Back again with another installment of Lost in the Belhaven Triangle. This time, we venture in to Belhaven’s Mexican restaurant, La Cazuela Mexican Grill.
Ah, La Cazuela… you’ll have to forgive my ignorance, dear reader, but I do not know a great deal about the history or backstory of La Cazuela, AKA “La Caz.” All I can tell you is that this Mexican restaurant been there since at least 2005, when I first moved here, and that they have 2-for-1 margaritas on every day but Friday.
Admittedly, this is the feature of the restaurant that I’m most familiar with. On temperate days, the sprawling porch is a grand place to lose a couple of hours through the magical experience I like to call “tequila time travel.” But I had eaten there so often, I had begun to write off the entrées as “standard Mexican restaurant fare” offering nothing new and exciting. Not that there’s anything wrong with tacos, enchiladas, and chimichangas – there just wasn’t anything surprising. I’d order the same thing over and over, not realizing that I was swimming in circles. Also, tequila.
It had actually been some time since my last visit to La Caz. But the plastic coming down from the outdoor patio is one of the first signs of spring, so I found myself drawn back in. The restaurant seems to be in the midst of a facelift – it’s been repainted in earthier colors, and they’re in the process of swapping out the chairs with larger, comfier models. And along with the new décor touches, there were tempting new menu items. Of course, I tend to get more excited about new menu items than new chairs. Chairs are seldom delicious, despite what tequila might lead you to suspect on occasion.
Immediately, I gravitated toward the tacos. I’m a sucker for a good taco plate, and Jackson has a surprising amount of authentic taco joints, but that’s a whole ‘nother article. There were five new offerings on the taco menu alone , such as the Shrimp Brochetta Tacos, with shrimp, shredded cabbage, pico de gallo, avocado, and queso fresco and The Baja Fish Tacos, with corn tortillas filled with fried or grilled tilapia. But the one that jumped out at me were the Street Style Mini Tacos.
When my food arrived, it was one of the nicer presentations I’ve had at La Caz. First things first, I should mention that I didn’t notice anything “mini” about these tacos. The three foil-wrapped, steamed soft corn tortillas filled with lightly spicy carne pastor (that’s “pork” for the novices) seemed standard size to me. Served alongside in four separate cups were fresh chopped cabbage, sliced avocado, sautéed onions, and jalapeño crema. Throw them all together to your liking, and you’ve got a great flavor combination that I haven’t found in any other taco restaurant around town.
I should mention that on my second excursion – and yes, the tacos were so good, I had to go have them twice – there was a bit of confusion with the dish. When it arrived, there was no chopped cabbage this time. Admittedly, the menu doesn’t list the cabbage as part of the entrée, so I don’t know if it was accidentally left off the second time, or accidentally gifted to me the first time, but I certainly missed it. Also, despite all of the time that I’ve spent there over the years, this visit was the first time that I encountered a real language barrier with my server. I tried asking about the cabbage, and instead got a to-go box. For some odd reason, it didn’t occur to me to just use my handy-dandy smartphone to look up the Spanish word for “cabbage.” And by some odd reason, I mean “tequila.”
Food: A range of Mexican restaurant fare, now with a few more fresh, innovative dishes.
Atmosphere: In flux at the moment, but the new décor is a step up, and the open air porch is ideal for summertime in Belhaven.
Service: The place is usually crowded, so it’s not the place to go when you’re in a hurry. But for a leisurely meal with friends, it’s fine.