Philadelphia, PA - El Vez proves to be one of the area’s best Mexican restaurants. Located on a hot corner in the burgeoning B3 neighborhood (Blocks Below Broad), El Vez, named after the Mexican Elvis, serves lunch and dinner. El Rey, 2013 Chestnut Street, (215) 563-3330, elreyrestaurant.com
The décor is bright and festive — a custom made, jewel-lined gold motorcycle hangs above the bar; guacamole-making carts move from table to table; and bright purple plush upholstery lines circular banquette tables.
Chef Dionicio Jimenez -: Jimenez, executive chef of Stephen Starr’s stylish Center City taqueria El Rey, entered Philadelphia’s restaurant scene through the inauspicious dish pit. He worked his way through the top kitchens of Marc Vetri’s eponymous dinner destination and Xochitl before landing at El Rey, where he crafts soulful but accessible renditions of Mexican home cooking, including fresh ceviches, chiles relleno and lamb mole negro.
The fare is creative Mexican and El Vez is a great place for sharing a bunch of dishes with your table. Starting with the guacamole is pretty much a must — it’s prepared tableside immediately upon ordering. Another good bet is the salsa sampler which lets choose among the several varieties ranging from a spicy tuna with Pineapple, habaneros, tomatillo and orange to a melted Manchego with sweet onions.
Proceed directly to other favorites like the tuna tostadas, lobster and crab tacos, and Yucatan pork tamales. Order the Taco Tasting Platter and they’ll be served right on the grill.
El Vez only accepts reservations for large parties, so be prepared to wait up to an hour to be seated on the weekends. Luckily, time flies when waiting at the bar with a margarita and entertaining yourself with the photo booth.