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First Bite

Viva Mexicana Tropi-Cal

By Molly Jackel

Editor's note: First Bite is a new concept in restaurant writing. This is not a go-three-times, try-everything-on-the-menu report; rather, this is a quick snapshot of a single experience.

Despite the editor's note up there, I have eaten at Viva Mexico a lot. But that was when it was a takeout window, not the bona fide restaurant it is now. And although I chose to ignore the words of advice the sassy owner once gave me when I asked if she did catering ("What're you getting married for? Husbands and kids are a colossal waste of time!"), she knows how to put together a restaurant. Emily Post she's not, but two great Mexican cooks she's got. Plus a brand-new breakfast menu, espresso bar, loads of fresh pastries and a ca-yute indoor dining room.

Because of the dearth of breakfast joints on the south side of Sebastopol—and dare I say anywhere in town—I and my relentlessly hungry cadre sampled the new breakfast menu. Mind you, this means that I can't go into my very, very strong feelings for the carnitas (if you play this record backwards it says, "Eat carnitas at Viva Mex").

Some of the menu items, like the potato latkes, are a bit too creative for their own good. Others work well, like the huevos benedicto ($9.25), two perfectly poached eggs perched on a nicely browned chicken-apple sausage atop a homemade buttery and corny corn muffin with a generous helping of a potato hash on the side (potatoes, yams and caramelized onions). The hollandaise was light and lemony, and the whole kooky thing worked well, especially if you're not concerned for your arteries.

Now, I have to admit something: the rancheros ($7.95) was a little disappointing. Almost everything about it was great (the fried eggs, the beans and rice, the tortillas). But why a chili verde sauce, and why so bitter? At the risk of sounding like my grandma, what's wrong with a nice ranchero sauce?

Having never met a chorizo I didn't love, the eggs con chorizo ($7.95) was perfect! The chorizo, being its salty-savory self, was in little, crisp-edged chunks, scrambled in with the not-overcooked eggs and caramelized onions, served with plenty of hot tortillas, refried beans and fluffy Spanish rice.

Thirsty? ¡Si! We had the homemade strawberry aguas frescas (mildly sweet fruit and water infusions) and a coconut horchata (sweetened, ground rice drink with cinnamon). I haven't had better even south of the border. And the Flying Goat latte was right on.

Though the new breakfast menu is ambitious, we had mostly hits, not to mention the lunch and dinner, which haven't let us down yet. And the new digs, next door to the old, are sweet, with colorful, hanging glass lamps, soft cushions on the seats and a bathroom even. The only ambient downside was the occasional howl from the doggy grooming salon next door—but with the music playing, it sorta sounded like Mexico. Plus, with the proofread he did on this piece, I don't think the husband is turning out to be such a colossal waste of time after all.

Viva Mexicana Tropi-Cal, 841 Gravenstein Hwy. S., Sebastopol. Open daily. 707.823.5555.

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From the October 5-11, 2005, 2005 issue of the North Bay Bohemian.

Copyright © 2005 Metro Publishing Inc. Maintained by Boulevards New Media.

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