People who read this column suggest places for me to check out, and La Parada was suggested by someone who happens to be a restaurateur. It was a good suggestion. Marco Cabrera is the self-trained chef, who put in his time at the Peppermill and Circus Circus, and his wife, Martha, runs the front-of-the-house. In its fifth year, this el comedor is simple and serves breakfast, lunch and dinner ($2.99-$10.95), and has Mexican and American dishes throughout the extensive menu.
Cabrera wanted me to try the huevos rancheros ($7.99) because he does it his way. That meant two cheese enchiladas, homemade chorizo, eggs, rice, beans, a dab of sour cream, queso, onions, tomato and cilantro.
The chorizo in the enchiladas was ground and had a savory flavor with a hint of cinnamon. And the sauce on top included tomatillos—a green fruit with a husk skin grown by the Aztecs—as well as yellow and jalapeño peppers, garlic, onion, black pepper, and bay leaf. The sauce married to the chorizo made the eggs regal.
The unique savory, robust tastes of roasted peppers with a slight lift and the cinnamon in the chorizo gave this rancheros an aromatic finish defining this dish and giving it an original culinary signature.
Cabrera boasts he loves to come to work every day, and that passion is found in his food, a gift of flavors. It was evident in the tampiqueña steak ($10.95). He uses a seven-ounce, thin rib-eye that has been marinated in teriyaki, orange juice and lemon, then grilled to medium rare and served with sautéed and roasted pablano peppers, onions, queso fresco, guacamole, and a dab of sour cream. The moist meat had a hint of sweet citrus countered by the tang of the grilled peppers and a savory note from the grilled onions. It was a flavor fiesta.
Wine is not their thing at La Parada, but there’s a couple of simple house wines by-the-glass ($3.50). There’s a fair offering of domestic ($2.75) and Mexican cerveza ($3.50). Beer is best with this food, and I was feeling a little frisky and went for a Michelada ($4.99), a cerveza preparada made with beer, lime juice and tomato juice, and served in a chilled, salt-rimmed glass and a large shrimp hanging on the rim—again, Cabrera’s special touch.
There’s a new menu coming in April, and Cabrera will add salads, soups and sandwiches to his already extensive offerings. His chips, salsas, rice and beans are all made from scratch. His red sauce is a blend of habaneras and puya peppers, and the green is made with habanera, serrano and jalapeño peppers. The salsa have exceptional flavors with the right degree of bite for the blends. On Saturday and Sunday, they serve menudos ($6.45) and birria de chivo, (goat soup, $9.99) with tortillas, all homemade.
Mexican cuisine is known for its varied flavors, colorful decoration and variety of spices and ingredients, most of which are native to the country. This cuisine has evolved through thousands of years of blending indigenous cultures. In November 2010, Mexican cuisine was added by UNESCO (the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) to its lists of the world’s “intangible cultural heritage.” Marco and Martha Cabrera continue that heritage everyday at La Parada, con mucho gusto.