According to Wikipedia.com, an alebrije is a piece of Mexican folk art, a brightly-colored sculpture of a fantastical creature.
It’s also a really cool name for a restaurant.
Though the name is catchy, it’s the food and the atmosphere that hooks people on a restaurant. The owners of Alebrije must be doing something right to have three locations in Reading: 5th Street Highway, Perkiomen Avenue and State Hill Road.
Alebrije’s Perkiomen Avenue location is set in a repurposed Bojangles. The old drive-through window still juts out awkwardly from the side of the building. Inside, guests are greeted by a parade of cardboard cutouts, including The Most Interesting Man in the World who invites you to “stay thirsty, my friend.”
A large mural is painted across the back wall of the dining room. The clichéd southwestern scene features a desert complete with cacti. A door to nowhere betrays the fact that a wall has been removed.
The old order counter is now the bar where the wait staff were tending to a man who had his coat draped over one stool and his briefcase on another. All told he took up three of the four bar stools, and the fourth was blocked by the collection of empty margarita glasses.
We got a seat at one of the high top tables that were shoe-horned into the bar area. A forged-iron cowboy stick figure held up a dessert card and guarded the three bottles of hot sauce (two red, one green).
Like all good Mexican restaurants, the meal starts with unlimited chips and salsa, and for my wife, a frozen banana margarita.
There was definitely no skimping when it came to her drink. It was big, and as her eventual hangover proved, not watered down.
When it comes to main courses, my wife and I each have our Mexican favorites. For her, it’s ranchero sauce, a traditional mild red sauce.
For me, nothing beats a good mole sauce. Though there are thousands of variations on this chili pepper-based sauce, my favorites are the ones that have that dark brown color that comes with the addition of chocolate.
When my enchiladas poblanas came out, they looked like they were covered in the darkest chocolate. The sauce was amazing, the mix of heat and sweet balanced perfectly with the chicken. Admittedly I have not made it to every Mexican restaurant in Berks County, but of the ones I have, this is the best sauce of any kind that I have found.
While my enchiladas were excellent, I was very disappointed to see the light brown puddle next to them on my plate. I like refried beans—they’re great as a side or rolled up as part of a burrito—but they should at least look like beans. Though the beans tasted fine, they were runny and just did not look appealing.
Overall though, Alebrije was impressive. The building may have been a little cramped, but it’s pretty impressive what they’ve done to turn it from fast food into a real restaurant. The prices are impressive, too. Even with the margarita, our bill was less than $30. That’s hard to do without a drink at most restaurants.
I am sad to report though, I saw no mythical creatures during my visit.
Food: Very Good
Service: Very Good
Price: Very Reasonable
Alebrije Mexican Restaurant
3805 Perkiomen Ave
Reading, PA 19606