Tortilleria Sinaloa is a tiny storefront in Fells Point with no tables but eight stools at two counters.
That doesn't deter tourists, natives and neighbors from testing their Spanish on the barely bi-lingual but friendly staff while trying to order from the compact menu. And nothing makes me feel more comfortable in a first time visit to a little street joint than having a neat young woman in constant motion wiping counters, stools, equipment and anything else that might need wiping.
Upper Fells and Fells Point has a thriving Hispanic population, many of whom frequent Tortilleria Sinaloa — presumably for the tasty, authentic food. The tripe soup and pozole, an ancient Mayan corn stew with pork, chicken or turkey with chilis and tomatoes, are prime examples.
Most versions of tripe soup feature the prime ingredient, large pieces of beef tripe, in a red sauce with chopped onions, lime and cilantro. Here it is for the purists, just the tripe in a simple red sauce. Both dishes are $8 a bowl.
The more mainstream reasons to go for lunch are the house's signature tortillas, the base for the steak taco ($2.95), the barbeque pork taco ($3.45) and the fish taco, which gives a nod to Baltimore via some salsa seasoned with Old Bay salsa ($5.35).
Tortilleria Sinaloa also serves quesadillas ($5.25) made with chicken or pork sandwiched between two tortillas with tomato, onion and a dollop of queso blanco. The tacos and quesadilla would have been even better if we were given a bit of salsa rojo and salsa verde, both spicy condiments made with roasted red peppers and tomatillas, respectively.
I soon determined that these are given to the regulars without a request. As strangers, we didn't get any. Ask for them.
The pico de gallo and the guacomole are as good as any you'll find in Baltimore. The tamale ($2.85), made with corn flour and water with bits of meat and seasoning and steamed in a banana leaf, was cheap but dry and relatively tasteless — as were the refried beans.
Tortillas are Tortilleria Sinaloa's main business — the shop produces 250 kilos a day. Yes, that is over a quarter ton of those little pancakes for the many wholesale customers who know a good tortilla when they taste one. You can also take home a pound of any meat on the menu for $14.95.
Try to time your lunch for when the tortilla machine is cranking — it's almost as fun to watch as it is to eat.
Where: 1716 Eastern Ave.
Contact: 410-276-3741, tortilleria-sinaloa.com
Hours: 7 a.m.-7 p.m. Monday-Thursday, 7 a.m.-8 p.m. Friday-Saturday
Lunch entrees: $2.95-$8
Nearby Baltimore Sun restaurant reviews: Dish Baltimore - Fells Point