Flavor FIESTA

La Nopalera is a much beloved staple of Northeast Florida cuisine, perhaps not for any real love for the food – but there’s something about the place that makes you come back again and again. Maybe it’s the margaritas and inexpensive fare, or maybe it’s the convenience? Whatever it is, La Nop is here to stay.

What was supposed to be a new concept at the old train station across from Aardwolf in San Marco is decidedly not. There are the same waiters and the same menu – what’s different is how gorgeous the new venue is. The vintage building has large windows, beautiful lighting, and old brick – feels more like the Ice Plant than a La Nop, also affectionately known as La Nappie.

Let’s chat about your dining experience. Before your culo even touches the seat, the waiter will zoom over with a basket filled to the brim with tortilla chips, and a cup of salsa. Be forewarned: La Nop isn’t one of those places where the wait staff hovers at your elbow. Nab him when you can!

Maybe the charm of the many La Nops in the area comes from making everyone mostly happy at the same time. Kids get a cheese quesadilla, you get a margarita(s), and vegetarians and meat-eaters alike are happy with the variety of menu options. Feel free to begin and end your evening with their two-for-one margarita special – $6.99 all day, every day. In addition to the traditional-style frozen and on-the-rocks version, it’s available in strawberry, and as a Sangrita (a new one for me), which is a frozen margarita with sangria mixed in.

Take a look at the menu while you sip salty margs; there’s lots to look through. Here’s the skinny: The California Burrito ($9.99) is a monster. With a choice of pork, chicken or steak, this burrito baby weighs about a pound. It includes rice, beans, guac, lettuce and sour cream and then the whole thing is covered in cheese. I chose shredded pork which, while a little fatty, was an excellent blend to the filling. I’m all for the portability of a foil-wrapped burrito for on-the-go, but this one is plastered in cheese – you’re going to need a knife and fork.

The Vegetarian Combo No. 1 ($7.99) is a perfect combo for the non-meat-eaters in the group. With one bean burrito, one cheese enchilada and rice, it’s filling enough to make even the hungriest of vegetarians happy. For chicken lovers, the Pollo Ranchero ($11.99) is a favorite. It’s a large piece of grilled chicken, pounded quite thin, covered in mushrooms and onions, then blanketed in nacho cheese. It also includes a side of rice and beans and soft, warm taco shells.

Including all that we ordered, the Shrimp Quesadilla ($9.99) was the most surprising. The hearty shrimp, onions and peppers were sandwiched within one giant tortilla, folded in half. The mixture is flavorful and there’s plenty of it spilling out of the edges – a table of contents, if you will.

If you’re looking for lots of Mexican food at a decent price, find a La Nop and enjoy!

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