ANECDOTES AND ANALYSIS
The dining room looks as much like a junkyard as a restaurant, the brick walls painted with with wildly colorful graffiti, while an old truck sits in the middle of everything, as if to challenge its presence. “Mexican Urban Kitchen,” it calls itself, then dares us to grab a shot of one of the dozen mezcals in the bar. (Mezcal, you probably know, is related to tequila but different. It’s the spirit which, in its less-fine examples, has a caterpillar in the bottle.) They have three times as many mezcal drinks as the number of margaritas. Get one, then start digging into the menu. Which, we find, is different from what we’re used to finding in other local Mexican eateries, but not so different as to be unrecognizable to the palate. It won’t be long before you hear the word “authentic” bandied about. Ignore that, and take the food at face value. You will find it good.
WHY IT’S NOTEWORTHY
Mexican cookery in New Orleans continues to be unfocused. We have few restaurants of the caliber that one would find in Austin or Houston. Restaurants that made valiant attempts to be on the cutting edge have not done well. Mizado, for example, recently closed, and even John Besh’s Johnny Sanchez feels as if it’s missing a few pieces. Rosa Mezcal may fill this breach–at least for people in the Magazine Street area.
The plates that land before you are visually startling, and contain ingredients you might not have had before. At least, not in this form. A great example of this is a salad called Cazuela Bowl: avocados, corn, whole beans, feta cheese, tomatoes. Sounds straightforward, but is entertaining well beyond that. One section of the menu offers five different egg dishes, taking advantage.
The owner is Omar Lugo, a younger member of the family that operates La Caretta, the good Tex-Mex place on the North Shore. Omar also has the excellent Habaneros in Covington.
A big, narrow space from a classic row of old Magazine Street business structures fits in snugly when seen from the outside. It’s laughable inside, which is the point.
Esquites (Mexican street corn, with queso fresco)
Fish and/or shrimp ceviche
Magazine guac, with chipotle bacon, grilled pineapple and guacamole
Chicharron preparado (pork rinds with cabbage and sour cream
Tacos, available in a dozen styles in orders of three, with two sides
Enchiladas, eleven different styles, most of them in enormous platters
FOR BEST RESULTS
A good start for two would be the Rosita sampler, a four-way appetizer plate, generous and very interesting. The tacos are essential in the main course, the more exotic the better. The standard Tex-Mex dishes are here, too, but you’d be missing out on the concept if you went that way.
OPPORTUNITIES FOR IMPROVEMENT
The menu is almost impossible to read, given the darkness and the light-on-light design of the card.
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
- Value +2
- Attitude +2
- Wine & Bar
- Hipness +2
- Local Color +1
- Open Monday lunch and dinner
- Open after midnight
- Unusually large servings
- No reservations