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Restaurant Review: Laguna Mexican Street Food

Miriam Bowers Abbott Miriam Bowers Abbott Restaurant Review: Laguna Mexican Street FoodPhotos by Lauren Sega.
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It’s been a couple years since the last visit to Raspados Y Nieves La Laguna for its frozen confections. At the time, it was located on the West Side, at the back of a laundromat.

Things change. Lots of things change: these days the project’s social media page redirects diners to the other side of town on Hard Road, and goes by a shortened moniker, “Laguna.” The new headliner at Laguna is “Mexican street food.” There’s no place to do your laundry.

For a tiny operation in a strip mall, Laguna has a lot of options on its menu.

Laguna’s tacos left to right: chicken, pork and fish.

For starters, the place makes darn good tacos. They’re built on impossibly tender, petite corn tortillas, and can be filled with the meat of your choice. The Chicken ($2) and Pork ($2) are both good, mildly seasoned, and served with a bit of onions and cilantro. The Fish version ($2.50) was nothing special, it seemed more like an afterthought. Two outta three ain’t bad.

The Burritos ($7.25) are gut busters. You can make a few little Chipotle-style choices during the assembly regarding rice and bean styles and vegetable toppings. The seasoned rice with pinto beans, tomatoes, diced cucumber, cheese, sour cream and lettuce works just fine with the house steak. The little chunks of beef are plentiful. Another score.

Elotes is an almost-trendy vegetable: an ear of corn rolled in mayo with cheese and chili powder. It’s on the menu, but the Esquites ($3.50) was recommended instead. It’s a big cup of corn parfait. Same ingredients, but it’s not a finger food; you should probably use a fork or spoon. Without the cob, the combo totally loses its magic. So that was a one-and-done.

Then there were the Papas Locas ($6.25). This was the worst dining mistake ever. A more cautious diner would have seen this coming. A more cautious diner would have seen “pickled pig skin” and come to a full stop.

But everything else at Laguna was so approachable and likeable. Surely the nacho-like appetizer built on potato chips would achieve the same fun effects. Nachos are always good. Pork rinds have been pretty good, something with pickled pig skin should be in range.

Okay, for starters, pickled pork skin (or rind) is nothing like fried pork rind.

Pickled pork skin looks a lot like a boiled onions — white, shiny, translucent, and neatly carved into loops. But while an onion has a fibrous texture, pickled pork skin is gelatinous and thick. It’s like eating a smooth glob of fat.

It’s hard to even write about it. As promised, it did cover the nachos, generously. The appetizer was carefully and lovingly constructed with the soft loops on thick chips with cheese and beautiful squiggles of sour cream and a spiked sauce. Never again.

So, thank heavens for the ice cream counter at Laguna. It’s actually the first thing you see upon entry, and it’s a clear haven, free of pickled pork skin. There’s a great opportunity to score a generously scooped cup of Churros Ice Cream ($4.95). The flavor is positively loaded with chunks of the crunchy cinnamon-tinged pastry. That in itself will sooth away any scarring memories. The selection features flavors such as chocolate and vanilla too, as well as fun flavors such as tamarind, which offers the the equivalent of Sour Patch candy in ice cream form: the flavor evolves in a mix of aggressively sourness and sweetness. It pairs well with some of the house mild mango, which offers a smooth, milky sweetness.

The new digs are at 1980 Hard Rd.

For more information, visit mexicanrestaurantcolumbusoh.com.

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