Photo by Emma Baker
This Fall Break, you might not be able to take a vacay to Mexico, but you can certainly try out the taste of a flavorful cuisine unique to the Mexican state of Durango.
After some hiccups in their attempt to open up last year, the Mexican restaurant La Sierra decided to join the Omaha food scene on February 15, right before COVID-19 crashed through. Nevertheless, a quick scan of their Facebook and Google reviews let me know that they are still managing to crank out killer Mexican food, pandemic and all. Hearing countless rave reviews, I had to try it out for myself.
The restaurant, located downtown on 10th Street, is a quaint and inviting space, with only a few tables and a counter. I was greeted with a (masked) smile and great customer service. With items like “tender cactus and egg” and “pork rinds in sauce,” I’d imagine La Sierra might receive a quizzical American palate every once in a while. They were able to point me to their bestsellers, like their pork in ancho pepper sauce, and advise me of the dishes’ correlating spice levels.
La Sierra is praised for their handmade gorditas, burritos and signature Durango fillings. Patrons can truly customize their meal by ordering any filling as a gordita, burrito or plate (which includes rice, beans and your choice of homemade corn or flour tortillas). Don’t go expecting toppings like diced tomatoes and lettuce or even Mexican foods we’ve grown accustomed to, such as tacos; their menu is kept simple, authentic and delicious.
I first tried an item made to order: their gorditas. Let me tell you, they’re definitely worth the wait of 15 minutes or so. Mine was stuffed with chopped poblano peppers and ground beef. The corn shell, thicker than a tortilla, had an outstanding soft texture and that subtle, yet mouthwatering, masa flavor. It cocooned the tender beef and poblanos in cozy warmth. The char of the pepper added an extra level of flavor and provided a fairly mild spice. With gorditas only priced at $2.99, I could have kept eating them all day.
The next scrumptious item I got my hands on was a potato and chorizo burrito. Uniformly diced potato pieces held up in the warm and steamy envelope of the handmade flour tortilla. The spice of the finely ground chorizo wasn’t overpowering and melded into a delicious combination with the starch. Both the gordita and burrito epitomized the phrase “melt in your mouth.” Although small (not American sized), I’d say that a burrito for $2.50 can’t be beat.
La Sierra also offered two yummy salsa options: one red and one green. The red was the milder of the two; the green, with pepper seeds submerged throughout, was spicy, but bright and what I preferred.
Of course, the apricot empanadas they had on the counter caught my eye, too. With a powdered sugar sprinkling and a delicately flaky exterior that crumbled to the touch, it was hard to resist. The filling—a kind of sweet apricot jam—was tasty and well balanced, but the proportions were off for me. I wanted more of the filling and less of the dough. Next time, I’d love to try one of their strawberry empanadas because I hear those are the standout. Once again, the price blew me out of the water—75 cents per empanada.
If you’re looking to branch out and try something new, authentic and delectable, I highly suggest you check out La Sierra. All around—from food to service—it was a great experience. I could see, smell and taste the passion the owners have. In a world without lots of travel, I say let a gordita, burrito or empanada take you on a scrumptious trip. ⅘