You might find it hard to believe, but it wasn’t that many years ago that there were only two Mexican restaurants on the Mississippi Gulf Coast — Cuco’s Mexican Café on Highway 90 in Biloxi and El Mexican Restaurante on 30th Avenue in Gulfport.
Cuco’s was a chain that served Tex-Mex food and was also a favorite place to go for margaritas. El Mexican served more traditional Mexican food, but it was a bit out of the way, and not that many people knew about it. El Mexican is still around, but Cuco’s vanished with Hurricane Katrina.
Today, there are dozens of Mexican places, most Tex-Mex, but not all. They started popping up after Katrina amid the massive influx of Hispanic people who came to help clean up and bail us out of the mess we were in. As you might guess, I do have a favorite, La Norteña, on Porter Avenue in Biloxi, just a few blocks from my house.
La Norteña serves traditional Mexican food that is prepared to your order, has seasonal specialties, and you will realize how good it is when you see grandma cooking in the kitchen. The last time I went with friends for lunch, the place was packed.
The menu really is extensive, with 10 main categories, a few house specialties, and seasonal specialties, that include fresh juices, and desserts made with fresh fruit and Mexican crème. You have your choice of quesadilla (tortillas with melted cheese), chimichanga (deep-fried burrito), tacos, burritos, huaraches (masa dough baked into something like a flatbread, with refried beans, meat, and cheese), gorditas (a dough pocket that is baked and filled), sope (fried masa base with toppings), and tortas (Mexican sandwiches), all offered with eight possible toppings (steak, chicken, pork, Mexican BBQ, marinated pork and tripe).
I have had so many good meals there it is hard to pick a favorite, but the grilled Mexican street corn is just sensational, the desserts are sumptuous, light, and perfect for a hot summer’s day. They also have house-made chicharrónes and a nice selection of Mexican beers, including Modelo, Pacifico, and Corona.
If you are thinking about a Mexican treat, this is the place for you.