Lent: Mexican

Our area’s strong Catholic heritage and coastal traditions shift our attention to certain foods this time of year. Whether or not you observe Lent, you’re sure to notice many local restaurants catering toward those abstaining from meat, not that it’s ever difficult to find great seafood around here. We’ll be sharing these Lenten menus with you, but each week, we’d also like to highlight some tasty alternatives you should keep in mind until Easter.

Mexican food is an easy choice for a Lenten meal since there’s almost always a seafood variation of your favorite dishes. Here are some of our favorite local Mexican restaurants and their standout Lent-friendly dishes.

El Paso

1237013_513671902056711_1586913466_n1509667_616683805088853_1574840296_n999211_509558762468025_335465040_nI’ve gone to El Paso just for their salsas and black bean dip on more than one occasion. Between the hot and cold red salsas and the creamy black bean dip, the flavors never get old. It’s easy to fill up before your entrees even arrive. El Paso is even nice enough to throw free chips and dip in with to-go orders.

As with our sushi suggestion last week, Lent is a great time to expand your food horizons. With Mexican food, that means ceviche: chunks of raw seafood lightly marinated in citrus and mixed with onions, tomatoes, avocado, cilantro, and more. The citrus actually ends up “cooking” the seafood resulting in a very fresh and delicious seafood treat that’s easy to share with the table. El Paso serves its ceviche with crispy tostadas and offers a choice between fish or shrimp.

Like most Mexican restaurants, El Paso has fajitas. Their’s happen to be my favorite, and while I usually order the Texanas Fajitas (a trio of grilled chicken, steak, and shrimp pictured here), the shrimp alone makes for a great meal. El Paso serves its fajitas with the perfect char and delicious marinade.

In addition, El Paso also has two sections of its menu that will interest you this time of year. I don’t normally go for vegetarian dishes, but El Paso’s veggie section lists tempting items like a spinach and mushroom stuffed quesadilla and vegetarian fajitas. The seafood section has a ton of variations on shrimp as well as whole fried fish and seafood tacos.

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Photos courtesy of Chef Roy Guilbeau.

La Casa Del Sol
There are some favorites like the seafood chimichanga and shrimp fajitas available year round at La Casa, but some of the Lenten specials are always worth checking out. This year, you can start with a green lentil soup. Seasonal puns aside, hot soup is a great way to begin a meal, especially with the cold and wet weather we’ve been having. Fried plantain chips on the side are a nice touch.

My favorite restaurant specials are the ones that make you wish they were on the menu year round. Seared tuna nachos are that kind of special: Crispy nachos with black beans, beautiful tuna, melted pepper jack cheese, jalapeno, and avocado. I don’t imagine I’d ever want to go back to regular grilled shrimp nachos again after a plate of these.

Other Lenten specials this year include vegetable fajitas, fried catfish tacos, and seafood enchiladas stuffed with a crab, shrimp, and crawfish cream sauce. I also have to call out one of my favorite year round seafood dishes at La Casa, the chipotle shrimp appetizer. Big grilled shrimp swim in a tangy chipotle sauce. You scoop them onto crispy bread and top each bite with a refreshing tomato and cucumber mix that pairs perfectly with the spicy shrimp. It’s a great appetizer to share.

La Palma

996864_500993546657880_1451152946_ncevichepescado-san-miguelLike at El Paso, it’s possible to pig our almost entirely on salsa at La Palma. In fact, the latter makes it even easier thanks to its self-serve salsa bar, which only adds to the charm of this small Mexican diner.

La Palma has a nice selection of seafood dishes like a soupy shrimp cocktail and the massive shrimp burrito el rey, but I order the same item every time I’m there during Lent. Pescado San Miguel is a red fish filet drizzled with a tangy, creamy sauce. The most interesting part is that its served with the inexplicable choice between beans or a stuffed crab. Beans are fine, but I gladly sacrifice them for stuffed crab every time.

Ceviche is occasionally on La Palma’s menu this time of year and is worth ordering. In the past, they’ve served it in a very chunky style with cucumbers and large shrimp.

La Carreta

10941508_802317383192160_8979021892928595727_n10989969_802617913162107_1822968117941590253_nLa Carreta is the newcomer to local Mexican food, but it’s already established a unique niche for itself when it comes to seafood. It’s great to see local Mexican restaurants including ceviche and seafood tacos on their year round menus, especially with the variety La Carreta offers.

There are three choices for ceviche there: mahi, mahi- shrimp, and sashimi grade tuna. La Caretta’s ceviche also stands out with the inclusion of mango. It brings a delicious sweetness to the dish, adding to the world of flavors you find in great ceviche.

La Carreta also offers variety in its seafood tacos with mahi-mahi, shrimp, and lobster. The lobster tacos are especially decadent, full of rich flavor and topped with a crunchy cabbage and a spicy sauce.

El Paso:

1055 W Tunnel Blvd, Houma

602 North Canal Boulevard, Thibodaux

4560 LA-1, Raceland

La Casa Del Sol:

141 Westover Drive, Thibodaux

1257 Grand Caillou Rd, Houma

169 Monarch Dr
Houma

4647 LA-1, Raceland

La Palma:

710 St Mary St, Thibodaux

La Carreta:

1327 St Charles St, Houma

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