By Jennifer Kramer
While glamorous campestres with famous chefs may be the trend for restaurants in the Valle de Guadalupe these days, sometimes nothing beats a traditional, homemade meal. If you’re looking for an authentic meal with the soul that characterizes local Mexican food, then check out La Cocina de Doña Esthela. The restaurant is little more than a large extension of Doña Esthela’s house where she and her team cook the food in her kitchen and in the wood-fire oven in the back yard.
Famous for breakfast and equally as good for lunch, everything is homemade – chips, queso fresco, tortillas, machaca, chorizo, gorditas and bread. People come for the savory and juicy meats. The borrego (lamb), which is the special of the house, or the birria de res (meat stew – served only on weekends) are not to be missed.
Doña Esthela spends time going around the restaurant chatting with customers, refilling fresh tortillas and making sure everyone is pleased with their meal. It’s a warm and friendly environment. The restaurant decor is extremely basic with wooden tables, red plastic Coca-Cola chairs and a lady making tortillas in the corner. The prices are reasonable and the clientele is mostly locals. It’s Doña Esthela and her soulful food that bring the customers back time and again.
This is a wonderful hole-in-the-wall spot if you’re looking for an authentic and hearty meal in the Guadalupe Valley. If you visit during the week, you’ll have the entire place nearly to yourself, but the weekends are extremely busy with waits up to an hour or more on holiday weekends.
The best way to sum up the experience is the message on the back of the menu:
“The secret of the flavor of our dishes is that they are cooked with a lot of love, and served at your table with happiness. Welcome to our house… your house!” -Doña Esthela
La Cocina de Doña Esthela
Look for signs for “La Cocina de Doña Esthela” from Highway 1 (free road) and turn right.
Open Tuesday to Sunday, 8am to 6pm
Closed Mondays (except holidays)
GPS: 32.019138, -116.663551