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Sidebars: Unassuming storefront houses flavorful Mexican food

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SidebarsI’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: regardless of your views on our nation’s immigration policy, one resultant benefit is the prolific uptick in ethnic dining options. When it comes to Mexican food, there are so many mom-and-pop choices it is hard to know where to turn. This spot makes your decision an easy one.

Flanked this day by Chris Moyer from Segway of Indiana, it was based on his recommendation we have lunch at La Escollera, having dined there himself on several previous visits. Chris knows his food and having introduced me to the previously reviewed stellar fish tacos at Broad Ripple’s Monon Food Company, I trust his recommendations implicitly. Once again he failed to disappoint.

La Escollera boasts an unassuming storefront, resembling half a garden greenhouse, on the east side of Indianapolis. Nothing fancy inside but a clean, inviting atmosphere nonetheless. We immediately seated ourselves and our server graced us with tortilla chips (the real kind, fried in lard) and fresh-made salsa. I ordered guacamole as one of my first tests. I’ve found in other places if that’s freshly made, good things are to follow. When I heard the sound of chopping from the kitchen, I figured we would get what we bargained for, and we did.

The fresh salsa and guacamole reminded me of a beachside cantina I once shared lunch at with my wife Amy in Playa del Carmen, Mexico. The difference was as we had that sun-drenched lunch in Mexico, we overlooked a pristine beach, littered with nubile women enjoying some topless sunbathing. This date, I found myself with Chris on an inordinately gray day, overlooking East Washington Street in Indianapolis after a late March snowstorm. Not quite the same, but at least the food was good!

The expansive menu is heavily influenced by seafood options. Despite that, Chris ordered two beef tongue tacos while I chose two marinated pork tacos. Each came dressed authentically, only with cilantro and sweet onion. Chris ordered a side of refried beans and rice dubbed by him as the best in the city. The tacos, wrapped in double-layered corn tortillas, were alive with flavor, especially when enhanced with a few spoonfuls of smoky, chipotle-peppered hot sauce.

As we ate, the place gradually began to fill up with patrons. At the risk of offending EEOC lawyers and, worse yet, incurring the wrath of my editor, let’s just say as far as the clientele goes on this day, we were the only two white, English-speaking guys in the place. Another good sign.

I saw shrimp cocktail come to one table. Imagine the largest beer schooner from a place like The Workingman’s Friend generously stuffed with shrimp and cocktail sauce. The other fish and shrimp platters looked tantalizing, albeit fried. Some patrons ordered fajitas, brought to their table on sizzling platters, filling the restaurant air with smells that beckoned me to walk over and ask for a bite. I didn’t because I know I’ll be back.

So thank you Chris for your recommendation. Speaking of Chris, if any of you readers want to try out a Segway, check out the tours Chris offers at White River State Park. It’s a great experience for your office or family. After your tour, visit La Escollera for a great meal washed down with a cold cerveza. Sorry, no beach though. La Escollera, 5834 E. Washington St., Indianapolis, IN 46219. 317-375-9556.•

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Fred Vaiana and Jennifer Lukemeyer practice at Voyles Zahn & Paul in Indianapolis, focusing in criminal defense. Both enjoy a good meal with colleagues and friends, and their Sidebars column reviews and rates eateries lawyers may enjoy visiting when working at courthouses throughout Indiana. The opinions expressed in this column are those of the authors.

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