Sad to say, there are only a few restaurants in this area where you can sample Mexican food beyond the limited (and sooner or later boring) litany of corn-cheese-beans dishes. Tia Queta is one of those places.

Here, in addition to the usual tamales and enchiladas, you'll find a broad range of Mexican specialties -- a variety of shrimp and chicken dishes, some fish, beef and pork, and interesting desserts. The food is mainly very good, the environment is cozy and pleasant, and the prices are moderate.

The service, though always warm and friendly, tends to falter noticeably on weekend nights when the place is packed and there's a line waiting at the door. So it's best to visit on a weeknight, when things aren't so hectic.

For starters, don't miss the soups. The black bean soup, laced with garlic and what tastes like a bit of cheese, is a delight. More subtle and complex is the impressive shrimp soup, a velvety bisque with butter, cream and a touch of brandy. Homiest and most satisfying of all is the tortilla soup, a good chicken broth with firm vegetables, chunks of avocado, cheese, tortilla chips and tomato, and flavored with coriander and garlic. By comparison, the garlic soup is somewhat lackluster.

The appetizers, for the most part, don't hold a candle to those extraordinary soups. We found the queso fundido -- spiced, broiled cheese -- heavy and oily, and the mussels, although fresh and served in a delightful sauce, somewhat dry and shriveled.

In choosing an entree, you can rely on the basic raw materials here -- chicken, beef, pork, shrimp -- to be very good across the board. It's the sauces where the big differences lie. In general, those that feature tomatoes and vegetables are the best bets.

Puerco yucateco is a gem of a dish, a generous portion of very tender pork cubes, beautifully trimmed, a little crusty outside and succulent within, in a tomato-onion sauce flavored with bitter orange and vinegar that's both robust and complex.

Another winner is camarones a la veracruzana -- big, tender shrimp (a tad dry, but not objectionably so) in a wonderful, bright, fresh-tasting sauce that combines tomatoes with capers and green olives. Pollo huasteco is a delightful chicken dish in a similar sauce.

The two dishes with the traditional chocolate mole sauces -- chicken and a chicken enchilada -- don't succeed as well. Because the sauce is too sweet and too heavily applied, the experience is something like eating a chicken sundae. Chicken mole verde falls a bit short, too, because its green tomato sauce, despite all the ingredients listed on the menu, seems flat and uninteresting.

Among the more common items, chiles rellenos is very good, albeit a bit mushy, with fluffy cheese and a light batter. Quesadillas have corn tortillas instead of the wheat variety -- nice, but a little limp and oily.

The desserts are all commendable, but the best is the crepe filled with homemade caramel.