Finding a restaurant in DFW that serves New Mexican food has proven to be quite the challenge. There was Anthony's Place over by Meacham Field, but they've since transformed to a special events and catering only business (though no surprise - as you will find out later - Anthony is the same owner as our restaurant featured today). Mi Dia From Scratch, a new place in Grapevine owned by the same folks behind Bob's Steakhouse, has a very limited "Santa Fe" portion to their menu (and only for dinner), and it's mostly items that use similar ingredients to Tex-Mex (just cooked differently) . We haven't been, but it certainly seems more like a high-end ($$$) Mexican restaurant than New Mexican to me (feel free to write in if you are of a different opinion). Chencho's seems to have a few NM type items of interest, and I'll be trying those soon. Don't even mention Blue Mesa to me. Please... don't. And, well...... that's about it? Even in Colorado, which is closer culturally to New Mexico than DFW is, New Mexican food is hard to find. With perhaps the sole exception that no Coloradan place worth its burrito doesn't at least offer a good "green" (chile sauce) to smother it in.
With that in mind, it pays to follow our local Star-Telegram newspaper sometimes. I try to track what they're reviewing via DFW.com or their news feed into Urbanspoon. Since their main focus is Ft. Worth, much of what they cover isn't too much of interest to the RJG, unless it's an exceptionally good example of what we love or it's a unique food group. And New Mexican qualifies for the latter. So back in December, one of their writers uncovered a real gem. A place I would have had no hope of finding on my own. A place I would not stop in if just driving by (the simple homemade sign says Mexican Food-Steaks-Drinks). I don't even think I would have found this place if I lived in Azle! So kudos to the Star-Telegram for finding La Choza.
First visit: February 2012
La Choza is the first "real deal" New Mexican place I've been to here in DFW. It's far more authentic than the somewhat watered down Anthony's Place was (the menu's are way different). That's not to say there aren't other New Mexican places here, we just haven't been (if there are others - please do write in and tell us about it). The interior is definitely the colors of the Enchantment State (follow the Star-Telegram link for interior photos). It's a shame I can only eat one meal at a time, because I want to try about 15 different things. The chips are very light, thin and crisp. The standard salsa is a bit too thin with not enough kick, but does have a good roasted red chile flavor. I asked (of course) if they had a hotter option. They said yes, and out came the same exact salsa with what tasted like El Yucateca habanero sauce mixed in. That's cheating! But I still liked it (grin). Mrs. RJG went with the chile relleno, which was what the Star-Telegram recommended, and it's one of her test dishes. It was unlike any relleno she'd ever had, and one of the best! Creamy melted white cheese, grilled chicken, black beans, corn all stuffed into the pepper and lays on top of basmati rice in a delicious ranchero sauce. I went hardcore and tried the pork chile verde, which is a dark green chile sauce with chunks of perfectly cooked pork. I would have preferred it more spicy, but I'll take it. Mine came with rice and refried beans, the latter not their specialty and it showed. I've got to try the mango habanero shrimp and chicken next time!
La Choza has a full bar in the back, like an old cantina would. We kept it alcohol free, given the long drive time we had facing us. Also, very important to note: It's CASH ONLY. I think the place is a bit too expensive to still be relying solely on scratch. So just make sure you have some green tender with you and they'll provide the green chile.
It takes a bit to get there, but worth it. Take I-820 west to Hwy 199 west and finally FM 730 south. On a empty stretch of highway, with only a gas station nearby, is the little hole in the wall La Choza. It really does look like a place you'd see in rural, somewhat depressed, New Mexico (for example Española) - a million miles away from the high brow oh-so-perfectly crafted sites of Santa Fe and Taos.
Perhaps we can persuade La Choza to come to Northeast Tarrant! To the owners of La Choza, don't worry - there's no need to open up in the Southlake Town Square - we have plenty of locations that will make you feel right at home. And the RJG will be right there on opening day - and many others afterward. If not La Choza, then any other restaurateurs out there willing to take the plunge? We finally have German food - how about New Mexican?
Website (yea right - JUST kidding)
Update from Bud Kennedy in his Eats Beat column: "La Choza Mexican Grill , the hole-in-the-wall Santa Fe-style cafe near Azle, is moving closer. It will move by May (2012) to a new location at 7001 Confederate Park Road, next door to LightCatcher Winery & Bistro. For now, La Choza continues at 11210 S. Farm Road 730 near Azle. New items include enchiladas on blue corn tortillas and a spicy Mexican chocolate cheesecake."