Maggies and chimis
La Hacienda is a rather simple crowd pleaser
La Hacienda2635 Esplanade
Chico, CA 95926
Colette and I were out shopping for valances for our kitchen window the other Sunday afternoon and got hopelessly lost—quelle surprise!—so were relieved to stumble upon La Hacienda restaurant. Even if we weren’t sure exactly how to get home, we were certain a restaurant with a name like that (Spanish for “ranch house") would serve margaritas—one of Henri’s very favorite lunches.
Colette pulled my little Renault around the back of the restaurant, and we hastened inside, spotting the bar immediately, in a large open room off to one side with a handful of tables, a vaulted, open-beam ceiling and lighted by large picture windows—a television at the far end of the bar.
“Game’s on,” Colette said. “I wonder how the Niners are doing.”
I was scrutinizing the line-up of tequilas behind the bar.
“The Niners are on.”
I asked her how Larry Bonds was doing.
She closed her eyes and shook her head softly.
As we sat down, the bartender approached. “Waiting for a table?”
“I’m waiting for a drink,” I said.
Colette scowled. “Don’t mind him.”
The bartender smiled and set a couple of napkins on the bar in front of us. “What’ll it be?”
We each ordered a house margarita—on the rocks with salt—which he shook up and presented in cute little glasses with stems designed like saguaro cacti.
“Menus?” he asked, holding them out to us.
La Hacienda has been in business since 1948 and consistently ranks among the best Mexican restaurants in Chico—see the “Best Of” listings in this issue of the Chico News & Review, where readers again rated it No. 3.
The large dining room is perfect for families and large groups and is especially popular for birthday parties. The adjoining dining room is divided into small, intimate booths with tables for four to eight. There’s also a banquet room, frequently used for large anniversary parties and company events.
La Hacienda’s menu is fairly traditional, featuring tostadas, burritos, fajitas and tacos (although made of catfish, instead of the more common whitefish). You can also get combination platters—tacos, enchiladas, burritos, tamales and chile rellenos—that come with rice and beans, as well as Mayan pork and shrimp Diablo.
“Ready to order?” Colette asked.
Of course I was. “Not quite,” I said. “Let’s have a couple more Maggies while I decide.”
“You go ahead,” she said, holding up the car keys.
“You don’t mind?”
“I’m easy,” she said.
I nodded, poked my tongue into my cheek.
She gave me an elbow. “Oh, knock it off.”
Although the chimichanga—always an Henri favorite—sounded good, I ordered the Original Tostada ($8.95) and an a la carte chicken tamale ($2.95). The tostada came with chicken, refried beans, jack cheese, lots of iceberg lettuce and tomatoes, all mounded onto a crisp corn tortilla. I covered it generously with the house dressing.
Colette ordered the Acapulco Fiesta Supreme salad ($9.50), with chicken, cheese, lettuce, tomatoes, avocado and whole beans—also with house dressing. It came spilling out of a huge, crispy, bowl-shaped flour tortilla set on its side.
We agreed that the dressing had a very nice bite to it and made the rather ordinary dishes tastier than they would have been otherwise. My only complaint was with the tamale: while its presentation (white dressing dribbled over red sauce and sprinkled with green onions) was fit for the cover of Gourmet Magazine, the masa was tasteless at best.
The bartender boxed up the last of Colette’s lunch and was nice enough to give us directions back to Chico. Colette dropped me off at home—a nap was in order—then headed back out to continue the search for valances.
I returned to La Hacienda two days later for that chimichanga (a la carte, $5.50), which was delicious—a rolled-up flour tortilla stuffed with chicken and topped with melted cheese, red sauce, corn and red peppers. In fact, one of the best I’ve ever had.