For a great Americanized Mexican food fix, head to La Casita on Bethel Road.
Authenticity is nice, but sometimes all I want is a margarita in a kitschy frosted goblet, a plastic basket of warm tortilla chips and some snappy salsa. For a great Americanized Mexican food fix, I head to La Casita on Bethel Road. Yep, it's possible to be on Bethel Road, crave Mexican food and not make a beeline for Los Guachos. Admittedly, La Casita isn't the kind of place where you can order at will-enchiladas were really disappointing-but there is plenty to love.
Scan the menu for items containing slow-cooked meat; these have been consistent winners. Start with a bowl of Birria ($5.50 small, $8 large) or make a light lunch out of it. This comforting beef stew is full of deep, slow-cooked flavor. Pile on the colorful garnishes-raw onion, radishes, cilantro-to get the full experience.
Tacos were also a good bet. Following a hunch, I tried a trio containing slow-cooked meats: al pastor, barbacoa and carnitas ($8 for three, served with beans and rice). Order them Mexican style, with onion and cilantro on demure but tender corn tortillas, and drizzle some of the zesty table salsa on top.
On one visit, I pressed my friendly server to recommend something he loves to eat. He immediately pointed to the tortas ($7.30–$8), but my hopes were dashed when he returned to say the restaurant was out of the sturdy, flavorful bread used to make these Mexican sandwiches. He steered me instead to chicken tamales ($6.30), which were excellent; the masa jacket, too often crumbly and bland, was plenty moist and flavorful in La Casita's version.
Do splurge on that giant margarita; upgrade to the fancy version ($6.30 regular, $8.30 jumbo) with better tequila and Grand Marnier for not much more dough than you'd shell out for the well stuff. It's hardly artisanal, and it's not made with agave nectar or infused with exotic peppers. But the quality ingredients yield just the right sweet-tart sensation, a perfect foil to those salty, fresh chips.