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Xilakil: Mexican fare with street food flair

It would be easy to compare a new Medford Mexican eatery in concept with Chipotle.

A counter-service establishment, Xilakil Latin Fusion also has a make-it-your-way assembly line. The menu features tacos, a burrito, salad and rice-and-bean bowl. But Xilakil takes the freshly prepared concept a step further with its house-made corn tortillas, cranked out twice daily from a machine prominently featured behind a glass wall in the strip-mall space’s light, bright interior.

We planned an early dinner at Xilakil a few days after its doors opened at 1361 Center Drive. That’s near the RRRink, next to Sherwin-Williams in the still-developing South Gateway area. Parking our two sons in an inviting corner booth, my husband, Will, and I got in line behind two other parties.

Whereas Chipotle appeals to the health-conscious, Xilakil angles more toward Los Angeles street food. In addition to the aforementioned dishes, Xilakil offers a burrito stuffed with french fries, french fries topped with the grilled skirt steak known as carne asada ($7.50) and chilaquiles ($6.99), arguably a more authentic Mexican dish than nachos.

The sauce-smothered chips are interspersed at Xilakil with beans, cheese, onion and cilantro. An extra $2 buys a choice of meat, either grilled beef or chicken, shredded chicken or vegan chorizo. I requested my chilaquiles with green sauce and the spiced, crumbled tofu that mimics chorizo sausage.

Will was leaning toward Xilakil’s iteration of the rice-and-bean bowl before he saw our sons’ flautas ahogadas ($7.99) plated with their house-made tomato sauce on the side. Rolled around shredded chicken and fried, the corn tortillas are topped with cheddar cheese.

Also stuffed with shredded chicken, the flautas classicas ($7.99) are crowned with enough chopped lettuce and pico de gallo to appeal to my husband’s fondness for salads. The creamy “jalapeno fire” dressing is one among four choices, including chipotle ranch, blood orange and avocado-poblano.

A fully fledged Xilakil salad ($6.99) boasts grilled corn, mixed beans and jicama. Adding meat costs $2 extra. Ditto for the quesadilla ($5.99). The rice-and-bean bowl, however, comes with a choice of meat but a $2 surcharge for guacamole. Individual tacos can be had for a mere $2.50. Served with chips, salsa and guacamole, the California burrito seems the best value for $8.99.

Freshly made salsas are another Xilakil calling card. I was eager to try them all but a little deterred by the lack of condiment-size cups available at the self-serve counter. While I appreciate the effort to reduce waste, it seems like Xilakil could scale back on the size of some of its plates and to-go containers to justify small ones for dipping. Ordering the chilaquiles, packed into a Chinese food-style takeout box, leaves virtually no room for keeping spicy salsas on the side.

Yet the dish was so well-seasoned that I hardly needed additional heat. I still tried a couple of salsas and found the medium so intense that I didn’t dare drizzle the hottest one on my chips. My husband praised his flautas’ dressing, and our boys, usually skeptical of unfamiliar sauces, gamely dipped into their flautas’ mild accompaniment.

Our enjoyment would have been heightened by tortillas and chips that hadn’t lingered so long in the warming oven. I’ll look forward to Xilakil building up enough business to warrant replenishing the chip bin straight from the fryer before customers’ eyes. Until that point, I’d be inclined to forgo the deep-fried specialties in favor of tacos or a rice-and-bean bowl.

But I’d stop into Xilakil simply for a snack or dessert. The sweet corn tamale ($3.50), served piping hot atop its corn-husk wrapper, sports flourishes of dolce de leche (similar to caramel) and sweetened-condensed milk over the delicate masa. Accented with chocolate syrup, the ice cream-churro bowl ($4) wasn’t as sweet as the tamale but conveyed sub-par churros, which were dense and chewy, rather than crunchy on the outside and creamy on the inside.

Another crunchy-creamy take on a Mexican street snack that I’m hankering to try is Xilakil’s hot Cheeto corn ($4.50). Slather a corncob with a garlicky paste of mayonnaise and sour cream, then coat it in crushed Flamin’ Hot Cheetos for one of Southern California’s favorite guilty pleasures. I’d pair that with a “dirty horchata,” a coffee-spiked version of the sweet, milky drink ($4) to cool the burn.

Hoping to do a brisk business in to-go orders, Xilakil also sells fresh tortillas by the pound for $2.19. We vowed to come back when the tortilla machine is running, usually around 2 or 3 p.m., we were told, after a morning run kicks business off for the day.

Hours are 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Saturday. Call 541-500-8061. Spending $100 earns customers who join Xilakil’s rewards program a free meal.

Flautas classicas feature shredded lettuce and pico de gallo atop chicken-stuffed, deep-fried, house-made corn tortillas at Xilakil Latin Fusion in Medford. Photo by Sarah Lemon