La Bamba Cafe and Lounge
285 Portage Ave.
La Bamba is heating things up.
Located right smack in the middle of chilly downtown Winnipeg, you would never know from walking by the Portage Avenue restaurant that the flavours and colours of Mexico are alive and well inside.
However, as you enter La Bamba, bright splashes of red and orange envelope you and the wall art (by a Mexican-Canadian artist) captivates.
The frontage isn’t very big, but the long and narrow restaurant actually houses about 10 tables and a long, funky bar.
La Bamba was mostly empty on this Tuesday night, but I imagine, given its downtown location, the lunch crowd makes up the bulk of its business.
La Bamba opened its doors in Saskatoon in 2007 because - according to www.labambarestaurant.ca - its Mexico-born owners were tired of eating inauthentic Mexican food.
In 2010, La Bamba chose to grace the streets of Winnipeg with the same authentic zing, opening its first location in Osborne Village.
Now, La Bamba has three Winnipeg restaurants, including one on Corydon Avenue and its 285 Portage Avenue location.
Immediately upon our arrival, a basket of homemade tortilla chips and salsa verde were served to our party of three.
The thick and crispy tortilla chips, flavourful salsa and our warm, friendly server set a comfortable tone for the evening.
We began by ordering some Mexican beers and an appetizer of vegetarian tostada, which is three, large corn chips, each with a layer of guacamole, beans, lettuce and a crumble of sharp cheese on top.
Simple, but delicious.
That being said, they were a bit messy to eat and before we could ask for individual plates our server had escaped to the back. We were left to our own devices, eating over cupped hands and unfolded napkins.
For an entrée, I ordered the tacos de pollo (shredded chicken tacos), while the other two ordered flautas (crispy taquitos with shredded chicken and fresco cheese) and La Bamba Alambre (steak, bacon and cheese tacos).
Each entrée was served with Spanish rice and a ramekin of refried beans, either to eat on its own or to dollop on top of everything else.
We were all very impressed with both the quality and quantity of food on our plates.
Although they do serve dessert, we were full and our pockets were empty.
La Bamba is quite pricey (the appetizer was $9.99 and our entrées were $14.99, $15.99 and $18.99 respectively) and is likely more for special occasions, rather than spontaneous “I don’t feel like cooking” evenings.
Still, next time you’re craving a fancy Mexican feast and you’ve got a few bucks to burn, visit La Bamba - a warm, tasty reprieve from the harsh weather.
Published in Volume 67, Number 18 of The Uniter (January 30, 2013)