A huitlacoche quesadilla is one of the specialties at Ade’s Mexican Deli in Everett. The tortillas are made in-house and filled with lettuce, cheese, crema and huitlacoche, a type of fungus that grows on maize and is considered a delicacy in Mexico. (Ben Watanabe / The Herald)

A huitlacoche quesadilla is one of the specialties at Ade’s Mexican Deli in Everett. The tortillas are made in-house and filled with lettuce, cheese, crema and huitlacoche, a type of fungus that grows on maize and is considered a delicacy in Mexico. (Ben Watanabe / The Herald)

Everett hole-in-the-wall hides a gem of Oaxaca deli flavors

Go for Mexican tacos, tortas and enchiladas, stay for the corn smut

Unless you know it by its former location and reputation, word of mouth, or happenstance, you may have missed a hidden gem of Mexican cuisine in Everett.

But Ade’s Mexican Deli should be on your list to visit soon. A recent trip yielded hit after hit after hit on standard fare (tacos, quesadilla, enchilada) with unique flair (hot momma sauce, crema and red sauce worth licking the plate for, and a corn fungus).

Ade’s Mexican Deli is tucked inside a small specialty market off Evergreen Way, across the road from Epic Ford and Evergreen Lanes, near Party@Display & Costume and the state Department of Licensing office. I would have cruised by without so much as a glance, much like plenty of eateries crammed along Evergreen Way/Rucker Avenue/Highway 99. There’s no towering roadside sign, no digital readerboard flickering lights.

Our only clue, aside from the address and suggestion to visit by Everett artist Cheri O’Brien, was a small sandwich board outside the market. Walking through the doors, past the register and a freezer filled with chilled delights, we strolled left toward the produce and found the vibrant orange, yellow and red-painted Ade’s.

O’Brien pitched it as “cheap, great Oaxaca food.” I’m certainly not a cuisine or cultural expert, but I am a fan of getting bang-for-the-buck food in terms of taste and portion. Pronounced like “whoa-hock-ah,” it is a state in south Mexico, so the culinary area was familiar enough that my usually timid tastebuds were willing to try a few plates.

Owned by husband and wife Tomás and Adelina Romano, the spot is a family business. Their former location near the south Everett intersection of Everett Mall Way and Evergreen Way was sold after being there more than two years. Out of business for nine months, they found this location and were ready to start over, with some reservation if their former customers would keep coming so far north. They do.

“All our customers who were visiting there, visit us here,” Tomás Romano said.

Thankfully, I took along my go-to dining buddy from Seattle, Trevor Lane. His palate seems to rotate around the world the way Edmonds-based travel guru Rick Steves tours Europe: methodically and well-researched. Some years back, Trevor was on a Mexican and Central American foods and flavors kick. More importantly, he made time on a Thursday evening to swing by.

We popped in a little after 6 p.m. last week and thankfully, at first, had the host to ourselves. He explained what some of the popular dishes are and what Ade’s did to make them special. But we were curious what he recommended to a couple of first-timers.

His suggestions covered almost any inclination: the Cubano torta, basically a meat-lovers sandwich; the chilaquiles, a breakfast-for-dinner plate of in-house quartered and lightly fried tortillas with fried steak and eggs; huitlacoche, commonly called the unappetizing “corn smut,” is the name for a fungus considered a delicacy that grows on maize (corn); and the fish and shrimp (camarones) tacos were must-haves.

“I appreciated the gentleman’s guidance through our meal,” Trevor said. “He made recommendations, explained the ingredients, and provided a history of the cuisine and the restaurant itself.”

What makes Oaxaca cuisine distinct, our helpful Ade’s guide said, is the use of spices and sauces to take a staple and create several dishes out of it. As he explained, the head cook and owner (also his mother) could make eggs dozens of ways, each one incredible.

We yielded to some, but not all, of his recommendations. Ordering a couple common dishes is a good frame of reference for comparison, and trying something new is one of the great joys of dining out at different restaurants. Lured by his pitch, we got one fish taco, one shrimp taco, the huitlacoche quesadilla (a vegetarian option) and chicken enchiladas. The total came to about $30.

After all, it was just two 30-year-old guys. How much could we put away? Spoiler alert: all of it. Not out of gluttony, but because the food was so incredible it beckoned to be eaten. Just another delicious, crunchy bite of the huitlacoche quesadilla. One more nibble of that shrimp taco. A little forkful of the chicken enchilada with red rice.

“I liked the sauces — they tasted homemade and had a refined spice-to-flavor ratio,” Trevor said. “I was inspired to make my own this week.”

The fungus quesadilla was the hit of the night. I reveled in the lightly fried and crunchy tortilla that mingled with the crisp chopped lettuce, smooth crema and onions and perfectly executed medley of peppers. Cook them too long and they go limp, not long enough and they retain too much crunch. That struck a chord with Trevor, too.

“I liked the variety of peppers in the tacos, they were cooked perfectly,” he said. “The ‘funky’ corn was a real treat — the adventure of it took me far from Evergreen Way.”

Honestly, spicy food and even mild food but with lots of spices usually isn’t my go-to bite. I didn’t even dare sample the auburn red/brown hot momma sauce. But the jalapeno-mayo spread was a perfect punch atop the fish and shrimp tacos, and the mild green sauce mixed well with the enchiladas’ red sauce and crema. When they have time, mole is available on weekends, but the best way to find out if it’s available is to check their Facebook page, managed by their son.

When next I have a hankering for Mexican, I’m taking the trip to Ade’s Mexican Deli, and hoping that I can still get a table and luxuriate in the hidden gem of bursting flavor.

Ade’s Mexican Deli

Style: Mexican Oaxaca

Location: 5317 Evergreen Way, Everett

Hours: 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. every day

Alcohol: bottled Mexican beers

Contact: 425-353-1560

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