The food in La Paz, it is tasty.

January 6th, 2006 by: cheyenne

First and foremost: TREATS. The best ice cream I’ve probably ever had is from a place called “La Fuente” on the waterfront across from the municipal pier. It has the polka-dotted tree in front. Joshua and I have undertaken intensive research to find the best flavors: Limon de Crema (both the ice cream and the frozen yogurt—very creamy and nothing like the “frozen yogurts” in the states, which too often try to be the “low fat” option, and, bleargh!), Petalo de Rosa (loaded with many petite pink rose petals), café (not too sweet and with an intense flavor), and Fresa con Queso (strawberry ice with cream-cheese marble and cheesy chunks) are so far the standouts. The only losers, if you can call them that, are the rum raison that was not rummy enough and had stemmy raisons and the mango, which was just not as exciting as it seemed like it should have been. A notable mention goes to Tequila Almendrada.

Taco stands: In addition to market stalls and other various street foods, taco stands are our favorite way to eat in La Paz. There is a collection of taco stands around the corner of Ocampo and Revolucion. Our favorite is the guy in on the southwest corner in front of the yellow Western Union building with the sign “Tortas y Tacos.” He has great asada (beef) and adobada (pork) tacos and good salsas for 8 pesos apiece. His tortas are also good, although I prefer tacos in general to sandwiches. He takes a roll, puts a creamy mayonnaisey stuff on it and grills it mayo-side down until it has caramelized and sizzles. Then he puts refried beans, cheese, meat of your choice, tomato, avocado, lettuce, and more cream on top.

Tortillas on the grill, La Paz, Mexico

Just around the corner (turn left on Ocampo) is another very popular stand with 5-peso tacos. His asada is pretty good (not quite as good as Tortas y Tacos) and he sometimes has pescado; his also has a good selection of salsas. Across the street and down half a block (on Revolucion between Ocampo and Degollado) is lady with good 5-peso pescado tacos (she sometimes has them in the mornings, otherwise she has asada) and around the corner and down half a block (left/west on 16 de Septiembre) is a very elaborate stand with a vast array of salsas fresh and bottled. His pescado tacos are great and good sized, if more expensive (10 pesos). We ate all the salsas, fresh cabbages, pico de gallos, and sliced cucumbers and did not feel any ill aftereffects. (The only dinner that did not sit well was actually in one of the restaurants that catered somewhat to tourists.)

La Fonda (Nicolas Brava at Revolucion): Jeff had mentioned that he had eaten here previously and so we made many attempts to try it ourselves. On the fourth attempt (they were closed, not open yet, closed for a private party or something..), we secured a table for an early dinner after an exhausting day tracking down and hauling stove alcohol across town. We ordered off the hand-written daily special list and asked the waiter if he had any recommendations; I had the pollo con mole and Joshua went with the, um, steak something-something. First came a soup of shell-shaped wheat pasta in a chicken broth, it was okay—the pasta was somewhat mushy—but we were primarily wary of spoiling our appetites for the main dish. My pollo en mole was very good (I do not have much mole experience to compare it to, however); the mole was the dark brown chocolate-spice type with sesame seeds on top. The chicken was very flavorful and tender. It came with rice and beans and the salsas were good: a green tamatillo/pepper salsa and a dried chili and vinegar style salsa (very hot). Joshua’s steak was an asada-style cut (thin) grilled with rice and beans and a mole-covered enchilada. We’re typically used to eating steak as thick, med-rare American-style steaks so eating asada “steak” style and not chopped in tacos is sort of odd. Nonetheless, he pronounced his meal good, if not flat-out great, and we were both happy. The weirdest part of the meal was the postre (dessert) that came with: jello in a shallow plastic cup. I had a pineapple flavor and Joshua unfortunately ended up with grape. I don’t believe I have had jello since I was maybe 12. An unusual way to end a meal but it was a good experience (not counting the jello, necessarily) and very inexpensive; the total bill including two beers was 120 pesos or so.

Bistro Francais: A French restaurant, with some Spanish and Mexican flavors thrown in (around Esquerro and 16 de Septiembre). It’s okay; I ordered the grouper with green peppercorn sauce and a goat cheese salad with jamon Serrano. I have never had green peppercorns before and was surprised to discover that they tasted reminiscent of cleanser, but in a compelling way. Therefore, my fish was just so-so, plus the white sauce it was in was very rich and made my face flush. Joshua and Jeff had fish and scallops, respectively, in a creamy garlic sauce, which was recommended by the waiter and which they both enjoyed. The sauce seemed very similar to mine minus the green peppercorn, plus garlic. The salad was probably my favorite part, since goat cheese and fresh vegetables really can’t go wrong in my world. The interior of the restaurant is very nice and there is a great inner courtyard with a garden. There was a guy playing live music who thankfully did not abuse the drum beat function of his synthesizer and was, honestly, not bad at all; he played all sorts of unusual instruments, always a plus. (Entrées range vaguely from 60 to120 pesos.)

Rancho Viejo: This place was recommended to us by some other cruisers who had been in town for a bit and so we went by for some breakfast tacos. They have a large place with a pleasant atmosphere and menus painted on the walls. A few tables outside are on the street but next to the large grill (where you get to watch the guy grilling the meat) and inside is a nice courtyard (with a TV capable of showing terrible 80s movies about kangaroos named “Matilda” who box with the heavyweights; beware!). The first time we went, we tried the asada tacos (12 pesos each; because that’s what appeared to be on the grill when we arrived) and they were large with hefty cubed chunks of meat, but very gristly. I felt as if I couldn’t chew properly for fear I’d bite down on something freaky. The salsas were also lacking in flavor and we ended up putting salt on everything. Oh well. We left wishing we had eaten Tortas y Tacos’ asada tacos instead. We probably would not have returned if we didn’t keep running into more people recommending the place; this time they mentioned that the “arrachera” is what you have to order. Arrachera tacos are 17 pesos apiece but well worth trying. It’s still beef but marinated and very tender and no gristle. The salsas were also better this time, so perhaps we just hit them on a bad day our first visit.

Market food: In the public market on Nicolas Brava and Prieta are several food counters serving soups and tostadas and burritos and empanadas. The empanadas looked the most exciting because they are always making them fresh right there in front of you so we tried these from a couple of the different vendors. They all put the same stuff inside: beef and potato with spices, and they all serve it with an ancho chili salsa (very good and fairly spicy). So far, every one we’ve tried has been great. Also excellent is the fresh juice from the juicer counter—you can get orange and/or a blends of beet, celery, carrot, pineapple (we like the guy next to the south entrance). There is a tortilleria here as well with decent tortillas; however, our favorite tortilleria is on Allende at Gomez Farias (I think; north side of the Allende—white building with blue lettering).

(For reference, the current exchange rate is around 10.5 pesos per dollar.)

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Cheyenne Weil, Joshua Coxwell