I don’t usually pay a lot of attention to online reviews of restaurants, but when you consistently see people giving a place the “best Mexican food in Louisville” label — one guy on Google even called it the best in commonwealth of Kentucky — it’s hard not to be curious.
So it was that I finally checked out Victoria Mexican Restaurant in the tiny Klondike neighborhood (sandwiched between Jeffersontown and Buechel), and found the rumors to be pretty accurate. I don’t deal in superlatives, but the lunch experience I had was on point.
The space itself is non-descript, just a pale blue building with a small sign out front telling passersby what it is. Inside, it’s divided between a small bar with a couple of booths and a small dining area with a few booths and tables. Random Mexican décor adorns red and white walls and door frames.
But the menu is a thing of beauty, divided up into expected sections like “Tacos,” “Tortas,” “Seafood” and “Pork,” with a couple that truly tantalize: “Botana” (a Mexican word for “aperitif”) and “Special Food.”
There’s a splendid array of seafood options, fajitas, soups like pozole and menudo, and a pretty tempting breakfast menu as well.
Needless to say, I had a tough time choosing, so I ordered ceviche from my friendly server and told her I needed to further pore over the options. I had debated getting a dish called ceviche peruana, a Peruvian version of ceviche that often includes ingredients like potatoes and corn.
When she returned, I ordered a single lengua taco, and she looked at me as if to say, “Is that all?” I told her I still needed more time, and she smiled a smile of bemusement before she walked away.
When the ceviche arrived, I dug in with the chips she had brought me shortly after I sat down, and it was some of the best I’ve had, I must admit — truly the real deal, with the classic ingredients of cut shrimp, fresh-chopped tomatoes, thin slices of onion, cilantro and sliced avocado, all steeped in lime juice until the tender flesh of the shrimp “cooked.” It was bright and delicious, not to mention a bigger serving that I expected for $6.99.
The taco came soon after, and at that point I asked the server for a Victoria fish taco (per the menu) and a chorizo sope. At this point, she looked at me and said, “Are you sure? That’s a lot.” I told her I was sure and braced myself for the onslaught.
The taco itself was classic street-style, double corn tortillas with cilantro, chopped onions and a lime slice, but the beef tongue, cut into cubes, was fried crispy.
It was like lengua carnitas — and I will say that the flavor of charred tongue is an interesting treat, even if the treatment took it a bit into dry area. I added some of the brown pepper sauce she brought with it (there was also a fiery verde) and gobbled it up.
Soon, the rest of my order arrived, and I was already starting to slow down.
She was right, but I kept going, next landing on the house fish taco, which was a generous piece of lightly battered and fried fish, topped with cilantro and onions and sitting on a mild, creamy aioli.
It was piping hot, and it was delicious. I figured it would be cod or some other mild, white fish, but this fish was a bit grayer and had a richer flavor that reminded me a bit of catfish.
The sope was built on a dense but soft and thick tortilla that was almost cake-like in texture. Atop a generous helping of spicy chorizo, fried until the edges were crispy, was lettuce, tomatoes, crema, cotija and a couple of slices of avocado.
I decided to eat it with a fork, and it still was messy. But the cool, mild toppings nicely countered the spicy chorizo for yet another tasty treat in my a la carte lunch.
But, finally, I could eat no more. I got halfway through the sope before going back to finish up the last of the shrimp in the ceviche. I then asked for a small box and a check, and the server gave me a quick, knowing smile for my trouble. Yes, I was stuffed, but it was worth every bite.
All that said, I’m not going to say Victoria is the best Mexican restaurant in town — but I’m also not going to argue too hard if you decide to.
Victoria Mexican Restaurant, located at 2918 Hikes Lane, is open seven days a week, 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.