La Carreta: Fresh and friendly

Ponchatoula location dishes up south-of-the-border sizzle

La Carreta has extended its south-of-the-border flavors to yet another locale, Ponchatoula. The restaurant, which opened last spring, is in the former location of Rockefeller’s, beside the railroad tracks downtown.

The subtly-lit restaurant features boldly-painted accent walls, exposed brick, framed artwork and hanging lights. A bit of the former restaurant remains with the large painting of festively-dressed ladies and gentlemen from the turn of the 20th century still dominating the north wall. Several televisions (muted) throughout the dining and bar area were showing a soccer match.

The chalkboard on an easel near the front door announced that La Carreta is now offering tableside guacamole ($7.95). It sounded like an interesting way to start our meal, and shortly after we ordered, our waiter arrived at our table with a small table of his own. There, he scooped out avocado halves and placed them in a mixing bowl, mashing them and then tossing in pico de gallo, cilantro and oregano, and squeezing fresh lime over the mixture. He asked along the way which and how much of the ingredients we’d prefer. Presenting the finished product on a white ceramic dish, we grabbed the chips and dug in. The freshness made all the difference here, putting this dip on a level above any guacamole we’ve tried before. It served three, but we longed for more when it was gone.

La Carreta’s sampler plate ($13.25) offered a beef enchilada, cheese relleno, beans and cheese, and rice on one plate, and a beef taco in a separate dish. The enchilada, covered in a dark sauce, was well-filled with tender beef and nicely flavored, but I found the cheese relleno, a poblano pepper stuffed with cheese, battered, fried and topped with salsa, to have an odd flavor. The beans and rice were average, save that the beans were not completely mashed, some still whole, giving the dish some texture. The beef taco offered two kinds of cheese, lettuce and seasoned beef inside a fresh, flour shell. Quite good.

A guest enjoyed the chicken fajitas ($13.25), an attractive presentation of marinated and seared chicken strips along with strips of onion and bell pepper to fill fresh flour tortillas. She thought, however, that the chicken could have been more tender. This plate was also served with beans and rice.

The enchilada supreme ($11.75) included three enchiladas (the guest chose one beef and two cheese), served alongside a small bowl of bean soup. Well-filled, the enchiladas were covered in a tasty red sauce. The soup, brimming with beans and dotted with oregano, was enjoyable, although this guest missed having the traditional sides of beans and rice.

The wait staff was quite efficient and friendly.