Ballard Avenue’s Newest Mexican Eatery Showcases Complexity of Corn

Imported heirloom corn helps educate Seattleites on the complexity of true Mexican food
| FROM THE PRINT EDITION |
 
 

In 2012, New York restaurateur Marc Meyer tapped Chester Gerl, then chef at Matt’s in the Market, to run the kitchen at his trendy SoHo restaurant, Hundred Acres, and, eventually, to help open Rosie’s, a restaurant specializing in central and southern Mexico cuisine, in the East Village.

Now Gerl is back in Seattle, showing off his love of Mexican cooking at Ballard’s Gracia, which he opened in February. The best menu items are also the simplest: botanas (snacks) made from scratch, antojitos (little cravings), miniature tacos (two for $8), slow-cooked soups (menudo fans, rejoice) and shareable entrées, plus a short list of agave-based cocktails.

Just as Josh Henderson is doing at downtown’s Bar Noroeste, Gerl is educating Seattleites on the complexity of true Mexican food. Get this: Gerl imports heirloom varieties of corn from Oaxaca’s small-plot farmers and makes masa—the dough used to make tortillas and other dishes—in house, a laborious process that involves adding calcium oxide to the hulls to make them easier to grind.

 

These corns are said to have unique flavor profiles, but I couldn’t detect the differences among the tortillas. Many dishes, including four of the five antojitos—such as black beans and green chorizo ($7) and duck carnitas ($8)—followed a generic tortilla-topped-with-protein formula similar to the tacos menus. I’m afraid Gerl’s efforts with the corn may be getting lost in crema and shredded lettuce. Perhaps a brief masa primer or even tortilla tasting should be added to the menu so that his work doesn’t go unnoticed. Or, just do what we did and stick to tacos and margaritas.

Ballard, 5313 Ballard Ave. NW; 206.268.0217; graciaseattle.com

RELATED CONTENT

The first game of the new NFL season for our local heroes is Sunday, September 11. It’s looking like a stellar year, and while watching at home is fine, watching with a group of fellow fans while sipping a good drink out is pretty darn fun, too.

A hot, juicy hamburger is as classic—and American—as apple pie, yet it straddles several current food trends, including the rise of comfort food and the desire for a fast, affordable meal that is made with integrity—a game we’re always upping in S

Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock these past five years, you’ve likely heard of Feast: Portland’s massive

From special drinks to big booze contests to cider-ific anniversaries and events, local bars, distillers, and cideries are making the end of summer a wonderful place for those who, like me, love our local producers.