Christina Mitropulous ’13 and Amanda Keyko ’14
Trinity students are typically aware of three mainstream Mexican restaurants in the Hartford area; Agave, Chipotle and El Sarape. Little do they know, Monte Alban is a hidden gem on Farmington Avenue, just a five-minute drive from our campus. The exterior is a cute bright yellow pueblo style building decorated with geometric shapes and blue brick detail. When you walk through the doors the same authentic décor continues, and the transportation to an authentic Mexican restaurant is completed. With only nine booths and three tables down the center aisle, the small space lends to a charming and welcoming atmosphere.
We arrived at Monte Alban on a Thursday night. After a long week of classes, we ordered two margaritas before even opening the menu. Unlike at most commercialized places, we didn’t have any flavor choices and a giant bright blue drink was not set down in front of us. Instead, we were presented with two delicious and refreshing classic lime margaritas. It was the perfect beginning to our meal. After finally putting down our drinks, we opened the menu. There was surprisingly an extensive selection on the menu, with each dish sounding more enticing than the next. We decided to start with the chicken tamales to accompany our chips and salsa. Amanda ordered the enchilada grande and Christina ordered the shrimp burrito. After placing our orders we took a closer look at the restaurant dynamic. It was evident to us that this was a family owned establishment. The wife was in charge of the front, taking our order, seating us and clearing our plates.
While the husband cooked the food and would regularly come out from the kitchen to observe his diners. Both were unbelievably friendly and attentive to us. While most of the booths were filled with diners, Monte Alban was by no means overly crowded. The room was filled with laughter and warmth. While waiting for our tamales, we decided to try the chips and salsa. Unfortunately we were disappointed with the slightly stale chips and bland salsa. We began to fear what the rest of our meal would taste like. However, we were pleasantly surprised when our steaming appetizers arrived. The chicken tamales were served on bright blue and green plates with some lettuce and tomatoes on the side. We excitedly opened the cornhusks to find perfectly cooked shredded chicken in a spicy red sauce cooked into delicious cornmeal dough. As we sat waiting for our next course to arrive, we were left wanting more. Because the service was great, we definitely had enough time to digest between courses without feeling rushed. Next came our generously proportioned entrees. Both plates simple, with no added toppings or sides.
We excitedly dug in. Amanda’s enchilada was huge, nearly nine inches long covered in a green spicy sauce with melted cheese on top. The inside was stuffed to the brim with chicken rice and vegetables. The tortilla it was wrapped in was fresh and delicious. It was hard not to devour the entire plate, but if my stomach had the room I would have. Christina’s shrimp burrito was another great choice. It too was filled with rice and vegetables. The shrimp tasted like it had been cooked in a chipotle rub and was definitely much spicier than the enchilada. Warning: this is not the dish for non-spice lovers. When we had finally finished our mountainous plates we knew we could not leave without trying a desert. There were few choices, but all classic Mexican favorites. We ultimately decided to split the flan, which was served immediately to us. It was easily one of the best flan’s either one of us had ever had. Because, it was small, it was devoured instantly between the two of us. Overall, we would recommend this restaurant to Trinity students. The atmosphere was warm, simple and inviting, while the prices were fairly inexpensive, with options for everyone. It is a great family run restaurant with delicious authentic Mexican food. So next time you are craving a good enchilada or burrito think twice before rushing off to El Sarape and give Monte Alban a dining chance instead!