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Fiesta en La Catrina, Manta

By Rolanda Stinson-Smiley

As this month is dedicated to celebrations, what’s more celebratory than Mexican cuisine? This is also a perfect topic because I hear many expats in Manta saying they miss Mexican-style food back in their home countries. In Manta, I’ve encountered quite a few places that sell Mexican-like cuisine, but I think one of the better ones is La Catrina, located on the 2nd floor of the La Quadra Plaza. They specialize in Tex-Mex cuisine with an Ecuadorian flair. The restaurant recently had a renovation of the decor, seating, as well as a menu upgrade, so it is a great time to visit. La Catrina is open seven days a week from 12:30pm - 10pm and occasionally has live music making it one of the many places that are part of Manta’s nightlife culture.

What’s great about La Catrina is its unique and colorful ambiance. The restaurant has a vibrant array of colors that immediately make me think of Mexico. The walls are painted in brightly colored murals of Dia de Los Muertos skeletons and the famous Mexican painter Frida Kahlo. They have outdoor seating from where you can see all of La Quadra. They also have a large TV on the wall that is always tuned in to different sporting events for those seeking such a venue. The bar has been totally revamped and extends the length of the restaurant and offers seating there as well. The staff are extremely friendly, knowledgeable, attentive, and some even speak a little English.

The menu is a pretty good size, offering many options to choose from. They have plenty of the usual items you see at a Mexican restaurant, tacos, burritos, nachos, enchiladas, and quesadillas. I think the prices are reasonable for the amount of food that you receive. They have a full bar and the menu features some exciting specialty cocktails. I have seen many restaurants in Manta with a moscow mule drink on the menu. La Catrina has six different types of mules, including a pink mule and a Mexican mule. The pink mule is my favorite. I don’t know the exact ingredients, I just know it was very good and very strong. Many of the drinks I tried were very strong, the La Catrina bartender does not pour with a light hand. Of course, I also couldn’t come to a Mexican restaurant without trying a margarita. Their coco flavored margarita was delicioso. I’ve never had a coconut margarita but it was definitely one of the best margaritas I have had in quite a bit of time. It’s also worth mentioning that La Catrina has their own brand of beer selection. The La Catrina beer is available in ligera (light) or regular.

If you’re interested in dinner and a show, tableside guacamole is a must on their appetizer menu. The waiter will bring a giant avocado to the table, along with salt, lime, and peppers. It’s all mashed and mixed in front of you and served with freshly made tortilla chips. Because I couldn’t get enough of those fresh tortilla chips, I also tried the totopos clasicos (classic nachos). This is a good-sized plate of nachos, but very basic. It’s really just tortilla chips, guacamole sauce, pico de gallo, and shredded cheese. I really liked that it is a nacho dish without meat and a really tasty option for vegetarians.

My absolute favorite item on the menu at La Catrina is the chicken flautas. The chicken flautas are very different from any I've had at other restaurants by the size alone. You’re served three giant flautas all of which are super crispy and filled to the max with chicken. They are topped with sour cream, chopped peppers ,onions, shredded cheese, and a guacamole sauce. It’s a big plate of food so you might want to share it with someone.

I’ve tried the tacos at La Catrina on many occasions as well as the quesadillas and enchiladas. Everything is always super fresh and delicious. The tacos are all served on corn tortillas. The tortillas taste handmade and are very light and soft. La Catrina offers the standard meats for your tacos, steak, chicken, pork, and shrimp. I’ve tried all of the varieties but the shrimp and the barbacoa (barbecue shredded pork) were the best. The shrimp was very well seasoned and cooked. I mean it’s Manta and seafood, so of course it’s perfect! The barbacoa tacos were tasty because of the sweet and smokey sauce the meat is flavored with. The barbacoa meat is combined with onions, cilantro, and guacamole. And since I love a little spice, I like to add La Catrina’s house-made red salsa to mine. Absolutely delicious.

La Catrina’s mission is to provide a space that stands out for their quality of service and experience through the mixture of Mexican and contemporary cuisine. Based on my experience, this restaurant is doing just that. The atmosphere is chill and casual, and the staff is extremely friendly. They know what they’re doing and you can tell making the customers happy is their main priority.


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