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¡Bienvenidos a Latin American cookery by the Atlantic

April 9, 2021

It’s no secret that the alpha Mexican/Salvadorean spot in downtown Rehoboth is certainly Mariachi restaurant on Wilmington Avenue. Boss and founder Yolanda Pineda is no stranger to her native food, and though every dish is prepared under her watchful eye, I believe the key to Mariachi’s longevity is her day-to-day involvement in the operation. She glides from the kitchen to the dining rooms adjusting food on servers’ trays, stopping by to say hello to regulars, or darting behind the bar to whip up a tray of colorful frozen margaritas. Her constant presence is a value added at this two-level facility with an ocean view from the upstairs porch.

Yolanda loves to tempt her guests with surprises. It might be her paella (when she has time to make it herself), or even a mole dish. Mole is a complex blend of chilies, tomatoes, onions, peanuts, raisins, cinnamon, cumin, dark chocolate … the list goes on and on, and varies from culture to culture. “I will not make it unless I can take my time to do it right,” she warns.

All the standard Mexican goodies are on the menu: nachos (creamy cheese and bright-green, crispy peppers), quesadillas, guacamole, enchiladas, etc. But why not take advantage of Yolanda’s Salvadorean cooking skills! Branch out to the sweetly irresistible platanos (fried plantain with a polite dollop of sour cream), the ceviche (firm white fish marinated in lime juice, onions, peppers and cilantro), and the plump little pupusas, each one lovingly hand-stuffed with flavorful pork and cheese. I’m hopelessly addicted to the deeply savory chicken tamales - perhaps paired with the Queso Fundido con Chorizo appetizer, a decadent casserole of warm, gooey queso topped with crispy chorizo. Warm tortillas move it from the plate into your mouth with unparalleled efficiency.

Carnivores (who don’t mind sharing) love the Spanish Parillada. It arrives amid great sizzling fanfare sporting a grilled chicken breast, steak prepared fajita-style, a pork chop and Spanish chorizo crowned with olive oil, garlic and parsley. Another popular dish is the Masitas de Puerco; cubed and seared pork with Spanish rice and beans. If you like shrimp, you’ll love the Camarones Cancun. This generous portion of butterflied shrimp sizzles itself to your table accompanied by flour tortillas, pinto beans and Yolanda’s wonderful yellow rice.

Surprisingly, in this protein-laden whirlwind of pork, chicken and seafood, Mariachi has six popular vegetarian dishes, including the beautifully spiced Veggie Burrito and Yolanda’s own Plato Rojo (cheesy chile rellenos, deep fried to a perfect crisp). Almost makes you forget it’s vegetarian! Last and certainly not least is what might possibly be one of the most delicious desserts in Rehoboth Beach: the Tres Leches cake. Three types of milk slowly soak overnight into a vanilla cake. Then it’s slathered with whipped cream and drizzled with caramel. It’s not unusual to see faithful customers picking up whole cakes for birthdays. (Of course, “birthday” could also be an excuse to have your own personal Tres Leches to do with as you please.)

Mariachi is closed on Mondays, and it never hurts nowadays to call and check the hours (302-227-0115). It’s finally springtime at the beach, so celebrate by the ocean with authentic Latin American delights accompanied by a frosty cerveza or maybe a jumbo margarita. Salud!

  • So many restaurants, so little time! Food writer Bob Yesbek gives readers a sneak peek behind the scenes, exposing the inner workings of the local culinary industry, from the farm to the table and everything in between. He can be reached at byesbek@capegazette.com.

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