El Compadre, 1149 South 9th Street, Italian Market

We’ve essentially camped out at the Italian Market over the past month, basking in the meatballs made by Philly stalwarts like Ralph’s Restaurant and Villa Di Roma. But these days, that area has a real ethnic mix, so it was time for us to add a Latin twist to Meatball Madness.

El Compadre is a hole-in-the-wall sandwich shop that’s likely unfamiliar to most of my listeners who spend time in that part of town. Do yourself a favor. Find it next time you’re in the neighborhood.

The specialty is the $6.50 “Torta,” a sandwich made on house-baked rolls and wrapped inside a thin paper sleeve. There are several varieties, but we went for the meatball, of course.

el compadre

(Photo credit: Glen Macnow)

First impression? Not so good. To be honest, the pork-and-rice meatballs have a gloppy consistency and arrive covered in a greenish-grayish mole sauce that appears anything but appetizing.

Ahh, but close your eyes and enjoy the peppery aroma. And then bite in, and you’re engulfed by all sort of fun flavors – cumin, anise, tomatillo, crushed pepita seeds, cilantro. There’s a kick of jalapeno in every bite and some Mexican herbs we were not familiar with, but which added to the fun complexity of this inexpensive sandwich.

The sandwich comes with a side fruit salad of pineapple, mango and papaya sprinkled with pumpkin and sesame seeds. And we’ve always been partial to the Jarritos Mexican drinks, so we got a pineapple soda to wash down all those complex tastes in the sandwich.

Take my advice, never stop going to Ralph’s and Villa di Roma. But next time you’re in that area, search for El Compadre. It’s a fun change

Score: 81/100