You can hardly miss the colorful flags outside Las Brasas promising TACOS, BURRITOS. What you’ll find inside is something more: a traditional American diner with a full Mexican menu.

“We don’t only serve hot and spicy food,” says Guillermina Montiel of Woodbridge, who owns Las Brasas with her husband, Mario Gomez. “Some family came the other day, and I noticed that the kids just ordered… pancakes or omelets,” she says. The parents, on the other hand, were happy to bring on the heat.

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So was I. From the breakfast menu, which is served ’til noon (but all day on Sundays), I started with an order of Chilaquiles ($10) with grilled chicken. Generously portioned with a large side of perfectly cooked scrambled eggs, small bites of chicken were lightly seasoned and baked with a green sauce made from tomatillo, jalapeño and salt. The chicken was served on a bed of crispy tortilla chip pieces, with a choice of four dressings: more tomatillo sauce; sour cream; a tomato and hot pepper red sauce with a nice kick; and a bright, fresh pico de gallo made of onion, green pepper and cilantro with a touch of tomato.

Also from the breakfast menu, I tried the Ranchero breakfast burrito ($7.99), Tex-Mex style, with a side of home fries. Hearty and served piping hot, the filling was a savory blend of scrambled eggs, chorizo sausage, jalapeños, beans, avocado and Monterey Jack. I especially liked the spicy texture brought by the chorizo.

I also tried that day’s special: the Milanesa Mexican Torta ($12, pictured above). This huge flatbread sandwich was delightfully light and slightly crispy on the outside, though its center, stuffed with tender breaded chicken, grilled onions and flavorful tomato, was a bit soggy, so I ate it with fork and knife. There were six other tortas to choose from, all $12 except for the meat-packed Suprema ($15) with spicy ham, grilled chicken, breaded pork sausage, bacon, “Al Pastor” meat and Monterey Jack.

Las Brasas’s lunch menu also includes Nachos ($9.50), Burritos ($9.25), Quesadillas ($8.50) and American diner standards like Grilled Cheese ($5), Tuna Salad on Toast ($7), Caesar Salad ($5.99), Burgers (starting at $4) and a kids’ menu ($4 to $4.50). Mexican desserts include Flan ($3.25) and the Las Brasas Flauta ($6.99), a “mix of fresh banana and chocolate chips wrapped in a flour tortilla, deep fried, sprinkled with powdered sugar and served with vanilla ice cream and chocolate syrup.” When I stopped in for tacos on another day, I took home three delicious soft corn tacos with grilled chicken and pico de gallo for $5, a satisfying lunch for a bargain price.

Located in the former home of the Woodbridge Gathering cafe, Las Brasas offers clean and basic diner decor, with a couple of sombreros hung on the wall and Latin music playing softly in the background. On two spontaneous visits, service was efficient and friendly, and from what I could see of the kitchen, everything was cooked to order.

Open since October, Las Brasas seems to have found a sweet spot between down-home diner and full-out Mexican. Montiel and Gomez owned four restaurants in their native Mexico, and Montiel says she hopes more local residents will stop by and try the Mexican side of the menu “so they know… our culture and flavors.” Table, counter and takeout service are all available, and breakfast and lunch are served seven days a week.

The restaurant’s name refers to cooking on the coals or embers of a fire. That most basic style of cooking is an apt suggestion of what you’ll find at Las Brasas: simple, easy-to-love food in a casual spot.

Las Brasas
9 Lucy St, Woodbridge (map)
Mon-Thurs 7am-3pm; Fri-Sat, 7am-9pm; Sun 7am-2pm
(203) 553-9844
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Written and photographed by Kathy Leonard Czepiel.

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