The folks who run La Fiesta (7403 Denison Ave., 216-212-3423) in the Stockyards neighborhood, not to be confused with the long-running east-side eatery of the same name, could not be more friendly and accommodating. We were greeted warmly upon entering the restaurant, which occupies the first floor of a building that's been standing in this community since the mid-1800s.
It doesn't take a visitor long to see that this is a modest operation run by a couple and a single cook. Chips and mild tomato salsa land on the table in a flash, followed quickly by a pair of squeeze bottles filled with brews more exciting than the first. Both, a bright, tart salsa verde and a smoky-hot chile de arbol sauce, saw plenty of action throughout our meal.
The concise two-sided menu is populated by street food items like tacos, tostadas and quesadillas and homestyle entrees sided by rice, beans and a small salad. We loved being able to mix and match starter snacks like chorizo tostadas ($2.50), lengua tacos ($2.50) and chicken quesadillas ($3.50). The tacos arrive on a pair of warm corn tortillas garnished simply with chopped white onion and cilantro. A crispy tostada shell was slathered with refried beans and piled high with zesty ground meat, shredded lettuce and cool crema. The owner apologized for not being able to fill an order for guacamole because he had no ripe avocados. Who can blame him?
Larger plates star items like flautas, grilled steak and whole fried tilapia. A trio of soft enchiladas comes stuffed with tender shredded chicken ($7.99) and ladled with red or green sauce. An order of shrimp mojo de ajo netted a massive portion of garlicy shrimp and sautéed onions. In addition to the excellent refried beans and sunny Spanish rice, most entrees also come with warm tortillas, a nice touch. It wasn't until later that I noticed a discrepancy between the menu price for the shrimp ($12.99) and the price on my receipt ($15).
Given the festive name La Fiesta, you might expect a lineup of cold beers and boozy margaritas, but the beverages here run soft. On tap are sweet, creamy horchata, tart, refreshing agua de tamarindo, and bottled Jarritos sodas from Mexico.