La Bahia – Level 5 Illusionist


La Bahia

224 N Mesquite St

Corpus Christi, TX 78401-2541

(361) 888-6555

interiorI run a t-shirt shop called Whetstone Graphics here in downtown Corpus Christi, and we sell a shirt that from a distance looks like a skull – a typical emo/screamo declaration of angst – but when you look at it more closely you see it’s actually several nude women.  In a town like this it’s funny that the shirt that sells the best has naked ladies on it.  It’s a tawdry illusion, and it’s the illusion that makes it interesting (okay, maybe the naked ladies help).  The subject of our discussion this morning is La Bahia, and it is cloaked in illusion.

I told my wife’s family last night that we were planning on reviewing La Bahia, and ‘El Gran’ Dee said ‘Don’t make the mistake of calling it a Taqueria, it’s Tex-Mex.’  I think the main distinction between the two is that the latter mostly serves clientele who resemble me (gueros).  Si, soy un guero pero I know tacos and these tacos were the real thing.

We showed up at 6:15, and the place was closed – but a guy came out and said ‘if you want to come in you can’  and then  ‘but we won’t have any food until 7:00.’  Psych!  So we came back at 7:00 and it was already open.  Once inside we got coffee and ordered.  The place is huge and rambling, like the winchester mansion done Spanish Colonial.  The place gives the illusion of going on forever.  Not only that, but the entire interior is done in very good faux finish, with stone arches so trim they must be wood-framed but with keystones that protrude… Maybe it’s faux stone over real stone, who can tell?  The ceiling was real wood with a faux wood finish!

The inside of my tacos were about average.  The carne guisada was flavorful but not distinctive; the chorizo and egg was not bad but not great.  But both were wrapped in good, fresh flour tortillas.  Add some of the salsa, which could have been the ‘chile’ made by my ex-wifes abuelita con un mocajete, and they were excellent.  Throw in some good coffee, good service, ice water without asking, interesting patrons (cops & clergy), and good company and the whole experience came off as memorable.  Maybe it is Tex-Mex, I heard no spanish spoken in the place, but maybe that’s just what they want you to think.


From the Hat

Sometimes it’s hard to start this comment.  What I want to say seems to come out too negative – and that’s not quite fair.  Today’s taco mini flash-mob occurred at La Bahia, downtown CC.  The place is beautiful – sprawling, brightly-lit, very clean.  The service was very good.  Coffee was there quickly and was endless.  Our order was taken and delivered with no waste of time.

I know you’re thinking there’s a ‘but’ in there somewhere, and I guess there is.  I had two tacos, a machacado and egg, and a chicharrone and egg; both a la Mexicana.  They were both ample, both served piping-hot on a pretty good flour tortilla.  But (there it is) something was missing,  I don’t quite know what.  I mean in the Platonic sense, they participated in the form of taco.  But they were almost touristy – made more for John Q. Public than an avid devotee of the genre.  You could definitely take these tacos home to mother and not offend, but there wouldn’t be any manly side talk with Dad about what’s under the hood.  It was a beautiful illusion, that hid a reality of not-too-exciting tacos.

For you nuts-and-bolts people, the chicharrones were of the air-puffed pork rind variety, the machacada was pretty good, but I should have had it without the a la Mexicana.  The a la Mexicana was good and fresh, especially the cilantro and onion.  Both came through as if they’d been chopped right before they went in the tacos.  The salsa was very good.  Might even be the highlight of the meal.  Lots of tomato and a good heat.  It made the tacos.

I heartily recommend you eat at La Bahia, though.  But make it with a crowd, particularly if they’re from Anchorage, or Ottawa, or some other place where true tacos might be unknown.  You’ll have a good time, You’ll enjoy the food and the beautiful decor, but its all an illusion.