It’s safe to assume most of us refer to restaurants by their names 95 percent of the time. But sometimes, maybe after a long and stressful day, it’s “you know, that place next to the grocery store!” Or in the case of Lafayette’s “Secret Chinese Restaurant” (which I’ve heard will reopen soon after renovations), you refer to it by its unexpected location at the back of a grocery store.
“The Mexican restaurant next to Family Express” is actually La Aldea. To be fair, it’s the third name change in about five years. (It was most recently La Perla Tapatia and, before that, La Guadalupana.) But even if “The Village,” as it translates, is a bit out of the way, it remains home to some of Greater Lafayette’s finest authentic Mexican cuisine.
Among this space’s incarnations, La Aldea is easily the largest. Seating capacity has expanded well beyond the handful of tables previously available at the adjacent Mexican grocery store. Its butcher counter is where La Aldea sources meats for usual ingredients like chicken, beef and chorizo (spicy pork sausage) while tossing in options for al pastor (thinly sliced grilled pork) or beef tongue/cheek. There are shrimp, octopus and lobster selections. You can also get all-day breakfast, from omelettes and pancakes to breakfast burritos and chilaquiles rancheros (lightly fried corn tortillas covered with a tomato-and-chili sauce).
On a recent trip with my friend Greg, we stuck to the standbys — tacos, enchiladas and, of course, chips (thicker than your average) and salsa (on the thinner, picante side but flavorful). You can choose red or green sauce for your enchiladas, with chicken, beef or cheese, and they’re served under lettuce, with a sprinkling of crumbly cotija cheese on top. I recommend a bit of habanero sauce to top it off for a bevy of lightly spicy flavors, surrounded by a tasty lake of refried beans and rice.
Greg did a taco trio of chorizo, beef tongue and al pastor, all topped with cilantro, as shown above. Never skimpy on the meat, La Aldea double-bags its tortillas for extra support. But they’re thin enough so as to never feel like a thick wad of corn overwhelming the meat. The al pastor was a bit spicier than Greg expected, but it was a welcome surprise. Ditto the tongue, never too fatty with its perfect, hearty stew-meat consistency, and Greg’s favorite, the chorizo, which was perfectly seasoned.
Whatever you call it, the next time you have a hankering for delicious Mexican cuisine, call La Aldea your next stop.
Rob Ford is Tipmont and Wintek's communication director, a role he's held since 2015.
Rob has a bachelor's and a master's in Communication from Purdue University. He lives in West Lafayette with his wife and three children and has a life-sized Yoda statue in his office. Away from the office, you’ll find Rob working on his golf swing, jump shot, or hope for a Purdue basketball national title – all futile endeavors.