Flaxseeds are not a standard garnish for chilaquiles, but they are symptomatic of the contemporary strain of nutrient-conscious eating Atla displays. It has less in common with the sturdy cooking of traditional Mexican restaurants than with the modified health-food aesthetic of places like Dimes that cater to the yoga-mat crowd.
Besides a regular cafe con leche Atla serves two versions with no dairy; one is made with cashew milk (a little odd) and another with coconut milk (wonderful). In any form, the cafe con leche is made with strong espresso, sweet enough to get along without sugar.
Chia bowls usually bore me, despite their exemplary levels of omega-3 fatty acids, but the one at Atla held my attention. It’s stirred with sweet Mexican cinnamon, like a semisolid horchata, and topped with candied ginger, pumpkin seeds and nuts.
A number of dishes are flat-out salads, like the fine if not soul-stirring quinoa with cucumbers and pico de gallo. Others are salad-adjacent. Those $14 radishes, cool, crisp and skinny, surround a smooth avocado dip. The chunky guacamole is pounded with nearly enough tarragon, mint and basil to qualify as an herb salad. When it arrives it is nearly invisible under a single chile-dusted corn chip the color of a wet bluestone sidewalk, and the size of a flip-flop.
A smaller, rounder blue masa chip, spread with farmer cheese and capers, is the foundation of the arctic char tostada. As an attempt to introduce Russ & Daughters to Mexico it is all right, but it doesn’t go beyond that. The ceviche verde, on the other hand, is more dynamic than you expect, thanks to the fresh ginger in its tart green sauce, among other tricks.
Depending on your metabolism, all this will leave you feeling either refreshed and ready to meet the day or slightly hungry. To make a lunch of the chilaquiles I needed to fortify the plate with poached chicken, bringing a $14 dish to $19.
There are more substantial things to eat. Gray sole fried in a crunchy panko crust that tastes of garlic and butter is a complete meal. It comes with a small cucumber salad, like a Viennese schnitzel, although in Vienna they probably wouldn’t bathe the cucumbers in herb juice and add green chiles and cilantro. Nor would they sell you a $3 plate of warm…