Thursday, July 8, 2010

La Cabanita

La Cabanita
739 Main Street

Carolina Ramirez tells us that her mother's cooking is so good, she's single-handedly covered uncounted Arlington High School Taco Bell devotees over to her Oaxacan style cuisine.

After eating at her taqueria, I understand why.

The Ramirez family shares their matriarchs gifts with the general population at their Main Street establishment, La Cabanita. Located near the corner of Main and Grand Avenue, the unassuming storefront belies the delicious food inside. Entering with us yesterday were the intrepid Jenny, with her daughters Logan (9) and Lauren (6). Old mainstays Tom, Freya (11) and Linnea (9) joined us a little bit late for lack of parking.

Carolina seated us while the girls grabbed an armful of Jarritos (pineapple was the flava of the da) and I a Sidral Mundet. When Tom finally showed, he got a Mexican Coke- a treat as it is made with real sugar, not high fructose corn syrup. As we got settled, she hit us with some warm tortilla chips served with a blended red chile salsa. Like everything I tried, the salsa had the perfect amount of seasoning- neither to salty, peppery, nor spicy. Just right. The poor, poor children were disappointed almost to the point of tears as the menu's tantalizing advertisement for fresh guacamole was thwarted because of underripe avocados. Somehow I know that their guacamole would have been riiiight.... A little later, after Tom requested some pico de gallo (also good), she brought out some nice green salsa with a sour cream base, spiced with mild chiles and heaps of cilantro.

It was a bit of a challenge ordering over the big screen TV blaring music videos, which ran the gamut from Nortena to Nelly, so we accepted it as local color, and got accustomed to it. Zoe, however, insists that the rather racy video fare was decidedly NOT age appropriate and offended her tweeny sensibility, yet she remained glued nonetheless.

Nina very confidently ordered the al pastor tostadas and Zoe the al pastor burrito (makes a father proud, it does!). Knowing that there would be plenty of leftovers, I ordered a couple of al pastor (runs in the family) tacos. Jenny followed Nina's lead and ordered the steak tostada which she shared with Logan while Lauren plowed through a bean and cheese taco. Tom ordered his old faithful, the steak torta. The torta came slightly different than his favorite at Mole Mole as it has one big piece of steak rather than slices, and mayo (a secret weapon in Senora Ramirez's arsenal, I believe), which he found surprisingly tasty, albeit a departure from the norm.

Freya ordered the steak tacos. The tacos at La Cabanita are very small- an order comes with six soft corn tortilla tacos, topped with onion and cilantro, garnished with fresh radishes and lime. Perfect! Well, my al pastor tacos were perfect because I could actually taste the grilled pork and pineapple without being overpowered by the chiles. But when an 11 year old girl with Minnesotan-Scandinavian roots calls it, "bland", one might wonder if it might have benefited from just a bit more zing.

Linnea, not daunted by the well-meaning waitresses that seem to consistently ignore her pleas for a simple quesadilla (flour tortilla, if available, please, and only cheese. No pico de gallo. No tomatoes. For God's sake, no habaneros. No nothing. Nada.), ordered her standard. After getting her meal, she saunters over to Tom with her patented deadpan. "They put ham in it." After noticing a hint of a smile that only a father could pick up, she returned to her meal, ecstatic. (We soon learned that she did not indeed have a quesadilla, as expected, but rather a zynchronizada- a quesadilla with ham, cheese, mayo (secret weapon) and tomatoes- sin mayo y tomat.)

All was well and good until it was time to settle the tab. Then it got better. In classic style, they had a large glass container filled with fresh horchata at the counter. We ordered a large for the girls to share. They sampled it with mixed approval (Nina had no problem with that. "More for ME!"). While it was a bit on the thin side, it sure hit the spot on this impossibly hot day.

La Cabanita is truly a gem.

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