Mandeville: 1200 W Causeway Approach. 985-624-2990. Map.
Covington: 812 Hyw 190, 985-400-5202. Map.
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WHY IT’S NOTEWORTHY
The best of the American-style Mexican restaurants around the area, La Carreta is the Mandeville location of a Hammond-based chain. Its menus have kept pace with the news dishes introduced by the many small Mexican cafes that have opened in the past few years. La Carreta has been quick to pick up on the best of those and prepare them credibly, in a mainstream restaurant environment.
They start you off with an exceptionally good salsa, brought forth by the quarter-liter. Even more alluring is the queso, particularly the version with chorizo. The ingredients used in all the dishes are of unimpeachable merit, fresh and good-looking. While most of the food is gussied up more than they would be in a mom-and-pop cantina, there no watering down of the flavors.
La Carreta is a small, rapidly-expanding chain of seven Mexican restaurants in Southeast Louisiana. Saul Rubio, native of Queretaro, Mexico, came to Hammond to go to school, and worked in the usual capacities in Mexican restaurants. In 1998, at 36, he opened his first restaurant in Hammond. Almost from the beginning, the restaurant has not only expanded its reach but also its menu. La Carreta has no connection with Carreta’s Grill, another chain of Mexican restaurants in the same region.
The walls are dark, but the lighting gives the tables in the two main rooms a pleasing brightness. A few outdoor tables are under the trees. The service staff is friendly and responsive, and may even be too quick to bring the food out. The new Covington location is a bit smaller, and its outdoor dining area is less bucolic, what with Causeway Boulevard’s thick traffic.
»Guacamole (made tableside on request)
Spinach & artichoke dip
»»Chorizo con queso
Stuffed jalapeños Veracruz
Flautas Veracruz (chicken)
Quesadilla Veracruz (chicken and cheese)
Nachos, ground beef, chicken or steak
Shrimp & corn bisque
Ceviche al oregano
Soups & salads
»Tortilla soup (chicken broth, avocados)
»Avocado salad, grilled chicken, tomatoes, cilantro vinaigrette
Spinach salad, chicken, tomatoes, red onions, mushrooms, cranberries, cheese
»Traditional fajitas, chicken, steak, shrimp, combo or vegetables. »»Monterrey fajitas (skirt steak)
Enchiladas or burritos verdes (chicken, tomatillo sauce)
»Enchiladas Potosinas (cheese & bean, with grilled chicken or carne asada)
»Shrimp brochetas (like a kebab, stuffed with jalapeno, cheese, bacon)
Alambres (steak, sautéed onions, cheese)
Alambres de camaron (as above, shrimp)
Pollo loco (chicken, spinach, mushrooms, cheese, vegetables)
»Carnitas (roast pork, sautéed onions)
Tacos de la calle (“street tacos,” the small ones in double soft corn tortillas, filled with shredded pork, carne asada, or fish)
»Carne asada (shoulder tenderloin steak, sautéed onions)
Pork chops, green onions
Rib eye steak, green onions, cheese enchilada
»Tamales, tomatillo & red sauce, with cheese or shrimp chile relleno
Mexican combo dinners (many variations; the best is the sampler plate)
Monterrey dinner (chicken, shrimp or mahi-mahi)
»»Diabla shrimp (chipotle sauce, avocados, queso)
Quesadilla dinner (chicken, steak or shrimp)
»Parrillada for two (steak, chicken, shrimp, fajita garnish
»Tres leches cake
FOR BEST RESULTS
If you’re going to have an appetizer, split it with someone else–it’s too much food. Also, tell the server to hold back on your entree until you’re finished the first course.
OPPORTUNITIES FOR IMPROVEMENT
Why does La Carreta, with its obvious talent in the kitchen, stop short of serving things like mole poblano, cabrito, and menudo? I think the market is ready for it.
FACTORS OTHER THAN FOOD
Up to three points, positive or negative, for these characteristics. Absence of points denotes average performance in the matter.
- Dining Environment +1
- Consistency +1
- Value +1
- Attitude +1
- Wine & Bar
- Local Color
- Live music some nights
- Courtyard or deck dining
- Good for business meetings
- Open Sunday lunch and dinner
- Open Monday lunch and dinner
- Open all afternoon
- Unusually large servings
- Quick, good meal
- Good for children
- Easy, nearby parking
- No reservations