Passport Café is the perfect little place to find Mexican food — the real tomato.
Husband-and-wife team Marco and Sylvia Hernandez have no experience in the food biz, mind you — his background is in realty, while she has spent years as a professor of business administration. But just try that tortilla soup, with its crunchy strips of tortilla, avocado slices, and sour cream. Non-traditional mozzarella cheese is welcome. (Vegetarians can forgo the chicharrón, i.e., fried pork rinds.) Soft-shell tacos are filled with beef and fresh coriander leaves, chipotles adding an earthy spiciness. Bursting with that satisfying triumvirate of aubergines, zucchini, and peppers, along with mozzarella, corn quesadillas please to no end.
There’s a list of paninis, too, all named for cities. A London panini with turkey, however, has tired tomatoes and the avocado adds little. And the merely lukewarm mozzarella hasn’t melted. Um, isn’t gooey cheese the whole point of paninis?
Fortunately, two desserts hit the spot. The dense chocolate cake is covered with old-fashioned chocolate butter icing. Meanwhile, the Central and South American specialty, tres leches cake (soaked in three different kinds of milk — evaporated milk, condensed milk, and whipping cream) is exquisite.
Soups $6; tacos, quesadillas, and paninis $4–$9; desserts $3–$4. Open Monday to Saturday 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Passport Café, 1489-B Merivale Rd., 613-695-7899