La Calaca Comelona

2304 SE Belmont 239-9675

La Calaca Comelona serves what I would call high-end Mexican food, but not in the usual sense. Normally when I'm paying more than 10 bucks at a Mexican place, it's for yuppie Mex--tacos with special sauces and sides, fancy margaritas, and special cheese blends--but not here. This is high-end authentic Mexican food. The tacos come plain, with corn tortillas and marinated meat. They use mozzarella cheese when cheese is used, and their salsas, tortillas, and even chorizo are homemade daily.

For the carnivore, this brand of dining is refreshing. Living among a sea of low-end burger joints and the "open any time you're drunk" Taco Bells, the meat-eater sometimes forgets that steak doesn't always need five tablespoons of A-1, that fish can be eaten without tartar sauce, and that meat taco does not always equal ground hamburger slathered with sour cream and guacamole. At Calaca, the meat is the focus of most dishes, reminding the carnivores of why we eat meat: For the challenging texture (the opposite of tofu), and of course, the taste. Here, the tacos can simply be eaten for the smoky flavor of the meat. Try the oven-roasted pork (Carnitas) or steak tacos; both are tender and fabulous.

The grilled dinners offer another visit to the land of tasty meat. The Alambre dinner is a grilled combo of mozzarella, onion, green pepper, mushrooms, steak, and bacon. The meal is an entire platter filled with this deliciously salty blend, and served with corn tortillas so you can make your own tacos. You might think you might want some beans and rice, but the tantalizing flavors keep you loading up your fork, without the confusion of side dishes. The seafood grill offers a combination of Mexican sausage, octopus, and shrimp for an unconventional, but compelling, sizzling dinner.

La Calaca also offers eight creative dinners: mole with blackberries, a quesadilla filled with red snapper; chile relleno stuffed with fruit, meat, and vegetables. Other specialties include a tangy ceviche with big chunks of fish marinated in a blend of lime juice, capers, tomato, and cilantro. It's an expensive appetizer at $10, but worth it.

Another serious, and I mean serious, attraction at La Calaca is the alcoholic beverage selection. The margarita was fabulous--limey and not overly sweet--and knocked me on my ass. The sangria was like a tart fruit juice, but gave my dining partner a healthy buzz. After dinner, our mutual state of euphoria caused us to forget prior obligations and go straight to the Sandy Hut for another cocktail.

In general, I would recommend La Calaca to carnivores seeking a classy but intimate dinner, and as an excellent dining spot for your visiting Midwestern family. For vegetarians, there are options, with a host of Vegetarian quesadillas (stuffed with cactus leaf, chipolte chiles, blackbeans, or other vegetables). But who goes to a nice restaurant for a quesadilla?