There have been numerous times during the past eight months of the pandemic that a plate of comfort food has made the world seem better for at least 15 solid minutes.
Three of those occasions have been at Cuquita’s Restaurant.
While you get chips and salsa here, wait just a minute longer for the fresh corn tortillas to arrive. If you’re getting everything to go, make sure you get those tortillas (and have no shame in eating them in the car). Spread butter on one and dip it in the bright red salsa, and it will disappear before you have a second to think of what you’ll drink with your meal.
There’s plenty to choose from on this seemingly large menu: Try a guiso, skip the gordita, but do get the costillas de puerco en salsa verde. This dish is reminiscent of something the mother of this writer cooks, so the familiarity could be creating some appreciation.
But more objectively, these little tender pork ribs swimming in salsa are delightful. It’s just gently rich in fattiness, and the flavors from the meat slowly become one with that salsa as you make your way through the plate. Don’t be ashamed of using your hands to get through these little bones, discarding each one before taking another fresh tortilla into that wonderful assortment on your plate.
If you’re grabbing food on the weekend, order the barbacoa a la Mexican. It’s a simple plate with enough barbacoa to feed two (but who’s counting?) with evenly diced jalapeños, tomatoes and onions. Sure, the vegetables could use a touch more time on the heat to soften, but there’s something nice about a crisp bite of a spicy jalapeño among the wonderfully fatty meat that makes the bite seem just right. Again, of course, this plate is another good reason to have the corn tortillas on-hand.
The rice and beans are proper, here, too. So when you rip part of a tortilla, swipe some refried beans on the bottom, then fill with a scoop of barbacoa.
Call ahead your to-go order here. A system’s in place that makes it seem like they’ve been doing this smoothly for years. If you’re dining inside, tables have been removed and the remaining ones spaced out, and booths have tall plastic dividers among them.
Cuquitas Restaurant, 1957 Northwest Highway, Garland, with more locations in Dallas and Farmer's Branch. 214-227-5153. Open 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday; 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday; 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday; and 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday.