First Bite

A Look at Mama Ninfa's Inside the Newly Opened Understory

Tacos, tortas, and breakfast goodies are available at this underground emporium.

By Timothy Malcolm August 13, 2019

The Cubano, an attempt at a classic Cuban sandwich, at Mama Ninfa's Tacos y Tortas.

If you walk into Bank of America Tower at 800 Capitol St. from street level, you can walk down the cascading staircase to Understory, the underground food hall opening this Thursday. Beside the staircase, also called the Great Steps, are bench seating areas and tables—an indoor, descending picnic grove, if you will.

But if you opt to come in via the downtown tunnels, you may first stumble upon businesspeople playing ping-pong or cornhole. In this sense, Understory seems to be an everything to everyone—the downtown tourist, the adventurous foodie, the tower worker needing a break (and maybe a shot at the bar) in the middle of a long day.

All of those people can find something at Mama Ninfa's Tacos y Tortas, the most curious of Understory's tenants. This is the new quick-service concept from Legacy Restaurants, which operates The Original Ninfa's on Navigation and the new Original Ninfa's Uptown. And as the name suggest, there are tacos and tortas here.

The former includes a comforting, hearty riff on Ninfa's famous fajita (grilled skirt steak, sautéed mushrooms, roasted jalapeño, tomato, mezcal-derived pechuga gravy inside El Milagro corn or flour tortilla), plus chicken tinga (with a deceptively spicy chipotle salsa), and pescado (in this case, grilled redfish). Among the latter, you'll find barbacoa brisket with coleslaw and chipotle aioli, and a Cuban sandwich—ham, pulled pork, Swiss cheese, cilantro pesto, slaw, mayo and mustard inside a sliced, crispy baguette from El Bolillo.

The biggest change here, however, are the breakfast offerings. Look for traditional tacos (egg, potato, cheese; egg, chorizo, cheese) and tortas (ham, egg, cheese; carnitas, egg, cheese), plus chilaquiles verdes.

Because Mama Ninfa's is serving breakfast, the other restaurants at Understory (Flippin' Patties, Mona Fresh Italian Food, Seaside Poké, East Hampton Sandwich Co.) aren't offering that service (though Boomtown Coffee will have pastries and coffee). And because there's a devoted bar at Understory (Silver Lining Bar), the restaurants will not serve alcohol. Which means no Ninfaritas. But hey, there will be plenty of happy hour drinks available at the bar, and apparently, plenty of cornhole to play at Understory.

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