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Tortilleria Sinaloa's second location maintains its authenticity

For The Baltimore Sun
Tortilleria Sinaloa grows larger in Harbor East, but the food remains just as delectable.

When I first saw a sign on the Central Avenue building announcing that Tortilleria Sinaloa would be opening there, I did a double take. How exciting, I thought. But then I wondered if the tiny Eastern Avenue tacqueria would be able to make the transition.

The offspring is introducing its fresh-made-daily tortillas and other Mexican standards to an audience who may not have found their way to the modest Fells Point storefront that opened in 2002. After a recent visit, I'm confident it will quickly win fans in the tony Harbor East area.

The bigger Sinaloa is in the spruced-up Fallsway Spring Co. building, where the short-lived By Degrees Cafe operated until December 2014. An expanded menu in English and Spanish includes breakfast, tacos, burritos, tamales, house-specialty platters and desserts. The space may not have the cramped charm of the original, but the food is as authentic as it gets.

Scene & Decor The space hasn't changed much since By Degrees Cafe closed up shop. The bar and dining area have all the markings of a modern-day bistro, with high ceilings, exposed ductwork and red-and-white brick walls. The dining room is two-tiered, with a bar on the first floor and tables seating 30 just a few steps up on another level. Sinaloa adds its own personality with colorfully painted ceramic pitchers, artwork, sombreros and fabric wall hangings.

Appetizers We started with crisp, house-made chips and probably the best guacamole ($7.95) we've ever had. The addictive avocado dip was flecked with tomatoes and chilies, boasting undertones of citrus and heat in the mix. We opted for the pleasantly charred steak in our quesadilla. The hefty tortilla, folded like a half moon, was stuffed with the meat and cheese. It could easily serve as an entree with the accompanying green-lettuce salad topped with radish and tomato slices.

Entrees Sinaloa has always been known for its tacos and, now, there are 11 choices, including beef tongue and beans and cheese. The tilapia taco ($5.05) showcased a beautifully browned fillet with a salsa garnish. The steak taco ($2.99) was a hearty mouthful, sprinkled with chopped onion and parsley. The chicken chipotle ($11.95), one of the "house specialties," was a plateful of shredded chicken commingled with a pleasantly fiery chipotle sauce. The big plates also include beans and rice.

Drinks The modest bar has all the makings for margaritas and micheladas (around $6). It also has a small selection of red and white wines ($5.50) and beers on tap and by the bottle, including Modelo, for $4.50 to $5.

Service On a recent weeknight, there was one person in the front of the house, serving as bartender and waiter. He did a great job of attending to both duties, even when several people were seeking his attention at the same time.

Dessert We have a weakness for churros ($5.95), and these warm, deep-fried pastries, similar to crullers, were treasured treats with their dusting of cinnamon and sugar. A scoop of vanilla ice cream and a dollop of whipped cream were bonuses. The miniature flan ($3) was also a welcome indulgence. The traditional Spanish custard, more dense than usual, was glazed with a golden caramel sauce.

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Tortilleria Sinaloa

Backstory: The original tacqueria opened in an Eastern Avenue storefront in 2002 and quickly drew praise for its fresh tortillas and Mexican fare. While the old place remains entrenched in Fells Point, a new, bigger version opened in the Harbor East area on Nov. 1.

Parking: Restaurant lot, street parking, pay garage across Central Avenue

Signature dish: Tacos, especially chicken, steak and al pastor (pork)

TVs: Two

Where: 415 S. Central Ave., Harbor East

Contact: 410-624-5947; tortilleria-sinaloa.com or search "Tortilleria Sinaloa" on Facebook

Open: 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday-Saturday

Credit Cards: All major

Reservations: Accepted

Bottom line: The new location offers well-executed Mexican comfort food in a modern-day bistro space with a bar.

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