For years I've relished a trip to Tortilleria Sinaloa on Eastern Avenue. I go for the tacos, sure, but I'm also drawn to the tortilleria's distinct environment—the inevitable snugness created by more bodies than dining space, the neat arrangement of condiments on the bar, the view out the window steamed up with condensation on cold days, even the grind of the tortilla machine—which is like no other in Baltimore. It's also pretty impossible to leave without a bag of house-made chips that will be devoured in hours.
So the good news is that there are now two Tortilleria Sinaloas. The storefront original remains on Eastern Avenue, but less than a half a mile away, a new location gives you (and the kitchen) a chance to stretch out at your own table and even have a beer—from the restaurant's bar—with your taco or tamale or mole.
The bad news is that folks don't seem to know about the new location yet. Consider this your heads up.
The second Tortilleria Sinaloa (415 S. Central Ave.,  624-5947, tortilleria-sinaloa.com) calls home the former By Degrees Cafe space next to Groove, in the Fallsway Spring Company. It's an airy, open dining room that will feel warmer when it is hosting more diners. Mexican hats and serapes decorate the brick and white walls; a mezzanine level offers half a dozen or so tables a few steps above the ground floor. There are two televisions, one above the full bar.
Some items on the menu look familiar: breakfast (chilaquiles, eggs in various incarnations), beef tripe soup or a bowl of hearty broth and pork ribs that are so welcome in the colder months, and many varieties of tacos. But a larger kitchen and expanded dining room allow for more options. You can still get tacos filled with barbacoa or lengua, but fish and shrimp tacos are also available. Guacamole is available as a generously portioned appetizer ($7.95) (and say yes when your server asks if you would like it mixed with pico de gallo). Chunky, rustic, and just what it should be, it's a fine complement for the chips, which, like the tortillas, are made at the Eastern Avenue location.
But with a new location (and larger kitchen) comes the chance to branch out into a limited selection of entrees. These self-designated "house specialties," all served with rice and creamy, well-seasoned beans, include tortas and fajitas, chicken chipotle, and a kicking version of green enchiladas ($11.95) topped with thin rings of raw onion and ripe sliced avocado. The three steak enchiladas pack a clean, blistering punch. I loved them, but they made me cry a little (stronger palates will have no trouble).
After watching a neighboring table being served burritos that barely fit on their plate, I was a little disappointed we hadn't ordered a burrito, too. But once our cochinita pibil ($11.95) arrived, there were no regrets. My fork kept returning again and again to fill up yet another tortilla with the shredded pork cooked in orange juice and spices. This is a rich dish, the meat silky and filling, and a very nice foil to the fiery enchiladas. I can also heartily recommend the pillowy tamales wrapped in a banana leaf ($2.85 apiece) that might be the best in town. Order two (choice of chicken, pork, or vegetable) and have yourself a very inexpensive meal.
Desserts are limited to a sturdy flan ($3), churros, and rice pudding, which wasn't available the night we dined.
There are also some limitations in bar service. Margaritas are too sweet, and best forget a glass of wine unless mass-market white zin or pinot grigio is your thing. The limited draft choices included Bud and Modelo Especial on the night we dined. That said, there are more selections by bottle, including offerings from Heavy Seas, the neighbor up the street. And really, isn't beer the ideal accompaniment for this food anyway?
In any case, the pluses at Tortilleria Sinaloa far outweigh any minuses. Prices are super reasonable (the most expensive item on the menu is a dish of fajitas with three meats at $14.95), and while some staff displayed limited English, they took care of customers with unlimited patience and grace. Our server answered questions about dishes, made suggestions about what to try, and politely advised us when she thought we were ordering too much. When we decided to forgo the mole, she instead brought us some sauce to try—not as complex as some I've sampled, but still quite good with a good dose of velvety chocolate upfront and a pleasant burn as it went down.
Opening quietly in early November, just before the December holidays, certainly hasn't helped get the word out about Tortilleria Sinaloa. And as of this writing, Tortilleria Sinaloa's web page has not been updated to include the new location, though the shop's Facebook page includes posts announcing the dining room on Central Avenue. This is confusing, for sure, as is having both restaurants share the same name. But now you know. So go. Order a tamale and a plate of green enchiladas. Consider it a new year's resolution.
Tortilleria Sinaloa is open Monday-Saturday 10 a.m.-9 a.m..