WEEKEND | The shabby fun of La Cosinita

Valentine’s Day was yesterday, but regardless, this is an unsentimental review of an unsentimental place. After all, it is the shabby straightforwardness of La Cosinita — located on 117 Park St. — that makes it so appealing.

As a Korean-American from Buffalo, N.Y., my ties to Mexican food go about as far as passing through the drive-thru at Mighty Taco (sort of like Taco Bell, only better). So, to assist me in reviewing La Cosinita (Yes, that’s what their sign says), I brought my very own authentic Californian with me.

The menu was much more extensive than expected, including the standard tacos ($2.99) and burritos ($5.99), as well as a number of entrees ranging from $10 to $15. By recommendation of our waitress, I opted for the shrimp al ajillo ($12.99), while my Californian friend got a green enchilada with chicken ($11.99), which was unlisted on the menu but also came recommended.

La Cosinita also has daily specials — that Monday it was chili. While my friend and I decided to pass, the waitress brought us small complimentary bowls of the spicy stew. The chili was well flavored but a little salty (nothing a good tortilla chip couldn’t fix), with a bit of a kick in the aftertaste.

Then our dishes came out. Large shrimp sautéed in butter on a bed of Mexican fried rice (which for some reason seemed to be channeling Chinese fried rice, all with peas, corn and carrots), accompanied by a side of salad drenched in bottled dressing, sprinkled with cotija. The enchilada came out with a side of beans and rice, but, most notably, it was seriously saucy. Seriously, seriously saucy. The chicken was well cooked, but a little bland — nothing some (more) sauce couldn’t take care of. Everything was well-seasoned, but could have used more.

More flavor, that is, more punch — just not more food.

As my friend said, if we could get half as much for half the price, that would be ideal, because the portions at La Cosinta are BIG, so if you go there, go with an appetite. Or a friend, if you’re lucky enough to have one.

While it doesn’t dethrone reigning champion Ay! Salsa, La Cosinita is a good place to go if you want great service, variety in the menu and a little bit of privacy.

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