Saturday, September 24, 2011

The Little Pambazos of Ben Franklin

Everybody's working at Los Pambacitos.

Right before we went to Hamburguesas Montaner, Ana asked me if I had tried pambazos. Of course, I've tried pambazos - that ubiquitous Mexico City bolillo sandwich that's sauteed in salsa rojo. Actually, I've never had it here, only at the fabled Fiesta Mexicana in Baltimore, but it's pretty authentic.

But, as she noted, I hadn't had these pambazos.

We were in the neighborhood to try the bandillos and I was a bit weary of having a big pambazo after eating at Hamburguesas Montaner, thinking that we were going to try a different twist on the typical pambazo. Maybe we can get one to go and that we can share.

Ana knew better.

The mother and her son.

Los Pambacitos de Ben Franklin is on a quiet residential street in Colonia Escandon. At night, it's like an oasis on the quiet and dark Calle Progreso. Why it's called Benjamin Franklin I have no idea. At first, I thought it might be on Calle Benjamin Franklin, but no so I have no idea why, but then again, it really doesn't matter.

Forget what you know about pambazos, this place is something different. Instead of the traditional bolillo, they have racks behind the counter of flattened out dough ovals that are dropped into a fryer once you place your order. Suddenly, you realize that this really is going to be different.

Frijoles and Carne Deshabrada Pambacitos.

The dough comes out light and fluffy on the inside and slightly crispy on the outside. It's like fried dough heaven and you have arrived. And it's fried by the matronly mother (or maybe grandmother) who carefully fries the dough, slices it open and fills it with your choice of filling. She's deliberate and methodical in her work and you quickly realize (so long as you're paying attention) that she's a master of her craft and you're about to experience it first-hand.

For ten pesos, you can have a pambacito with your choice of filling: carne deshebrada, salpicon, papa con chorizo, frijoles, chicharron, chile cuaresmeno, jamon and mole. Combinations can be made for a peso more. And they have pozole and atole available as well. I would have liked to induge but that would have been lunacy.

I had the simple carne deshebrada or shredded beef. Ana had the frijoles. Both were just perfect. Little bites of meat (or beans) properly seasoned with the alternating crispy and soft texture of the bread. Fantastic.

But while it was a good experience, I have to recommend that one goes there on an empty stomach and prepares oneself for the complete tour. A menu such as this, with small pambazos, deserves further and deeper exploration. One of each should suffice, along with a bowl of pozole and a side of the delicious-looking strawberry atole (though I suspect the flavor of atole changes regularly).

I will return.

Los Pambacitos de Benjamin Franklin
Calle Progreso
Near the corner of Calle Francisco Murgia
Colonia Escandon
Mexico DF

Hamburguesas Montaner

Bienvenidos a Hamburguesas Montaner.

"Have you ever tried bandillos?", asked Ana.

Bandillos. Something that only proper bandits ate? Sounded interesting. But she wanted a definitive answer but I had no idea what bandillos were and she had taken me to try so many different things that maybe I had already tried them and didn't realize it. Afterall, I could be a proper Bandito...

In Colonia Escandon, at the southeast corner of Jose Marti and Patriotismo, is a small cluster of food stands. There you will find Hamburguesas Montaner and the famous bandillo.

Cheese and sausage bandillos.

I had been in the city for a couple of days and was starting to feel a certain withdrawal from french fries. As much as I may love tacos, tacos al pastor and the assortment of wonderful Mexican fare, I can't help but to think how much powerful that pastor experience would be with a side of salted papas fritas.

Knowing me all too well, she asked me if I wanted to have some fries and then we were off to Montaner.

Getting inside the sausage.

Most of the food stalls in Mexico City are small, mom and pop affairs. There's pop grilling the burgers, mom frying everything else and maybe their son taking money. And it all happens in what must be an eight foot long by four foot deep metal stand.

The best thing about Mexico City is that it's populated by places like Montaner, selling just about everything Mexican you could ever dream of eating. And they're everywhere, which means that there are plenty of places that are just so-so and some that are stellar. They key is driving around a seeing which stands have the longest lines.

Papas Fritas piled high with cheese, mayo, ketchup and Valentina. Darn good.

As received our order of fries and bandillos, I realized that I had never had these before in Mexico City and what was once unknown and mysterious, was suddenly familiar and comforting. Think "corn dogs" and you've pretty much got what a bandillo is all about. However, in this case, the batter isn't thick, it's thin and light, and makes for a nice treat when slathered with mayo, ketchup, mustard and a side of pureed jalapeno peppers.

Ana's favorite is the cheese version and I have to agree that I think it's better. Better mouthfeel and a nice chewiness that goes well with the batter.

Montaner's Hawaiian Hamburger.

But since this is "Hamburguesas Montaner", I had to try a sample of their hamburger. Ana ordered the Hawaiian which is their burger with a slice ring of pineapple, lightly griddled. I'm guessing it's canned pineapple since most people don't cut rings that perfect by hand!

The burger was pretty decent. Simple, basic fare. Piled high with toppings and condiments, it's a messy burger but quite satisfying.

Hamburguesas Montaner
Patriotismo 85
Colonia Escandon
Mexico DF