Monday, May 5, 2014

Palo Rojo: 7 Places to get Your South of the Border Fix in the Red Stick

Baton Rouge is home to an extremely varied population. Surrounded by destination food cities that embody Cajun and Creole cuisine, I find that the many faces of that Capital City's culinary landscape to be one of the best parts of our food culture. Most culinary regions share the same influence, but Baton Rouge is home to quite a few cultures that each present their own extraordinary cuisine. We have a strong presence of Cajun, Creole, Southern, Latin American, Western European, Greek and Mediterranean, and East Asian influences. Having that said, in no particular order, these are some of the best, authentic Latin American joints in town. If you're tired of finding that Baton Rouge is slacking on the Mexican Cuisine front only to be stuck in the same rut of casual "Mexican" eateries, then it is time to think again. Don't see your favorite here? Leave me a comment and tell me where you like to grab your favorite south of the border bite or leave me a note on the Bite and Booze Facebook Page!

Lengua Gordita
Lengua Gordita
Taco n Sabor: 3151 College Drive

Fairly new on the scene, Taco n Sabor is tucked away in the small College Creek shopping center. You may have passed it up because you've been caught up in the horrendous College Dr. traffic. I'll let it slide this time, but just know that this place has developed quite the buzz around town and is worth every bit of praise received. Not used to the different kinds of meats and spices behind the counter? No problem!--the staff is very nice and will offer samples upon request or quizzical expression.

Bite and Booze Bonus: Try the Ellotes Preparados. The Mexican Street Corn is cheesy, spicy, and delicious!

Pollo en Mole
Pollo en Mole

La Reyna: 13213 Perkins Rd.

It is time to check out this hole in the wall Honduran place on Perkins near Siegen. One of my top dishes to get at La Reyna is the Pollo en Mole, chicken meat braised down in a spicy chocolate sauce. It is absolutely the best mole I've had in Baton Rouge! The flavors of the sauce balance nicely with the rice and beans while a side of fried plantains supplies a nice crunchy textural contrast. La Reyna definitely represents more of the Central America region rather than straight up Mexican, which is just fine by me.

Bite and Booze Bonus: Don't shy away from one of their tropical fruit drinks. The Tamarindo offers a nice sweetness to compliment the spices in their dishes.

Torta Carnitas
Torta Carnitas

La Tiendita: 6031 Siegen Ln.

While every eatery in this post represents authentic Latin American cuisine, La Tiendita is my go to Mexican craving fix. The tacos are superbly simple yet phenomenal and their other menu items shine too. I highly suggest a torta, which is close to the Mexican equivalent of a poboy. If you're looking for a bold and zesty authentic Mexican menu, you'll want to check out La Tiendita for sure!

Bite and Booze Bonus: Try the Queso Fundido... the not skillet of molten cheese brings right the right flavor to the warm tortilla chips.

Pork with Cactus
Pork with Cactus

La Michoacana:103 W. Jeansonne St., Gonzales, LA 70737

Half restaurant, half Latin American Market, La Michoacana proved worthy of the drive for me. Who doesn't love a place where you can get authentic Latin American cuisine, a Mexican Coke, some cowboy boots, and blocks of queso fresco? I skipped past the fajitas and enchiladas and headed straight for the lengua burrito and tacos. A friend of mine had their special of the day, pork and stewed cactus. I would recommend this tangy, spicy, and savory pork lovers out there. My dishes were excellent as well. I'm a big fan of lengua because it's tender, juicy and goes well with some crumbled queso fresco and cilantro. With impeccable service and a delightfully fresh, mild salsa, La Michocana is worth the stop if you're in the neighborhood.

Bite and Booze Bonus: Shop through the store on your way out, they have good looking tortillas, hard to find ingredients and produce available.

La Morinita: 7981 Florida Blvd.

If you cook a lot of Mexican food at home or like to try new recipes that call for specialized Latin American ingredients, skip hopping around to 2-3 different grocery stores and check out La Morinita. It's a huge market full of everything from specialized beverages, a fresh meat market, and tons of produce and dry goods. They have an array of spices, some of which I haven't even heard of, so chances are you'll be able to find what you're looking for. It's easy to get hungry while shopping so La Morinita has a great little in-store Taqueria to cure your fix. I had a couple of carnitas tacos and made my way through the store.

Bite and Booze Bonus: Go here to buy your Mexican Coke. I always keep my office stocked with it and they sell it in 24 bottle flats at La Morinita.

El Rio Grande: 8334 Airline Hwy.

The Rio Grande is the river that forms the border between Mexico and Texas, thus, making a great name for a quality Tex-Mex restaurant. While this post is mostly about authentic Latin American restaurants, there is such a thing as authentic Tex-Mex. It's nice to have to have a place where tamales, tacos, burritos, enchiladas, and guacamole reign supreme...and did I mention margaritas? In addition to their slammin' chips, salsa, and queso, El Rio Grande has fantastic drinks and house infused tequilas. They have kind of a funky atmosphere going on, and their dishes represent what you would mostly expect to see in a Tex-Mex restaurant, but they do it right.

Bite and Booze Bonus: Don't skip on the's some of the best I've had in town.

Beef Quesadillas with Grilled Onions
Beef Quesadillas with Grilled Onions

El Paste Durado Panaderia Bakery: 6166 Florida Blvd.

The store part of this eatery is rather small. What's more unique is their bakery. Behind a little wall you can find cases of baked Latin American pastries which looked mighty tasty! I sat down to a crunchy basket of chips and fresh salsa. I had the Carne Asada while my Chief Confusion Coordinator, Blair, had the Beef Quesadillas with grilled onions at the recommendation of our server. The creaminess of the cheese contrasted the slight crunch of the grilled onions and crispy tortilla. Blair told me that is easily one of the most delightful quesadillas she's found.

Bite and Booze Bonus: Ask your server for the "Hot Sauce." It's essentially a salsa verde, but this one has a ton of jalapeƱo... spicy, but more flavorful than anything.


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