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Photo by Caylena Cahill

 

La Charla

New Paltz

Opened: October 2017

$14 to $24 entrées

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If you’re open to new culinary experiences, then La Charla might be your next favorite restaurant.  The buzz started soon after this not-your-ordinary Mexican joint opened its doors. Authentic Oaxacan food — renowned for its interesting and surprising use of spices — had arrived in the Valley.

Most of the recipes are from Mexican native Ernestina Martinez (speaking through a translator), co-owner with husband Luis, who also was born in Mexico. “We get a lot of people who have already traveled to Oaxaca and are familiar with its cuisine, but people trying it for the first time usually love the new tastes, too.”


Authentic Oaxacan dishes cooked up from family recipes await at this spicy spot, which also serves carefully crafted drinks at its comfortable bar. Photo by Caylena Cahill.


Start with a margarita made with fresh lime juice and organic mezcal, an agave-based spirit that is as essential as mole to Oaxacan life. It’s best enjoyed with the house guacamole, which you can watch being made with Michoacan avocados and serrano peppers at an open prep station. Another great option is the tlayuda, a lightly baked tortilla topped with pork, beans, Oaxacan cheese, and spicy morita sauce (whose magic ingredient is smoked jalapeños). Add on some thinly sliced beef or — if you’re adventurous — sautéed chapulines (grasshoppers), a tangy, salty delicacy that some find as addictive as potato chips.


Photo by Caylena Cahill


Especially popular on the menu are enchiladas coloraditas, braised short ribs topped with Ernestina’s mother’s red mole sauce that hints of chocolate (the recipe's a secret, so don’t ask!), and finished off with queso fresco. Topped with a squiggle of melted queso fresco, it’s pretty as a pastry.  Another top item is the chamorro chileajo, a taco combo of braised pork shank and sautéed cactus paddles paired with  potent chile de arbol salsa. Churros with cinnamon sugar and chocolate sauce are a lovely (and authentic) way to complete this adventurous meal. 


 

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