NE of the Border (Aurelio's Cocina Latina)

Aurelio's Cocina Latina, 44 Leigh Avenue, Princeton, NJ
M-Th 11AM - 3 PM; 5 PM - 9 PM; F-Sa 7 AM - 10 PM; Su 7 AM - 9 PM
(609) 924-3540   Website    Google Maps

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Aurelio’s serves the best Latino cuisine in Princeton. That said, there are something like half a dozen restaurants in Trenton that are as good or better, and at least 2 in Hamilton. Still, operating an inexpensive restaurant with good food in Princeton is no small feat, and if you like Aurelio’s, you owe it to yourself to start exploring Trenton restaurants as well.

interiorAurelio’s is a newly renovated space on Leigh Avenue, in the heart of Princeton’s Latino enclave, which is dominated by Oaxacan immigrants. It’s certainly nicer than most Trenton spaces, which typically haven’t received a full renovation in 30+ years. Oaxaca (pronounced Wuh-hock-uh) is a state in southeastern Mexico, plunked half way between Mexico City and Guatemala. Aurelio’s boasts two chefs: the founder is Oaxacan, who’s been joined recently by a Guatemalan. The current menu is dominated by Mexican dishes, though my waitress told me that they’ll be adding a number of Guatemalan specials soon. The only Guatemalan influence I experienced was the hand made tortillas, which were thicker than typical Mexican ones (though not as thick as most Guatemalan).

chipsWhen you sit down at Aurelio’s, your waitress brings you two small bowls of salsa and a basket of home made tortilla chips. The salsas are both quite spicy, home made, and delicious.

On my initial visit, I ordered the Carne Enchilada, which is a classic Mexican preparation of marinated, spiced pork. The menu mistakenly identifies it as beef, but my waitress volunteered that it would be pork when she took my order – a nice touch (I was served by two waitresses, both of whom spoke fluent English).

A nicely prepared platter arrived a few minutes later (header image). The black beans were superb, some of the best I’ve had at any Greater Trenton restaurant. The waitress confirmed that they were strictly vegetarian (they were flavorful enough to think they might have been made with chicken stock, but they aren’t), and as a result (along with several vegetarian menu items), we’re rated Auerelio’s as Vegetarian Friendly. In addition to rice and beans, vegetarians can order cheese or cabbage pupusas, quesadillas, vegetable enchiladas, and several egg dishes. Vegans can probably scratch out a meal, but the menu doesn’t cater to them particularly.

The carne enchilada was just OK: the marinade was tasty, but the meat was sliced thin,  slightly dry and tougher than it should have been. At $10 (November 2015), the platter is a buck or two more than you might pay in Trenton, but a steal for Princeton. Still, by squeezing on some fresh lime juice, and assembling my own tacos using the superb, homemade beans, tortillas, and salsas, I managed a thoroughly enjoyable meal.

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Latino | Restaurants

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