25 percent. I recommend tapping the high end. They deserve it.