Wednesday, August 21, 2013

La Veracruzana (Northampton, MA and Amherst, MA)

With two locations in western Massachusetts, La Veracruzana serves up a mix of fairly standard American style Mexican food and some dishes more specific to the owners' native state of Veracruz, from which the restaurants derive their name.  The primary and original location is on Main St. in Northampton, conveniently right next to my favorite spot in the city, The Dirty Truth, while the second is in downtown Amherst on South Pleasant St.  As a kid, going to the Northampton location was a fun treat, and in college (and after) the Amherst location has provided me with a fix for occasional cravings for enchiladas, tamales, or chiles rellenos.

La Veracruzana is best known for its salsa bar, where over a half dozen homemade salsas are available to serve yourself.  From mild to burning hot, tomatillo to borracha, the options are plentiful and delicious, enough to make anyone happy and accompany any dish they serve.  Chips are available--a change from when the restaurant opened-- and are a great way to try the salsas, but they are expensive at $3 a serving, though they are fresh made; no Tostitos here. 

The menu is written on large blackboards at both locations, and is rather varied; you can get anything from a quesadilla to pupusas, the delicious Salvadoran stuffed masa cakes.  I love their mole, that most spectacular of sauces, slightly sweet with chocolate, slightly spicy, and just overall so delectable that it improves anything and everything it touches; served on their enchiladas con pollo (chicken) it
Enchiladas con pollo y mole
is absolute perfection.  Tender, flavorful chicken wrapped in corn tortillas, topped with melted cheese and a sauce (mole, a slightly spicy red "enchilada sauce," or a tomatillo sauce), and served with refried beans and rice.  The rice and beans are fine, though they do not stack up with the addictively spectacular varieties at Tacos Lupita in Lynn, MA.  The beans are pretty standard, like you would get just about anywhere, but the rice is actually pretty good; I tend to mix them together with some salsa, and it tastes just fine.

Along with the enchiladas I had horchata, my favorite Central American drink, rice based and sweet without ever being cloying.  They also serve really great lemonade, a variety of aguas frescas, and during the winter, Mexican hot chocolate.  Their flan is supposedly good if you are in the mood for dessert, though I have not had it and I only know one person who has, though he enjoyed it.

All in all, La Veracruzana is an old favorite making solid if mostly unspectacular food; there are a few things on the menu that you may not recognize, and if your exposure to Mexican food is Taco Bell, you probably will be pretty shocked by what comes out.  As far as Mexican/Central American restaurants in the area, it is about as good as you will get, except possibly Mi Tierra, a Salvadoran owned eatery in neighboring Hadley.


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