The Dish: mole Mexicano

The Location: Mixtec, 1792 Columbia Road NW, (202) 332-1011

The Price: $15.95, includes refried black beans, rice, and a small salad.

The Skinny: Folks just don’t want to cough up a lot of cash for Mexican food, even though many won’t think twice about shelling out nearly $20 for a hanger steak in shallot sauce. They want their Mexican eats cheap, fast, and good, rarely thinking about the contradictory nature of such a wish. True Mexican cooking—not the cheap tortilla-and-shredded-cheese Tex-Mex stuff—relies on tradition and quality ingredients as much as any French restaurant. Take the mole Mexicano at Mixtec. Owner Jose “Pepe” Montesinos brought his mole recipe from Oaxaca more than 25 years ago; the cooks at his Adams Morgan restaurant spend hours preparing the thick reddish-brown sauce that boasts plantains, walnuts, Mexican chocolate, and three different kinds of pepper. The mole blankets thinly pounded and perfectly grilled chicken breasts whose smokiness provides the right counterpoint to the sweet-and-spicy sauce. Mixtec pairs the main dish with three delicious sides: refried black beans, fluffy Mexican rice, and a cool, well-dressed salad to give your tongue a break from the heat and starch. The plate’s worth every cent of its nearly $16 price tag.