When asked “what type of cuisine was lacking in the Limestone City?” my answer had long been real South/Central American food. Many of my friends agreed.
Yes, there is the famous after-bar stop El Asador serving up everything from burritos to fajitas to curries and Indian breads in The Hub. And if you are craving chips and salsa, there is always Lonestar, but TexMex is an entirely different type of food genre. Truly, one thing Kingston was lacking was an authentic, locally-owned, eat-in restaurant featuring the robust spices and flavours of the south.
In fall of 2014, two such dining establishments graced the downtown core. Reviewed by Erin in February, the first was Mexico Lindo, a delightful little spot on Sydenham Street owned by the Lopez family formerly of Mexico City. Just down the street on Princess (former location of Burrito Amigo, RIP), La Hacienda opened its doors in November. Having tried and enjoyed Mexico Lindo a few times, recently I ventured into La Hacienda on a Tuesday evening to give it a try.
In Spanish, “Hacienda” means a large house or ranch and the restaurant is brightly and cheerfully decorated, with a busy takeout business but also lots of room for walk-ins who want to sit and enjoy their meal. Upon entering, I was greeted with a bowl of fresh tortilla chips and a deliciously spicy salsa verde to enjoy while I pursued the menu with lots of different options for even the pickiest eater (including plenty of vegetarian and gluten-free choices).
With one owner from Mexico and one from El Salvador, the menu is the perfect complement to both countries, featuring favourites from each culture’s cuisine. From Mexico you can enjoy enchiladas, tacos, burritos and tostadas, as well as the restaurant’s own mole, a sauce featuring dozens of ingredients including chilies and coco powder. From El Salvador you can try unique dishes such as yuca, a type of editable root that is a major food source in the tropics, and a new found favourite of mine, the pupusas.
With all of these new and intriguing choices, you can imagine the difficulty settling on what to enjoy for dinner. I decided upon on Mexican dish: a chicken burrito (rolled flour tortilla with rice, refried beans, mozzarella cheese and topped with lettuce, tomato and sour cream for $7.50) and from El Salvador: a pupusa (I selected the zucchini con quesco; stuffed Salvadorian tortilla with mozzarella and shredded zucchini for $3.25).
I quickly learned that everything is made fresh to order. Dishes come out as they are ready, not necessarily all together. The burrito was up first and while featuring fresh ingredients and great texture, I thought it needed a bit of punch flavour-wise but I was delighted that I was brought a bottle of salsa (choice of hot or mild) that I could add as liberally as I wished to my plate, adding all the flavour I hoped for. It added just the right touch of spice to complement the salty cheese and beans.
However, the real highlight for me was the pupusa, which reminded me of a pancake but savoury and stuffed with cheesy and veggie goodness. The pupusa are corn-based and you can order them stuffed with pork, chicken, beans, or spinach. These melt-in-your-mouth delicacies are served with a tomato salsa and curtido (lightly fermented cabbage slaw with red chilies and vinegar). I can’t wait to try more of them.
With La Hacienda, my wish for authentic South/Central American food has been granted and so much more. I love the variety and I look forward to trying out more new dishes. For unique, fresh, affordable food that is cooked with passion, I highly recommend paying a visit to this local establishment!