Expansive Zocálo’s Mexican menu has potential in Pioneer Square

At home in a vast, beautiful space in the new Weyerhaeuser Building, Zocálo offers tasty sage-and-pineapple margaritas and house-made green chorizo, plus a mole cake for dessert. Other dishes, though, are inconsistent.

On the way to Pioneer Square for lunch one day, people were lined up outside Il Corvo on James Street, at Sprout in the Smith Tower and at longtime lunch stalwart Tat’s Deli. No line spilled into Occidental Park at my destination, though there was a lively crowd inside 3-month-old Zocálo. It may be only a matter of time for this handsome 200-seater to burst at the seams, too, given the area’s burgeoning growth and the boundless popularity of Mexican food, but Zocálo will need to play a more consistent game to score points in this neighborhood.

There’s no shortage of south-of-the-border sustenance: Casco Antiguo and Copal are nearby, and there’s often a taco truck in the park. Zocálo’s evolving menu aspires to “modern Mexican,” but I’d characterize it as Mex-American. The food is prettily plated and frequently good, but not always carefully executed.

Executive chef Jeffrey Hunter recently added tacos to the roster, “to get those unsure in the door.” Along with chips, salsa and guacamole (all very good here), people do expect tacos, it seems, wherever margaritas are served — and, it’s worth noting, Zocálo makes a terrific sage-and-pineapple version rimmed with chile salt. But the tacos I had were filled with stringy, greasy, tough brisket and not much else, making me glad I’d also ordered a pickle plate (an array of pineapple, jalapeño, onion, cauliflower and hard-cooked egg), as well as a side of guacamole amped with onion and jalapeño.

Zocálo ★★  

Mexican

224 Occidental Ave. S., Seattle

206-623-0550

Zocáloseattle.com

Reservations: accepted

Hours: 11:30 a.m.-10 p.m. Sunday-Wednesday, 11:30 a.m.-11 p.m. Thursday, 11:30 a.m.-midnight Friday and Saturday; happy hour 4-6:30 p.m. daily

Prices: $$ (starters $5-$14; entrees $10-$22)

Drinks: full bar; large selection of tequila and mezcal; classic and original cocktails; local and Mexican beers on tap; limited wine list

Service: consistently perky, but professionalism varies

Parking: on street or nearby lots

Sound: very loud when full

Credit cards: all major

Access: no obstacles

Much better than those brisket tacos were gorditas and huaraches, both available with meat or vegetables. Gorditas are only on the…

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