Update: June 2012
Who says you can't teach an old dog new tricks? La Cocina recently made some changes to it's menu and I am a fan. I've been going to La Cocina for about 6 years and can honestly say I haven't had a bad experience yet. That's including fighting the masses on Cinco De Mayo.
The biggest change I saw was the new sides options. Aside from your standard rice and refried beans, there are now six other options. There's a side salad, Mexican slaw, stewed pinto or black beans and something I'm going to call a chorizo hash. There's another option but I don't remember what it was. The hash is made up of potatoes, carrots and chorizo. The vegetables goes a long way to balance the saltiness of the chorizo. The stewed black or pinto beans taste very substantial. It kind of taste like chili but with no meat. The Mexican slaw is a refreshing take to the traditional American coleslaw. It's more of a lemon cilantro flavor rather than a mayonnaise base.
|Queso Fresco Steak $14.99|
There's also a couple of new menu items. I just tried out the Queso Fresco Steak this week. At $14.99, it is the most expensive thing on the menu but boy was it worth it. It's a piece of steak stuffed with queso, jalapeno slices and garlic. This was one of the best steaks I've had in a long time. All of the good bits of the steak are still intact but it makes it a little rich. The slightly grilled jalepeno slices and barely cooked garlic cut that fattiness really well. The queso slices adds another dimension to the steak. There's no need for any kind of sauce. When eaten with a little of each component, this steak packs more than enough flavor.
|Fish Tacos $11.99|
Original Post: 3/4/11
If you like those little hole in the wall places that only locals know, this one is for you. La Cocina is on Airport Blvd near the University Blvd intersection. Sitting near Zea's and Five Guys, this place could be lost with it's dull brown exterior but to be honest it's quite a find.
La Cocina is family owned and operated. I usually go for lunch and if you're lucky you can find a table right away. Other times, it could become quite a wait. There are 15 booths and tables in the whole place. All together, the capacity is at about 70 to 75 people. The wait staff is always friendly and you can always catch a soccer game on one of their 2 televisions. For the first time, I notice the restaurant relies a lot on natural lighting. The curtains weren't pull back so it gave the entire place a more homey feel. It didn't help any that it was about to storm so there was absolutely no sunshine.
Like most Mexican restaurants, La Cocina offers chips and salsa as an appetizer. Nothing really to note here except both appear to be made fresh. The consistency of the salsa is never the same. I've had it pureed into a soup, chunky, and super chunky. I'm not complaining though. No matter how it comes the salsa is always good. It has a bit more of a lime taste than other places. The chips also appear to be corn tortillas cut into triangles and fried. As it is with "made from scratch" dishes, there are little differences every visit but not enough to really put you off the restaurant in any shape or form.
La Cocina is one of my favorite restaurants and I've tried quite a few. I've tried a wide range of items from their menu including some of the "authentico" dishes. I have to say the only thing I have not liked is the carnitas. Everything else from the specialty steak to enchiladas to the burritos and the mole. All very good.
Today, I had one of my favorites, enchiladas rancheras. It's three cheese enchiladas then pour over the top a mixtures of sautee bell peppers, onions, mushrooms and your choice of meat. I always go with steak. It's served simply with some chopped up iceberg lettuce and guacamole on top. I like to eat the enchiladas with a bite of the salad. It helps to balance out the cheesiness in the dish. At just about $9, this dish is big enough to satisfy any appetite. Me? I usually have to take about half of the enchiladas home to eat later.
Another favorite dish of mine is the Alambres. I know I am butchering the spelling on the dishes, but they didn't have a to go menu I can look up the ingredients and such. But this dish was categorized under the fajitas section. It's served very similar to fajitas. The dish consist of ham, bacon, bell peppers, onions and then your choice of meat. The entire thing looks to be sauted, sauced with the rancheros sauce, topped with some mexican cheese then it's comes to the table sizzling hot. The dish come with three corn or flour tortillas. You're just suppose to fork it in, wrap it up and then chunk it into your mouth. Here's my warning, this dish is huge. It could easily feed two people. Each time I've ordered it thinking I'll finish it off, I failed. Just don't do it, unless you plan to have plenty left over to take home. The downside of this oh-so-yummy dish, it's loaded with calories. Didn't you read the description I gave? Once you get the dish, you'll see that's it's swimming in tons of fat. Alambres is definitely not a dish for dieters.
La Cocina is an excellant restaurant that serve authentic food at very reasonable prices. I don't recall seeing anything above 13 dollars on the menu. The highest the La Cocina Steak at $12.99. There also a lunch menu that offer smaller portions and a great variety. I believe that's available between 11am and 3pm Monday through Friday. Since discovering La Cocino about 3 years ago, I really haven't gone anywhere else for Mexican fare. I love the food, the homey feel of the restaurant and the friendly staff. La Cocina is definitely one of those places only the locals know about.