La Norteña

I have a new favorite mexican restaurant in Charleston. Technically, it’s in North Charleston, but it is 1000% worth the drive out to Rivers Avenue. Other than Real Mexico in Columbia, I think this is the freshest, most authentic tasting Mexican restaurant I’ve been to in a really long time… and I eat a lot of Mexican food.

Yeah, that's pretty accurate.

Yeah, that’s pretty accurate.

I’ve been a bunch of times, so I have a lot of pictures to share. When you first get there, they bring you chips, salsa, and a plate with 4 different kinds of sauces. Many of them are spicy, so I’d recommend waiting until you have a drink in front of you before you try any of them. I really like the thicker red one, which has a nice smoky taste to it and the green goopy one because it isn’t spicy at all and is really refreshing and helps to put out the fire that the other start in your mouth.

La Nortena Sauces

The “goopy one” is the one at the very top, by the way.

When I went there last week with my dad, he wanted to try the shrimp cocktail, which came out more like a shrimp soup. It was served cold in a tomato sauce with pico de gallo, which kind of threw me off at first. I couldn’t really get over the cold tomato soup part, but the shrimp were cooked to perfection and tasted yummy. My dad said it was “very refreshing,” and ate the entire thing.

If the words "Cold Shrimp Soup" throw you off, you might not enjoy this.

If the words “Cold Shrimp Soup” throw you off, you might not enjoy this.

We also tried the guacamole which came with 3 chicken taquitos, which was kind of cool. I liked the taquitos and ate pretty much all of them immediately. The guacamole was good, but not the best guacamole I’ve ever had. Definitely better than most mexican restaurants, though. You could tell it was pretty fresh.

Sorry for the poor quality. I was in a hurry to get to eatin'

Sorry for the poor quality. I was in a hurry to get to eatin’

We also tried some of the tacos, which ranged from your normal chicken, ground beef, and pork, to more unusual options, such as beef tongue (lengua), beef cheek (cabeza), and beef intestines (tripa). We ordered three- al pastor, cabeza, and lengua. I loved the al pastor, which ended up being my dad’s least favorite. We both really liked the beef tongue (lengua) tacos, which had the taste and consistency of pulled pork. My least favorite was the beef cheek, as it was just a little too dry for me.

I have to say, eating tongue was not as gross as I expected.

I have to say, eating tongue was not as gross as I expected.

The first time we went, my mom ordered the barbacoa platter (marinated, shredded beef served with Mexican rice, refried beans, and a small salad), which I really liked, and I don’t usually like beef.

Also, they have amazing refried beans

Also, they have amazing refried beans

Ben always gets the enchiladas verdes with chicken because those are his favorite, and I love to steal bites from his plate because they’re so yummy. They’re listed on the menu as “your choice of four enchiladas topped with green sauce, lettuce, tomatoes, sour cream, and queso fresco. Served with choice of salad on top or Mexican rice.” I don’t know what the green sauce is, but it’s delicious. Ben always gets the rice, which is really yummy. Lots of times Mexican rice can be really dry, but the rice at La Norteña is never dry and always very flavorful.

I promise there are enchiladas under all that sauce.

I promise there are enchiladas under all that sauce.

When Ben was visiting with his friends from Auburn, we took them to La Norteña and they each got burritos. The burritos there are huge and they have seemingly endless options on what to put in them. Everything from cheesesteak, to fajita meat, veggies, beans… you can even get a seafood one stuffed with octopus, shrimp, and scallops. They opted for the basic Burrito La Norteña (Made with refried beans, Mexican rice, lettuce, sour cream, chopped tomatoes, and choice of meat filling) and raved about how delicious it was. Forgot to take a picture, so enjoy just screenshot from their menu.

Pixellated burrito!

Pixellated burrito!

I usually get the order al pastor (marinated, sliced pork and steak layered and slow-cooked on a rotisserie served with charro beans, sweet onions, cilantro, and soft tortillas). It’s my favorite thing and unlike anything I’ve eaten at other mexican restaurants. The charro beans (Delicious combination of bacon, chipotle sauce, beef franks, Mexican sausage, and onions) are like a Mexican version of beanie weenies, and are surprisingly good.

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On my most recent visit, I decided to be more adventurous and get something other than al pastor, so I decided to try enchiladas poblanas (four enchiladas with choice of grilled chicken or steak, topped with poblano sauce and cheese. Served with choice of salad on top or Mexican rice), with chicken. The poblano sauce turned out to be a mole-like sauce (savory chocolate sauce) which was pretty good. My only issue with molé sauce is that I really want to like it, but in reality I usually don’t. This one was good, but I don’t think I’d ever order it again. If you like mole sauce, then I definitely recommend you order this.

I love chocolate, so I don't understand why I don't love mole sauce.

I love chocolate, so I don’t understand why I don’t love mole sauce.

We also tried the Sopes once (specially made thick tortillas with your choice of meat with refried beans, tomato, lettuce, sour cream, and fresco cheese) with chicken, and it was good, but kind of strange. It was almost like eating a savory funnel cake.

Obviously I didn't take this picture.

Obviously I didn’t take this picture.

They also make pretty delicious margaritas. I tried a “Texana margarita” which is made with tequila and grand marnier, so it’s sweeter than your typical margarita. It was really good and they definitely give you your money’s worth of liquor.

It'll get you drunk!

It’ll get you drunk!

Basically La Norteña is fast becoming one of my favorite restaurants in Charleston. Even if I do have to drive all the way out to North Charleston to get there. Plus they have really awesome live music on Friday nights, and they have a special loyalty card where you buy 6 meals and your 7th one is free. How can you beat that?

Thank you Google Maps for being so creepy.

Thank you Google Maps for being so creepy.

La Norteña
6275 Rivers Ave
North Charleston, SC 29406
(843) 225-7055
La Nortena on Urbanspoon

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