Originally from Mexico, the Salmoran family is now living the American dream.
After opening three Mexican-inspired restaurants in Anne Arundel County, they opened their fourth, Señor Chile Cafe, in Severna Park at the end of 2022.
In Maryland, they became familiar with the Tex-Mex concept. Meals that are often less spicy and include ingredients not heavily used in Mexican cooking: yellow cheese, sour cream, canned vegetables, hard shells.
Patrons might find a few of those Tex-Mex dishes at Señor Chile, but the menu complements those options with an array of authentic cuisine from the southwestern Mexican state of Oaxaca, the Salmoran family’s homeland.
Inside the restaurant, guests can choose a table or one of the booths overlooked by a mural of a woman sporting skeletal face paint, margarita in hand. The image conjures Día de Muertos, Day of the Dead, which celebrates life and death. Sugar skulls and other trinkets line the shelves above the bar, which seats six people.
It’s a small, intimate space, where Señor Chile staff members want people to enjoy food that has delighted their families for generations.
Manager Harry Salmoran — whose father, Fredy, started the family business — acknowledged that sentiment when asked about infusing the menu with Oaxacan cuisine.
“Growing up, we ate the food that my mom would make with her mom in Mexico: soups, mole, frijoles, guisados,” he said, later adding, “Luckily, we also have a lot of our family, that being uncles, aunts, cousins, brothers, working in the restaurants. It also is like our very own quality control team. Most of us ate the same food growing up. We know how it’s supposed to taste, so this helps us maintain our flavors in line with the real deal.”
From breakfast to lunch and dinner, Señor Chile has no shortage of flavors.
For breakfast, the restaurant has meals consisting of flour tortillas pressed on a grill, with different combinations of eggs, beans, avocado, pico de gallo, cherry tomatoes, bacon, lettuce and salsa.
A few Mexican staples headline the breakfast menu. Chilaquiles are fried corn tortillas sauteed with grilled steak, onions, either salsa verde or salsa roja, and topped with queso fresco. Think nachos, but softer, with the salsa serving as the main star of the dish instead of cheese. Chilaquiles are served with two eggs and a side of black beans. The huevos rancheros come with two eggs, topped with salsa ranchero, and beans, avocado, queso fresco and tortillas.
The breakfast options include something for the whole family whether they are craving pancakes (chocolate chip, blueberry, strawberry, cinnamon or plain), French toast, omelets or avocado toast.
For beverages, rise up in the morning with a boost of caffeine. Señor Chile partners with Rise Up Coffee Roasters and sells coffee, lattes, cortados, cappuccino, expresso, macchiatos, frozen smoothies and other drinks. The drinks are not overly sugary.
Equally impressive is the lunch and dinner menu with tacos, burritos, mariscos (seafood), fuertes (entrees) and combinations.
Several meals have shrimp, including Chef Temo pasta, the chef’s signature dish. This combines linguini pasta sauteed with jumbo shrimp, chicken, chorizo, garlic and a touch of the restaurant’s homemade costeno sauce — topped with parmesan cheese and cilantro.
And then, of course, are the tacos.
Order cheese and sour cream on a taco in Mexico and you may receive a look of consternation. More often, Mexico tacos include cilantro and onions, with a healthy squeeze of lime juice. Señor Chile offers the best of both worlds: the street taco, for those wanting authentic tacos, and Tex-Mex tacos.
Choose your protein: carne asada (grilled beef), pollo (chicken), carnitas (similar to pulled pork), al pastor (spit-roasted pork), barbacoa, shrimp, Mexican chorizo, lengua (beef tongue), tinga (pulled chicken), ground beef or grilled vegetables.
For salivating tacos, quesadillas, gorditas or mulinas, try the birria meat. The Señor Chile variety features slow-roasted barbacoa, onion, cilantro and cheese stuffed into a tortilla. Those ingredients, combined with the barbacoa juices, pack a flavorful punch. The birria is even more savory when dipped in the consomé broth.
Señor Chile has plenty of other street food. Gorditas are made using fried corn dough stuffed with black beans, protein, lettuce, onion, cilantro and queso fresco. Mulitas are a mix between a taco and a quesadilla, with Oaxacan cheese. A torta is a sandwich filled with meat, lettuce, tomato, onions and jalapenos.
The “combinations” portion of the menu has mixtures of mole, tacos, tamales, sopes, gorditas, enchiladas and other dishes. Feeling adventurous? El Macho contains cactus, which is slightly bitter and has a crunchy texture.
Vegetarian options include fajitas, portobello tacos and enchiladas.
The restaurant has several appetizers including calamari, empanadas, wings, soups and more. Elote loco, or street corn, is a beloved snack in Mexico and now it can be enjoyed in Severna Park. The corn is charred and then coated in queso fresco, Tajín seasoning and hot sauce.
As for drinks, any conversation about the alcohol should start with the mezcal, which has a smoky flavor. Señor Chile offers mezcal and tequila flights, margaritas, mojitos, coffee with liquor, and signature cocktails. Those include signature cocktails: micheladas (a choice of beer, clamato, Tajín, chamoy and hot sauce with a spicy Tajín rim), sangria, Mexican mules, orange crushes and more.
At Señor Chile Café, there is always a celebration of food and culture. For Salmoran, it keeps him close to home.
“Oaxaca is also known as the flavor capital of Mexico [with] mole, barbacoa, and al pastor being some of our specialties,” Salmoran said. “Sauces are still made by our mom every week for all our restaurants. It's been nice being able to see our parents live the American dream, being able to come here with nothing to work multiple jobs/hours every day, to owning four restaurants, opening a couple more this year and doing it as a family, together.”
Where To Find Señor Chile Cafe
594 Benfield Road, Severna Park