More cheap eats: La Rosita

Israel Landin
La Rosita owner Israel Landin opened a second New Albany location a few months ago. Along with the familiar fare, La Rosita is vegetarian-friendly. LEO photo by Nicole Pullen.

LEO’s Eats with Louisville HotBytes

I love Mexican food, and I mean real Mexican food, the kind that challenges gringos to enjoy true ethnic flavors and preparations, even if you have to muddle through with awkward Spanglish and pointing at the picture of the dish you want. To my mind, one of the happiest trends of recent years in Louisville dining has been the arrival of dozens of tiny taquerias that take us a long step past Americanized “Tex-Mex.”

La Rosita in New Albany, run by the affable and thoroughly bilingual husband-wife team of Israel and Lidia Landin, has been a favorite since they first landed in a space the size of a walk-in closet nearly hidden inside a produce market on Charlestown Road a few years ago.

I was delighted when La Rosita moved into much larger quarters in a comfortably historic old building at 1515 E. Market St., just east of downtown New Albany. And I got a second dose of delight a couple of months ago when they opened a second New Albany eatery, a smallish but inviting strip-center spot that goes back to their taqueria roots, on Grant Line Road just south of I-265, within a stein’s throw of New Albanian Brewing Co.

As you’d expect in a taqueria, everything is on the cheap side of affordable. Drawing its inspiration from the cuisine of Mexico City, it offers some three dozen selections for lunch and dinner. Mexican-style tacos, tortas (Mexican sandwiches), burritos and many other Mexican specialties range in price from $2 (for a Mexican-style taco – bet you can’t eat just one) to $8.99 (for a meal-size Quesadilla Mi Pueblo stuffed with chicken, steak and shrimp, grilled onions, tomatoes and Mexican queso blanco cheese).

As you might not expect in a taqueria, La Rosita is vegetarian-friendly, with seven interesting meat-free options, including a veggie taco ($2.99) with beans, rice, lettuce, tomato, onion, cilantro, cheese and sour cream, and a grilled “Veggie Grande” quesadilla ($7.99). I expect they’d be glad to hold the cheese and cream if a vegan wandered in.

Mexican-style tacos are served open-face on two small, round and delicious fresh corn tortillas, topped with very generous portions of meat garnished with freshly chopped raw white onions and lots of cilantro. Lengua is tender, mild beef-flavored shredded beef tongue; if you didn’t know it was tongue, you wouldn’t think twice about it. Carnitas is the Mexican analogue to barbecued “pulled” pork, first roasted, then fried. Barbacoa, available on occasion, is dark and earthy shredded grilled lamb.

La Rosita’s chile relleno taco is an unusual treat: A whole, small chile relleno – a dark-green, mildly hot poblano pepper stuffed with queso blanco, lightly batter-fried – is gently placed on corn tortillas and topped with onion and cilantro.

Take your choice of three spicy salsitas from squeeze bottles kept in the drinks cooler box: creamy pale green-chile salsa is fairly mild; dark brown smoky chipotle salsa is medium – I like it best for its good smoky quality and its just-right heat – and scary looking creamy orange Habanero sauce is devilish hot but delicious.

With a Jarritos brand Mexican tamarind soft drink and a 500 ml. Mexican Coke sweetened with real cane sugar so it tastes like the old days, we generally get out of La Rosita for $15 or so, not counting a generous contribution to the tip jar.

Tacos La Rosita
113 Grant Line Plaza
New Albany, Ind.
(812) 948-7967