New York City has no shortage of Mexican restaurants and Mexican-inspired cuisine. But a lot of it isn’t the kind of food that’s found in that country or in the households of its people living here in the States. It’s more Northern Mexican or Tex-Mex inspired food that’s covered in heavy cheeses, sauces, and a lot of meat. But then there’s Citrico, a Brooklyn restaurant focuses on dishes from Central and Southern Mexican states of Veracruz, Guerrero, Puebla, Oaxaca, Chiapas and Tlaxcala.
The name means citrus in Spanish, and the small Mexican restaurant is located just on the border of Prospect Heights and Crown Heights. And like the restaurant’s name suggests, many of the dishes there lean on lemony or tart flavors. The owners, Noor Shikari and Luis Dávila Cariño, are a married couple who were inspired by the flavors of Luis’s childhood to bring food that is filling, pleasing to look at and full of homey truth.
There are no burritos or nachos on the menu, which confused some new customers at first when Citrico first opened its doors.
“People would come in and ask for stuff like burritos, and we’d have to tell them that we didn’t sell that,” said Shikari. “Sometimes they’d leave, but then some people started trying our food.”
That’s not to say that Citrico hasn’t taken some creative liberty when constructing dishes that as many people as possible would like. If someone doesn’t eat meat or dairy, Citrico can change some of their dishes to become vegetarian and even vegan. They get dairy-free cheeses from nearby Riverdel Vegan Cheese and try to reconstruct the dishes around that.
“You get to enjoy the full dish and have the same experience, even if you don’t want meat,” said Shikari.
The owners really wanted to show that Mexican cuisine can be very versatile, and that people who eat little to no meat can enjoy it as well.
“A lot of couples would come in and one couldn’t eat a lot since they were vegan or vegetarian, but now both can try something,” said Dávila Cariño in Spanish. “It isn’t so complicated; our sauces don’t have any animal products—it’s just about switching a few things over.
The huauzontles en salsa roja are a prime example. A huauzontle is a type of green that’s related to quinoa. The dish comes in a big bunch, with a thick stem down the middle—not unlike kale—and it’s filled with cheese. Shikari describes it like eating fish; customers should work their way to the middle or cut out the stem, which is somewhat like a “spine.”
Dávila Cariño also recommends the enchiladas de mole. He says they’re good with or without meat and that their mole is sweet and spicy. It’s made out of ground nuts and chocolate, and is a real treat for anyone who doesn’t want to go too spicy.
Their dessert menu is also citrusy and inspired by Mexico’s Carlota de limon, an icebox cake made with layers of lemon cream and cookies. Citrico’s comes with a scoop of ice cream and it’s made out of the iconic galletas Maria. Like many of the dishes, the dessert is also somewhat of a palate cleanser, owing to its fresh brightness.
Their drink menu is also citrus-inspired and is known for using smooth mezcals and tequilas. One of their drinks, the “A la Playa”—which means, “to the beach”—is their remix of a Sex on the Beach with mezcal. For the rest of the summer, customers can try their weekend happy hour that runs from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays.
Citrico is making dinner entrees available for half off the regular menu price from 4 to 7 p.m. every weeknight throughout the summer. They’re also offering a Taco Tuesday special of 3 tacos for $10 or 3 seafood tacos for $12, and on Mondays diners enjoy $1 margaritas with every dinner entrée and $2 off regular margaritas, including on popular flavors like passion fruit, strawberry and coconut.