Our Gourmet: Another great spot for Mexican in NashuaSeptember 20. 2017 2:37AM
El ColimaEl Colima
116 W. Pearl St., Nashua; 889-8226; elcolima.com
Hours: Sunday and Monday 11 a.m.-9 p.m.; Wednesday and Thursday until 10 p.m.; Friday and Saturday until 1 a.m. Closed Tuesday.
Pricing: Appetizers $3.75-$12.99; entrees $8.25-$24.95 (most dishes under $17).
The scores for El Colima:
This wasn’t supposed to be a column about an excellent and authentic Mexican restaurant in downtown Nashua.
It was going to be about Noodles & Co., a fast-casual place in south Nashua that Mrs. Gourmet and I popped in for a quick bite a couple of weeks ago, and enjoyed so much we decided to go back for a more extensive sampling in order to do a review.
We headed back Sunday night, only to find the place closed. For good. Nothing left but a sign on the door saying “visit our nearest location” — which happens to be in Connecticut. Sorry, but we didn’t like it that much.
So we had to make a quick search for an alternate destination, and agreed on El Colima, which has been billed as Nashua’s most authentic Mexican restaurant. Owned and operated by a couple emigrated to the U.S. from the state of Colima on Mexico’s Pacific coast, it’s actually been on our list for a while.
And while we can’t pretend to be judges of Mexican authenticity, we can say that it’s as good as any Mexican restaurant we’ve visited, including the former Agave Azul (now Casa Mezcal) on Main Street, about which we said very nice things in this space last year.
Indeed, El Colima is a very similar, though smaller place than its nearby competitor. The dining room, filled with two rows of high-backed, heavy carved wooden booths, extends the length of one side of the space, while the bar, separated by a half wall, takes up the other side. Decor is simple and restrained, without a brightly colored serape or a sombrero in sight.
The menu is smaller than you’ll find in many Mexican restaurants. But while you can still find most of the standard Tex-Mex items, it’s the specialties that make El Colima, well, special.
Having already had a busy day of eating, we decided to start by splitting an appetizer. The Avocado Crackers ($12) were six triangular-shaped deep-fried pastries filled with diced chicken and fried pork, avocado, tomato, cilantro and lime. The flour tortilla shells were gently fried, tender with just a bit of crunch. The avocado provided just the right moisture content to make these little treats a wonderful start to our meal. (As it turned out, though, they arrived with our entrees, a minor service miscue we chalked up to a bit of inexperience.)
For her main course, Mrs. G chose Carnitas Michoacán ($15.50), gently seasoned braised pork served with rice, refried beans and pico di gallo, with a choice of flour or corn tortillas. The pork was wonderfully moist and tender. (If we’ve learned anything in this job, it’s that braising is a spectacular way to cook meat.) While she did make use of the tortillas to combine meat, beans and lettuce, Mrs. G repeatedly raided my small supply of sour cream to add to her little soft tacos.
She was stealing the sour cream from the side of my Flautas Poblanas ($13.75), but that was fine, because I really didn’t need it. There were four flautas — corn tortillas, filled with stewed chicken with tomatoes, rolled and fried just crispy, then topped with cheese and fresh mole sauce. It was a great combination of textures and flavors, and the savory/sweet mole was a perfect topping. The rice and refried beans on the side made for just the right serving size for dinner.
We decided not to stay for dessert, but we got an order of Churros ($4.50) to go, knowing that they would travel well. These little extruded crullers, with a moist cinnamon center and dusting of cinnamon and sugar, were light, sweet, and hard to resist once we got them home.
With a small house Margarita (a bargain at $7.75), our tab came to $58 — a decent value. The staff was very helpful and friendly, and the food was great.
Tucked away on a side street in downtown Nashua, El Colima is a bit out of the way, but it’s definitely worth seeking out.