I recently met some friends for lunch at La Mexicana, a grocery store and Mexican restaurant at 1759 State Street in Schenectady. While it’s not the Mexican restaurant in the capital region that I’ve been yearning for, it’s pretty damn great.
Inside of the restaurant side of the building, there are about a dozen tables and a bar.
The lunch menu has a number of items, many of which are commonly bastardized in American cuisine. This is where you go to have an authentic taco or burrito.
We were quickly served warm chips with salsa.
Being that the tacos were so inexpensive ($2 a piece), I wanted to try two, one with lengua (beef tongue) and one with chorizo (Mexican sausage).
The tacos are made on the smallest corn tortillas I ever seen, but, at $2 a piece, they’re still a great deal, especially since they double up the tortillas (a sign of a good taco as far as I’m concerned). They are garnished with the classic combo of raw onion and cilantro. The tongue was cooked perfectly, but lacked assertive seasoning. The chorizo was easily the best Mexican chorizo I’ve ever tasted. The flavors of chiles, garlic, and paprika were amped up to 11. Our server mentioned that it’s available in their grocery store and is brought in from a place in New Jersey.
I was celebrating a major fitness milestone, so I was going big that day. I ordered myself the biggest thing on the menu, tlayuda, basically Mexico’s version of pizza.
At La Mexicana, the menu describes it as containing refried beans, avocado, cabbage, Mexican cheese, steak, al pastor and chorizo. Oddly, mine was missing the cabbage. I didn’t really notice until I was almost finished eating it.
And it’s big. To give you a scale reference, here’s a human being with it.
There are so many layers to this dish that it’s almost difficult to begin describing!
I’ll start at the bottom and work my way up.
The tortilla is completely crisped up; if you’re not quick about eating it up, the last few bites do become a little dry.
The refried beans spread over the tortilla were very good. They had a decent flavor and weren’t pulverized to complete mush.
The cheese on top, Oaxaca, which is stringy like mozzarella but a little more dry, packed a nice creamy and salty bite. The avocado adds to the creaminess and brings some brightness to the party.
The meats on top were kind of a mixed bag. The chorizo, again was great. The steak was a little tough and very heavily salted. The al pastor (grilled pork) had a deep flavor from the marinade but was overcooked.
Aside from these technical glitches, the tlayuda is a pretty awesome deal, and is the perfect food for sharing, as it’s one of those things that you can set in the middle of the table and people can tear at over some good conversation.
Like I said, this isn’t exactly the Mexican restaurant of my dreams (where there are vats of molé bubbling away in the kitchen), but it’s amazing to know there is a place around where you can sit down and eat some exceptional, classic Mexican street foods.