La Fiesta – CLOSED

By | February 8, 2006

La Fiesta – CLOSED
346 Atwood Street
Oakland, 15213

M 11:30-10; T-Sat 11:30-1am; Sun Noon-9pm

Ándale! Ándale! – grab yourself a box of corona and get yourself to La Fiesta rápido, lest you miss out on some of the best Mexican in the ‘Burgh! Naturally, it isn’t the best Mexican in the world, but in our little hometown where there are fewer Mexican joints than Indian, it ties for most authentic with Taco Loco and Mi Mexico. However, Taco Loco and Mi Mexico are both taquerias, and sometimes all you want is a little rice and beans, or a real Mexican dish like carnitas, and then you’ll want to head to La Fiesta.

La Fiesta is not very upscale (if you want that, check out The Fajita Grille, also a splendid restaurant), but I have come to love the duct-taped seats, hundreds of polaroids on the wall, and crazy Mexican soaps playing on the TV. It is in the heart of Oakland, and thus is engaged in the Battle of Late Night Price Slashing. It is the best ever, because you can get many of your favorite dishes half off, starting at 10pm (a whole hour earlier than the other places in Oakland). I might also add that they have a mean lunch buffet during the week that is spot on, and less than six bucks.

Aside from the prices, La Fiesta has some fabulous fare. I don’t even know where to begin! There is a menu of combos that you can choose from, including plates of enchiladas, burritos, chalupas (real ones, not Taco Bell style), chile relleno, tostada, tamales, beans, rice, quesadillas, you name it! You can get them with beef or chicken. There is also a whole vegetarian menu in the back featuring many of these offerings veggie-style, as well as veggie versions of many of their specialties.

The specialties cover a page and a half of the menu, and range from super enchiladas five ways to traditional offerings (molé, fajita, carnitas), to very authentic offerings like chilaquiles and huevos rancheros. The chilaquiles, Reed’s favorite, is a dish of chicken and spicy tomato-y sauce with roasted chiles, chips, and cheese….it is hard to describe, but it is way way good, and if you are looking to try something new, this would be it. We were there once with a friend of a friend who is from Mexico, and he was really excited that it was on the menu – he got it, and that is how we discovered the chilaquiles.

The chips and salsa are muy bueno (not free during half-off hours), as the chips are made in house and are super fresh. The cheese they use in everything is so amazing. I don’t know if it is a certain variety of cheese, or if it is just a heck of a lot of it, but that cheese is somehow special. It arrives at my table at the perfect melting spot, and I am ecstatic with every bite. I love it so much I get the combo with a chalupa (to get the guacamole), quesadilla (to get the cheese with the chicken), beans (instead of rice, to smear all over my quesadilla as I eat it), and a cheesy chile relleno (the best thing on the face of the earth). I want to talk a second about the chile relleno, which I am obsessed with (I get this way about a lot of foods, if you haven’t already noticed). It isn’t like a chile relleno I’ve had at any other place. It actually barely has any chiles in it at all (one or two little strips), but the chiles are not why I get this little side dish. I get it mainly because it is a sizzling pile of cheese-beef, all browned and crispy on the top, oozing with seduction. The moment before I fork into it, I swear it gives me a wanting look – it practically begs me to dig in! So I do, and it is amazing every time. I am never regretful the morning after a date with their chile relleno!

That being said, I’ve tried to get chile rellenos at other places, and its more like a chile stuffed with cheese and meat, breaded and fried, or it’s a casserole with eggs and the like. It is never the same as it is here. And so I keep going back again and again to La Fiesta, and I always have to get the chile relleno because some day it will be the last time I ever have it. But the beauty of La Fiesta is that everyone has their own item they feel that way about. For Reed it is the chilaquiles, and I have a friend who is absolutely stuck on the Nachos The Works. I have another buddy hung up on the vegetarian taco salad, and another who dreams about their honeyed sopapillas at night. So you see, if it isn’t the chilaquiles or the chile rellenos for you, it will be something else – you just have to go there and hunt it down.

Play around and try everything!

La Fiesta is BYOB, but there is a Beer distributor just down the way at Bates and Semple. If you bring corona into the restaurant, ask for limes – they are more than happy to provide them.