For this first review I visited La Loteria, a Mexican restaurant in the west village of NYC. I went with my girlfriend, who enjoys gluten very much, my best friend from college and his wife who is also a great friend. His wife is very knowledgeable on health so we always have great conversations about gluten/health. It is never a redundant conversation either, like the ones I have with new friends or people who can’t understand this issue (plenty of those). But again, this is a science free blog so I won’t cover that particular conversation in this post. Other conversations with other people will be mentioned in the future though, if they are entertaining.
First off, the food here was great. I’ve never eaten in the country of Mexico but it seemed to be very authentic food. The drinks we’re great (the ones I knowingly could have) and the food was delicious. We shared the traditional guacamole for appetizer, which is an obvious staple, and I had this steak fajita thing. I couldn’t have the tortilla chips unfortunately but they gave me corn tortilla wraps instead. It sufficed. The entree came out in a piping hot cast iron skillet with hanger steak, mushrooms, peppers, corn tortilla wraps and I asked for cheese on top – def a must. I also had the cheese rice which I’ve NEVER seen before and might be one of my favorite sides. Why don’t more Mexican places have this? Or any restaurants for that matter? Cheese makes EVERYTHING taste better. Also being 4 margarita’s deep, which I was, makes everything taste better too but that’s besides the point.
Second off, keep in mind that the only other Mexican spots I commonly eat at are Rosa Mexicana and Gringo’s in Jersey City. I’ll cover those places in another post in the future. So I guess I’m talking from limited Mexican experience? You can be the judge.
My Review Disclaimer
I promise to always keep my reviews as short and to the point as possible. You won’t see me talking about little things like the fact that they have skull paintings or the music was just the right volume for conversation (true and true). I’ll only talk about the important stuff regarding gluten. If the atmosphere is something incredible or a spot that makes me want to take a shower immediately after, I’ll let you know early on.This place was a decent atmosphere with an outdoor section on a very loud and busy street. Nothing special. Anyway, onto the important scoring.
Rating Criteria: (0-10)
1. The Food, 2. The Drinks, 3. Service, 4. Menu Honesty, 5. Did I Get Sick (remember that Celiacs thing?)
The Food – 8.2
The Drinks – 8.9
Service – 10.0
Menu Honesty – 2.0
Did I Get Sick – NO
OVERALL – 8.0/10.0
Food and Drinks (8.2 & 8.9)
I already talked about the food so let’s cover the rest. The drinks were great, as I mentioned. They use their own house made sour mix for the margarita which was great. You could definitely notice the difference over that cheap crap other restaurants use.
Menu Honesty (2.0)
I’d usually go in order but let’s talk about menu honesty first since that will lead into why service is a 10. This place is a CLASSIC example of a restaurant not understanding the difference between food being gluten free ENTERING the kitchen vs it being gluten free EXITING the kitchen. What do I mean by that? When a restaurant takes delivery of food from their suppliers, it may very well be gluten free. But the minute they cross contaminate it with other foods (can happen in many ways – using a shared fryer is most common which is why I couldn’t have the tortilla chips) then it isn’t gluten free anymore. A lot of restaurants make this mistake. La Loteria is THAT restaurant. Half of the menu was labeled gluten free but in reality, I could only have maybe a quarter of the things on the menu. This is where the service plays a big part.
I’ve been here twice and it is apparent to me that the restaurant KNOWS they label their menu wrong because each time the server asked what my sensitivity was. I hate that question. It is either GF or NOT GF. There is no grey in my opinion. If you want to label everything GF when it really isn’t, then put a disclaimer on the bottom of your menu saying so. Anyway, back to service. La Loteria definitely trains their servers well and they were very knowledgeable and accommodating. They pointed me to items that I could have and informed me of ones I couldn’t. VERY HELPFUL SERVERS. I wish all places trained their servers this well, regardless of their menu labeling.
Did I Get Sick (NO)
Last but definitely not least, did I get sick. Nope. I was not “glutened” whatsoever. This will never receive a number rating because it is so black and white. My stomach and intestines are either happy campers or they are raging like my girlfriend when I don’t clean the sink after shaving. No in between.
This place is a must for celiac’s and gluten intolerance’s alike. This is a great all around Mexican restaurant.