Tag Archives: extol eats

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“All Aboard” The La Pasadita Train

toddextoleatsCharlestown gem serves up authentic Mexican eats

By D. Todd Applegate

Photos by Christian Watson

As a self-professed foodie and wannabe chef ’n‘ restaurateur – and one of the Extol Team’s newest members – I am thrilled the role of food writer has been put on my plate. I am ready to dig in. At the risk of losing an audience I don’t yet have, I apologize in advance for the food puns, but hopefully you can develop a stomach for them. I look forward to extolling the virtues of the fare I find in our Southern Indiana community and will relish sharing it with you. So, please enjoy and just try and digest what I’m serving up in these pages. And if you have a place you think I should try, just send an email to extol@extolmag.com and put “Extol Eats” in the subject line. –D. Todd Applegate

I wish I had a peso for every time I’ve thought to myself, “I sure would like to find a restaurant that serves good authentic Mexican food.” If you’ve found yourself thinking the same thing, give La Pasadita a try.  Just off Highway 62 in Charlestown, the eatery is easy to get to, hard to get in (more on that in a moment) and easy to enjoy…at least once you find the entrance.

Housed in a red railroad car nestled between the “powder keg” tower and the suspended vintage Chevy on the flagpole, La Pasadita is kind of hard to miss. But getting inside the restaurant itself poses a bit of a challenge. There are three possible entrances, each with its own parking area. The key is to locate and stay to the right of the nondescript La Pasadita sign and park near there. With that accomplished and the red railroad car now in front of you, take one of the two entrances, choosing either ramp or steps, to one of two doors, each leading into the restaurant.

toddextoleats-2After what sounds like a bit of a treasure hunt to this point, you will now have even more of an appetite and as your reward, be ready to enjoy some good authentic Mexican food and in an old railroad dining car to boot. Just be sure you ask to be seated in the dining car, as the restaurant is part train car and part Mexican market and café.

With a name like La Pasadita, you might expect good Mexican food. After Isabel, my kind hostess-waitress-server-cashier, seated me, she asked, “Have you ever had authentic Mexican food before?”

Slightly taken aback I inquired: “What do you consider to be authentic Mexican food?”

Isabel replied, “The main difference between Tex-Mex, which is what most people consider Mexican food to be, is that ‘authentic’ means using traditional family recipes from the various regions of Mexico in your particular restaurant.”

As for the restaurant’s name, “There isn’t an easy translation,” Isabel admitted. The closest translation I could find for pasadita comes from the word pasar, which means “to pass” or “passage.”

While that was close, Isabel added that the word “probably translates to ‘passing by’ or ‘passing on’ when used colloquially.” That was good enough for me as I thought if I was hungry and “passing by” a place, I’d like to try some traditional Mexican recipes that had been “passed on.”

toddextoleats-11With the treasure hunt and Spanish lesson behind me, I was now seated in the stainless-steel tube of an old dining car, which was behind the big red engine of the now defunct Clark Nichols Railroad, and ready to order lunch.

The menu items were primarily in Spanish but with informative descriptions in English of what you were ordering.  In addition to many recognizable offerings, the menu also included chicharrones (pork rings), flautas (deep fried chicken tacos), huaraches (shaped masa cakes), and the atypical Tacos De Tripitas, Chorizo, and Lingua (tripe, chorizo and tongue tacos). There were plenty of huevos (egg) offerings and tortas (Mexican sandwiches) as well.

Incidentally, there is one menu for both lunch and dinner, and specials for each. On the day of my visit, the lunch special ($5) included two tacos (either Mexican style or deluxe with choice of meat ) with rice and beans.

That was my starter, along with a lime Jarritos ($1.50) to drink. There are a variety of Mexican beverages both on the menu and in the cooler to purchase in the market. You can even get a Mexican Coca Cola should you choose. There are three Mexican beers ($3/each) and three domestics in bottles ($3) on the menu. And bottled water, too ($1.)

Soon, out came the salsa and chips and the Jarritos, followed by my tacos. A Mexican Taco here is a small, flat, corn tortilla with choice of meat, chopped onions and fresh cilantro. A Deluxe Taco includes the above plus lettuce, tomato, cheese and sour cream. I had ordered a deluxe with chicken and a Mexican with beef. Both were extremely tasty. The meat was tender, marinated and spiced – but not spicy. I drizzled salsa on both, which was interesting as the sauce was thinner versus chunky, but full of flavor, with onion, cilantro and a notable citrus kick. The chips were crunchy with the right amount of salt. You can get a hotter version of the salsa upon request. It is thicker and amped up with habanero, but not too amped up.

I asked Isabel what was La Pasadita’s signature dish.  She seemed to lean toward the beef choices and cited Carne Asada (grilled skirt steak; $8.99) as her choice. I have had Carne Asada elsewhere, so I opted for something different and selected the Guisado De Puerco (pork stew in green sauce) while Extol photographer Christian Watson – who’d just arrived – ordered the Quesadilla Con Carne (translation: beef quesadilla; $8.99) and a mango Jarritos. Both of our meals came with refried pinto beans and rice, tortillas and a small salad comprised of lettuce, tomato and avocado.

The tortillas, which have great flavor and are specially made for the restaurant, are soft corn tortillas served hot off the grill. You’ll notice big corn flavor in this simple little gem. However, be prepared for the texture change of this corn tortilla versus the flour tortilla that most of us are used to, thanks to the Tex-Mex options in this area.

My Guisado De Puerco was served with chunks of tender marinated pork in a delicious green sauce that was more like gravy. An ample portion for sure, as are most things here, but I still wanted more. Like the tortillas, the refried pintos and the rice were really flavorful sides. And did I detect a hint of adobo or secret spice in the recipe?

It was consistently busy at lunch on this day, and Isabel was in constant motion and multitasking. But she seemed to manage and no one seemed bothered. I just would not have wanted or needed to be in a hurry that day.

I didn’t see desserts on the menu but did notice a small case with fresh pastries (Tortas y Dulces) in the market. Just before paying my bill, I ordered a side of guacamole ($1.50) to go. At restaurants, I sometimes look at a single item that can represent the overall quality of the food across similar restaurants, almost like a standard. Guacamole or a cheese enchilada with red sauce are normally my Mexican go-to barometers. Later that night, I tried the guacamole and as expected, it did not disappoint. Simple but good, it was fresh and creamy with chunks of avocado throughout and a noticeable citrus kick, like the salsa. My wife sampled it as well and voiced her approval.

Even though a unique part of La Pasadita and the floor plan, the Mexican market is small and somewhat out of place. But as I walked around and explored, I realized there was everything one would expect in keeping with the overall authenticity of La Pasadita.  The market offered all things Goya and La Preferida brands. There were spices, canned goods, sauces, snacks, cookies and candy to choose from as well as drinks and an assortment of Mexican cheeses and chorizo in the cooler.

toddextoleats-7I plan to make a return trip soon and advise you to climb aboard the train at La Pasadita, too.

Until next time.

Tastefully, Todd


Las Pasadita

1041 IN-62

Charlestown

812.256.7918

Open 11 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. Monday-Sunday

Carryout available

Family friendly; handicap accessible

Alcohol served

 

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HOT STUFF!

SOUTHERN INDIANA’S CULINARY SCENE IS ATTRACTING ATTENTION FROM ALL OVER THE REGION – AND BEYOND. HERE’S WHY WE SHOULD BE CELEBRATING.

BY ANGIE FENTON

PHOTOS BY CHRISTIAN WATSON TAKEN AT MESA, A COLLABORATIVE KITCHEN, 216 PEARL ST. IN NEW ALBANYscreen-shot-2018-01-31-at-5-08-31-pm

Months ago, a “foodie” friend asked me for dining recommendations when she was in the area for a business trip. I text her plenty of options, only to get this reply: “I trust you, but…” followed by a few emojis along with several unfavorable GIFs.

“Trust me,” I told her, biting my tongue before adding that I would pay if she had a terrible experience. And then I waited.

After my friend’s visit, she took the time to call me – we’d seen one another in person during her visit, so this was extra – to just say, “Thank you. Wow. Southern Indiana is the next.”

The next? What does that mean? I asked.

“The next BIG thing happening,” my friend replied with a heart emoji.

Call our Southern Indiana culinary scene whatever you want – including “the next” with emoticons – but what we are is here to stay, amazing, ready to redefine and share with others. We are a community filled with talented people executing amazing accomplishments in the culinary arts, in small kitchens and high-priced ones, too, from comfort to cutting-edge food.

For example, MESA, A Collaborative Kitchen in downtown New Albany gives people the opportunity to engage with chefs and experts. This phenom in the foodie world continues to grow rave reviews while booking chefs from around the region. (Go to MesaChefs.com for more information.)

Want evidence? Look to publications and online resources like Southern Indiana Eats ‘n Treats (southernindianaeatsntreats.com), Food & Dining Magazine (foodanddine.com), Southern Indiana’s Clark-Floyd Counties Tourism Bureau (gosoin.com), and, of course, Extol (extolmag.com). Collectively, you’ll find everything culinary related from exciting and ingenious to mainstays and down-home establishments.

Whatever your taste is, celebrate Southern Indiana and what our talent brings to the table. We’re hot stuff. So, eat up – and invite others to join in.


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KENDELL SHEPPARD

EXECUTIVE CHEF BROOKLYN AND THE BUTCHER

What’s to Love: Everything. Yes, this place is pricey, but if you have the money to spend, do it. There is not a steak around that can rival one of those at Brooklyn and the Butcher.

Dish to Die (or try) For: Any steak on the menu, though the Brooklyn Wedge, Scallops and Braised Short Ribs are also knock-outs.

FYI: Speaking of knock-outs, the atmosphere is a hit for birthdays and special events. It’s also a really cool place to grab a special drink just because.

BROOKLYN AND THE BUTCHER

148 E. Market St.

New Albany

812.590.2646

www.brooklynandthebutcher.com


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PAUL SKULAS

CHEF/CO-OWNERPORTAGE HOUSE

What’s to Love: The view. The food. The walls. The staff. The view.

Dish to Die (or try) For: Char-Grilled Oysters are phenomenal, but so is the Roasted Cauliflower. Order both and cocktails. Then, decide if you want an entrée.

FYI: Portage House has so many beautiful views, it deserves to be rated “Best Date Place,” “Best Anniversary Spot” and “Best Southern Indiana Space of Solitude.”

PORTAGE HOUSE

117 E. Riverside Drive

Jeffersonville

812.725.0435

eatportagehouse.com


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RACHEL SMALLWOOD

OWNER/OPERATOR ORANGE CLOVER

What’s to Love: Owner Rachel Smallwood may have the biggest heart in Southern Indiana while also possessing one of the most amazing work ethics. Once you meet her, you’ll never forget her, her food or her spirit. Goodness, we are lucky to call her one of Southern Indiana’s gems.

Dish to Die (or try) For: Nope. Not even going to pretend to call a favorite here. Instead, try everything on the menu – including the daily specials – and you let us know. We give up. They’re all amazing.

FYI: The lines are long at lunchtime. Forgive us, but duh. Be patient. Orange Clover is worth the wait.

ORANGE CLOVER

590 Missouri Ave. Ste. 100

Jeffersonville

812.282.1005

www.orangecloverjeffersonville.com


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BRIAN STONE

GENERAL MANAGER PARLOUR

What’s to Love: The deck, obviously, but so is the gorgeous inside. But the deck. Did we say the outdoor area as in the deck?

Dish to Die (or try) For: Pizza, but you knew that already. Whatever your pleasure, Parlour delivers (when you order in-house, we mean). Take a walk across the Big Four Bridge – or don’t – but whatever you do, order a pie and you’ll want to reach for the sky (for napkins, clearly).

FYI: The pizza is the highlight, but the salads rival any we’ve found in town. (You’re welcome.)

PARLOUR

131 W. Chestnut St.

Jeffersonville

812.914.7400

www.eatparlourpizza.com


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JOSEPH HORNEMAN

EXECUTIVE CHEF THE EXCHANGE PUB + KITCHEN

What’s to Love: This is THE place that made downtown New Albany a foodie destination, and it continues to impress. Changing menus, great atmosphere and the owners’ support of what else is happening in New Albany continue to make The Exchange a must-try spot.

Dish to Die (or try) For: Hands down, at least in this weather, the ramen. This is an “I am not sharing with anyone” dish, and once those with you try it, they’ll understand why you were so stingy and want a bowl of their own.

FYI: In warmer months, The Exchange welcome’s animals on its beautiful patio. And, the owners are majorly involved in giving back to the community. Love them for that with your business.

THE EXCHANGE PUB + KITCHEN

118 W. Main St.

New Albany

812.948.6501

www.exchangeforfood.com


 

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Chef Bobby Benjamin at MESA

Jan. 20 • MESA, A Collaborative Kitchen in New Albany

Photos by Christian Watson

Chef Bobby Benjamin of Butchertown Grocery in Louisville returned to MESA, A Collaborative Kitchen Jan. 20. The renowned restaurateur and chef wowed attendees with a sold-out “Mexican Flare” brunch. Find out more about MESA, which continues to garner rave reviews, but going to mesachefs.com.