We were in the Ballard neighborhood this afternoon and decided to find La Carta de Oaxaca and give it a try. Having read reviews about the place, I’d already decided that if there was a line outside the door, I was going to skip it. Not only was it a dreary, rainy day, but my experience with waiting in lines to eat at super busy restaurants for the first time rarely ends well. If I know the food is worth it, no problem. But if it’s a first time, expectation builds while patience diminishes. The number of people waiting also seems to affect the hospitality of the staff exponentially. Hosts and servers who may normally be gracious and welcoming under less busy circumstances are, well, generally not. However, the reviews on the crazy good food coming out of this joint had me reluctant to miss an opportunity to try it.
We found the place after spotting the sidewalk sign and there was only a party of three ahead of us, so we took a number and were seated within about five minutes. It’s very tight seating (the group ahead of us were asked to leave their stroller outside), but we got a sweet little table by the window.
She’s enjoying it, isn’t she?
The server dropped off the glasses of water, but forgot the chips and salsa. Oh, hold up. No complimentary chips and salsa at La Oaxaca. That’s for the birds, man. I’m not crazy for chips and salsa, but it’s nice to nibble something while sipping margarita ($8). It was fresh and tart, but a little overpriced.
I ordered the tacos carne asada ($6). I should’ve read the menu more clearly, but I was busy focusing on asking the server to leave off the cilantro. I was disappointed that there was no Oaxaqueno cheese on there. Beef, onion and tortilla, this couldn’t be good, right? Wrong. This was probably the best taco carne asada I’ve had. And there was no cheese, no sour cream, nothin’, man, just bare naked taco with the most flavorful beef and softest tortillas ever. If you’re looking for bona fide flavor, this place has got it.
James had a special, I don’t remember the name, something like “Chila Quiles,” but basically it’s tortilla chips smothered in chipotle sauce and topped with that Oaxacana cheese I was mentioning, and a side of two fried eggs ($8). I tried a taste of the chips and thought, eh. But then James turned it into this hot mess:
Those fried eggs turned those chips and salsa into something magically delicious. I don’t care who you are, that’s just good food.
My friend Ben Bruce is a musician and when he’s doing a show he includes a little phrase on his announcements asking people to come out and enjoy some “honest songs, honestly sung.” La Carta sells bona fide food, bona fidely cooked.