Although many folks lump together cuisines from a certain region, there are often nuances that make specific foods and foodways special, if you look for them.
That’s true south of the border, where there are not only notable differences, depending on the region, between different areas of Mexico, but also of Mexico and their neighbors to the south in Central and South America.
At Restaurant Taqueria La Familia the flavors are familiar for folks who want Mexican dishes, but this 7-year-old eatery, located in the Churchland Place shopping center, also showcases the eats and drinks of the owner’s native Honduras.
Guaraches, also spelled huaraches, literally translates to sandals, and, if you look at this dish sans toppings, that similarity to the soles of the footwear is clear.
A large, thin, oblong amount of masa dough is cooked, with the consistency much like a very thin piece of cornbread or pancake of ground cornmeal.
The menu translates the “tortilla de maiz grande” as a big corn tortilla, but it is really more than that, and more delicious, too.
On top is a thick schmear of cooked, mashed beans, and a meat topping. Lettuce, a generous drizzle of sour cream, sliced avocado, and sprinkling of cotija cheese round out the dish.
There are seven meat options all together, and it was hard to pick since all of them are favorites. I picked pastor, bite-sized pieces of pork marinated in a sassy sauce, and my partner, Doug, selected asada, or small pieces of grilled beef. We shared bites with each other.
Other options include lengua, or beef tongue; tinga, or shredded chicken; the Mexican sausage, chorizo; pollo asado, or grilled chicken; and slow-cooked, fried pork, or carnitas.
I started with the pastor, being very familiar with traditional pastors from my travels in Mexico. The thing that struck me first was how amazing the cornmeal base was. The surface was crisp, with a bit of extra crispness around the edges. The center is pliable and tender with a delicious flavor. Think of a classic hoecake or johnnycake, or maybe a thin hushpuppy. I could eat this on its own.
It was the perfect platform for the toppings, including the pastor. The pork was extremely tender, and so flavorful with the marinade. There was a good balance of spice, but not an abundance of heat. It worked wonderfully with the crisp lettuce, creamy sour cream, nutty cheese, and rich avocado.
Also enjoyed was the asada. there was a lot of good frill flavor and seasonings; it was like a steak cut into bite-sized pieces, and without any unnecessary embellishments. Doug and I had no trouble finishing each offering.
A michelada is one of my favorite cocktails. This is more than just a South of the Border beer version of a bloody mary, although this drink does have a few of the main ingredients.
The drink starts with beer and tomato juice, or often, Clamato, a tomato juice/clam broth blend. Other ingredients are also added, including limey Mexican spice Tajin is considered a must by many, as well as soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce, spices, and citrus. It’s bracing and refreshing.
Here the michelada is simply prepared and presented, with a predominance of balanced seasonings, tomato juice, and beer. I picked Victoria beer, often not seen in the United States, but very popular in Mexico.
The drink was refreshing, and a nice accompaniment to the meal.
Restaurant Taqueria La Familia is at 3115 Western Branch Blvd., Chesapeake. Call 757-484-1873 or visit www.facebook.com/RestaurantTaqueriaLaFamilia
The Great American Food Fest, one of the city’s largest outdoor events, takes place Oct. 5. It gets under way at 4 pm at Chesapeake City Park. The event is presented by the sheriff’s office and South Norfolk Ruritans.
An all-inclusive ticket features an assortment of dishes including barbecue chicken and pork, fried fish with hushpuppies, clam chowder, and sides like corn-on-the-cob. There is live entertainment.
Tickets are $40. Proceeds benefit the sheriff’s office charities and Ruritan community projects.
What’s going on around town, from news about City Council to your favorite restaurants
Chesapeake City Park is at 900 City Park Visit www.TheGreatAmericanFoodFest.com
Cheers to the 12th annual Chesapeake Wine Festival. The fete takes place at Chesapeake City Park on Oct. 8 from noon until 6 pm
Unlimited tastings from more than a dozen Virginia wineries are offered. Noted Virginia wineries include AmRhein’s Wine Cellars, Chateau Morrisette, James River Cellars Winery, and Lake Anna Winery.
Also look for a number of food trucks and food vendors, live entertainment, a craft beer garden, and wine accessories and wine apparel.
There are a variety of tickets and tables available ranging in price and starting at $40. Proceeds benefit Chesapeake Rotary Club Community Charities.
Chesapeake City Park is at 900 City Park For more information visit www.ChesWine.com
Patrick Evans-Hylton PatrickEvansHylton@gmail.com