REVIEW

Come visit on the road to Oaxaca

Authentic gourmet Mexican cuisine

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With two locations, Patchogue and Astoria, Ruta Oaxaca specializes in authentic Mexican cuisine as the house of delicious moles, with more than 50 different types of tequilas and 40 artisanal mezcales.

Located at 30 East Main Street, the former location of Swell Taco, Ruta Oaxaca Mexican Cuisine was founded by owners Jose Castillo, Pedro Castillo (brothers), Carlos and Felipe Arellano (chefs and brothers). The Castillos and Arellanos started out in the restaurant industry as dishwashers 23 years earlier and began to envision bringing authentic Oaxacan cuisine to New York.

When asked why they took their chances in Patchogue, Jose said he couldn’t wait to open a space on Long Island near his hometown of Hauppauge and that he fell in love with the energy of the town.

“We want people to come not just for the food, but the experience,” he said passionately about his restaurant.

The restaurant is open seven-days a week with brunch from noon to 4 p.m. and Happy Hour weekdays from 4 to 7 p.m. and weekends from noon to 4 p.m. There is also an outdoor space for additional seating, which will also soon host live music.

I don’t give stars, mainly because I am not a real food critic but rather a local reviewer and self-declared foodie with a journalism degree, but if I did, this place would easily score all five of my imaginary stars.

Taking “home gourmet” to heart, as if straight from a kitchen in Mexico, the food is deep, decadent and flavorful. The owner Jose is a delight and a truly good-hearted person. During our visit, we were blessed with chef/owner Carlos’s cooking for us after traveling all the way from his home in Manhattan.

The meal was a full-on eating experience for not just your taste buds, but nose and eyes as well. Chef Carlos takes pride in presenting his plates—each one more beautiful than the last. However, taste is not compromised for beauty, with the chef brothers also taking pleasure in presenting family recipes passed down from generation to generation. Ruta Oaxaca is hands down the best Mexican restaurant in town, if not the entire island. The owners are family and when you are there, that is exactly how you feel.

Sexy Oaxaca, $15

Delicious and refreshing. With Dos Hombres mezcal and Cointreau, grilled pineapple and mint, agave and fresh lemon, it’s topped with worm salt served in a blue-rimmed clay pot cup. The worm salt was different than anything I have ever experienced—certainly not your typical salt rim. It had a smoky saltiness, enhancing the flavor of each sip. The mezcal was smoky as well, with a sweet kick of the pineapple.

Amante Picante, $15

Don’t think twice, order this drink. It has Patron reposado, Cointreau with habanero, mango and agave infused topped with fresh lime and that intriguing worm salt. It was the perfect combination of spicy and sweet, with a hit of patron. Our server (Jose played the part) brought it to us with a torch to smoke the rosemary stick, adding an aroma to our flavor profile.

  THE FOOD

As soon as we arrived, we were presented with fresh homemade chips, an amazing chipotle salsa that surpassed the typical table salsa, and a truly delicious guacamole. The secret to the guac? Jose credits grilling the serrano chilis first. And so be it, but I think it is the perfect combination of creamy-yet-chunky that does it. It has a good hint of spice but without any big chunks of pepper, creating a pleasantly spicy bite. It was also topped with fresh diced tomatoes and red onion. 

For our appetizer, we were served the Chicken Bunelo ($14.95). As Jose described, they are basically Mexican wontons filled with tender, pulled slow-roasted chicken sitting on a sweet almost dessert like plantano macho puree topped with pear confitadas and a baby arugula salad, as well as a super-rich mole Oaxaca. Perfectly fried but not too crispy, the chicken wontons were gone in a second. But that didn’t matter, because the arugula salad and sauces left on the plate were so good, we finished it like a salad on its own. The dark mole—certainly the star of the plate—was so obviously made with love. When asked about it, Jose said it takes over 48 hours of stewing with 27 ingredients, requiring frequent mixing to perfect it. The flavors developed in just this one sauce are deep and decadent, worth the trip to Ruta all on its own. It's something you certainly and simply just will not get elsewhere.

Our main course—Jose pulled out all the stops—was Cochinita Pibil tacos, $21.95, mole enchiladas, $24.95, and Costilla Istmenas, $28.95.

These were, hands down, the best ribs of any style I have ever had. As expected of any good rib, they were fall-of-the-bone juicy, but their ribs were accompanied by an out-of-this-world tropical-flavor guava chipotle glaze. It was topped with cherry tomatoes and a fennel salad, not just for presentation but for edible garnish, the kind you actually want to eat.

The tacos are not your average or wannabe authentic tacos. They are seriously good. Big chunks—not pulled, not small pieces—but chunks of Yucatan marinated slow-cooked pork packed with flavor and topped with a salsa verde, habanero pickled red onions and cilantro. The best part was the handmade corn tortillas. There are legitimately three people on kitchen staff dedicated to solely making fresh tortillas—the love and dedication in this establishment truly shows on the plate.

The enchiladas were covered in that sought-after Oaxaca negro mole and freshly topped with queso fresco and crema. Don’t think Mexican restaurant enchiladas, but something you’d only taste if you were invited to the home of someone’s abuela.

On the side, we had rainbow roasted potatoes sitting in a bed of avocado verde sauce and authentic rice and beans, as well as street esquites—or rather Mexican street corn. A very welcome addition as one of my favorite dishes of all time.

With full bellies and satisfied cravings, we were ready to thank them for the invitation and depart when Jose brought out a tres leches with a sweet corn cake ready and able to hold up to the topping of sweet milk. He also served us a “tira-mezquila,” a Mexican play on a tiramisu with Mexican coffee and chocolate and tequila instead of rum, but ever the better for it. All made in-house; in fact, the entire meal was.

If you are on the lookout for true authentic Mexican cuisine—the kind that makes you look at your dinning partner and say, “That was a good meal”—then look no further than Ruta Oaxaca. For if this restaurant were on the road to anywhere, I would take it just to make a stop there. 

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