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We’ve written previously about flautas, one of our favorite street foods. Those crisp, finger-friendly “flutes” with their deeply savory, spiced chicken, pork, beef or potato filling are all about the gratifying crunch of the golden, deep-fried rolled tortilla (and the sour cream and grated cheese don’t hurt either). It’s hard to imagine how that winning combination can be improved upon, but at El Rey de las Ahogadas in Colonia Del Valle, we’ve found a delicious alternative.

Although El Rey offers quesadillas, tacos and other Mexican delicias, as the big banner above the open storefront advertises, people come here mostly for the flautas ahogadas. These “drowned” flautas sit in a bowl filled with a soupy salsa verde so that they soften. The spicy, zingy green salsa, made with tomatillos, fresh chilis, cilantro, onion and garlic, has been the house specialty for more than 40 years. These flautas are still meant to be finger food: The flat end that sticks out of the bowl serves as a kind of handle, and, using our other hand, we spoon the salsa over the flautas to saturate them further as we eat them. The best part is at the end, when the remaining salsa has collected and melded all the flavors of the dish – we slurp that straight from the bowl.

Besides the classic chicken, beef and potato fillings, El Rey also offers cheese, refried beans and al pastor, or roasted marinated pork. We’ve tried them all, and though we’re hard-pressed to choose a favorite, we especially like the way the potato and cheese flautas provide an earthy, comforting foil for the bright flavors of the salsa verde.

The salsa recipe comes from the aunt of current owner Eduardo López. She started the business in a tiny, 12-square-meter space in residential Colonia Del Valle. Today, that’s just part of the kitchen, and El Rey has taken over the adjoining spaces, sprawling across the entire street corner, with different eating areas and separate stations making and serving each of the restaurant’s specialties. And to wash all those dishes down, there are homemade horchata and jamaica and tamarindo aguas frescas.

El Rey is not the only place in Mexico City that serves flautas ahogadas, but it’s definitely the best. So when we need to drown our sorrows, our cravings or our dinner, El Rey is where we go.

Editor’s note: To celebrate the our 2020 neighborhood guide, we will be republishing dispatches from the less-visited areas – like Alvalade – that our correspondents are planning to explore this year. This article was originally published on September 19, 2013.

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