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La Carreta's in Nashua - Major Downhill Alert

applehome Aug 18, 2007 07:04 AM

My favorite tex-mex in the area has gone to the dogs... worse: to the gringos.

Right off the bat, the salsa was different - ok, but absolutely zero heat. I had to ask for the El Yucateca to give it some zip.

Yesterday's chile verde was abysmal - tough strips of pork, hardly any flavor in the surrounding sauce. The chile rellenos had a thin, tough plain scrambled egg coating. The grande burrito was certainly grande, but once again, the meat - shredded beef - was tough.

But the real kicker - the rice was out of a box - par-boiled Uncle Ben's with catsup, and the beans were a complete tasteless mess - right out of the can, but a bad brand. You can easily take a decent can of frijoles and doctor it up with some bacon grease, garlic and s&p. Better yet, use a can of beans and squish them - I mean, we're not talking rocket science or major time or money here. They served us crap on a plate - no excuses.

I can see a bad night in terms of the chef being gone or something - but when the fundamentals like the rice and beans are completely and amateurishly boffed, the place is being run by accountants.

I looked around and saw all gringos - customers and wait staff alike. That's a really bad sign. It used to be that most of the wait staff were hispanic, and you'd occasionally see then speaking Spanish to a customer or two. None of that last night. If I said cerveza, they probably would have asked me what service I needed.

My son tells me that the La Carreta's in Derry is still very good and has lots of hispanic customers and staff. The bar TV has a Spanish channel going. It could be that they have decided to purposefully gringofy the restaurants that serve mainly gringos - cut costs where they will be less noticed, and keep the good stuff where they will be appreciated. What a grievous error. What are they saving, 10 cents a meal?

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  1. Keithel RE: applehome Aug 18, 2007 09:43 AM

    :( :( That's sad to hear -- the last time I was there -- I believe last October or so, it was still good.

    *sigh* Now, are there any good Mexican places up in that area (Nashua, Tyngsboro, North Chelmsford, Lowell)?

    I seem to recall someone mentioning some Mexican place in Lowell not being bad (and not Mambo Grill - though that's ok for a quick bite -- not as good as Isabel's was though *sigh*), but I can't find it now.

    1. t
      three of us RE: applehome Aug 19, 2007 07:44 AM

      Thanks for a good write-up. Enjoyed reading a new word (for me) -- "gringofy"!

      2 Replies
      1. re: three of us
        b
        Buddernut RE: three of us Aug 20, 2007 11:17 AM

        Back in the early 80's I used to go to LIttle Mexico on 28 in Salem, NH. It was the most authentic around... There's also a location in Hampstead NH. I have family that go to that location and still like it. I have been hitting up Mexico LIndo in Melrose... Excellent. I love the menu, quality, cleanliness, and some originallity (as compared to what's around for us "gringoes".) There is a location in Methuen which I myself have not been to, but again, some family members live in Methuen and they love it. Mexico Lindo is definitely worth checking out.

        1. re: Buddernut
          l
          lar3ry RE: Buddernut Aug 21, 2007 05:34 AM

          Little Mexico is in East Atkinson, NH on Rt. 111. The food has gone up and down in quality over the years, and it's currently back on a slight upsurge.

          http://www.littlemexicorestaurant.com...

          -----
          Little Mexico
          666 State Route 111, Hampstead, NH 03841

      2. kittychow RE: applehome Aug 21, 2007 02:32 PM

        I went on Sunday and found the bar service to be a bit of a bummer. A decline for sure. I hesitate to blame it on the gringos since it's the first time I was there with so many native English speakers working the front of the house. Our server (one of the gringos) didn't do so well with the margaritas. If a couple of ordered - say one with salt and one without, both turned up without salt. None of the glasses were full, and one person in our party mentioned it she said that since none of us want sour mix that's the size drink we get...

        Salsa was as good as ever. I had the burrito chile verde and it was good - a switch from my "usual" order. Tried the tamale and thought it was pretty disappointing- really blah. No complaint with the rice and beans. I have never enjoyed the chile rellenos there, usually too greasy for me.

        Any clue if there's an ownership or management shift? The folks busing tables were familiar faces but some servers and bartenders were new and more pale than the folks I'm familiar with.

        1. m
          mountainman RE: applehome Jan 5, 2008 10:39 AM

          I'm surprised to be reading all of this negative commentary and I can't help but wonder if only the few with a bad experience are speaking up. Misery loves company, ya know. I moved here 2.5 yrs ago, have spent a lot of time in the southwest, and always love trying out new Mexican restaurants. La Carreta in Nashua is still one of the best Mexican restaurants I've found and I frequent it. The chips and salsa alone are a reason to go there. Service has always been very good. If you ever need something just give the waitstaff a wave and they stop by right away. I stopped in last night and told the waitress what I wanted right as I sat down and, no joke, I had my Chile Authentico, chips, salsa, and drink in 3-5 minutes. (btw, I would suggest the Chile Authentico w/ shredded beef if you are looking for a meal centered around Chiles.) La Carreta has always been excellent with their drinks too. Their margharitas have never ever disappointed me. I always sit at the tables in the bar area since there's no wait and service is very quick there. Service has always been good in the rest of the restaurant too, but the bar is the way to go for me. Regarding the heat of the salsa, it would be neat if they made a few other salsa options (and I will ask next time I go), but their standard red salsa that is free with their chips is very unique, delicious, and everyone can enjoy it since it doesn't set your mouth on fire. Its one of the more flavorful salsas that I've had. (Some places just make it hot, not full of flavor.) Well, that's my 2c.

          3 Replies
          1. re: mountainman
            applehome RE: mountainman Jan 5, 2008 01:36 PM

            I actually haven't been back since my visit in August - I do need to give them another shot before I give up, as I loved the place for many years before this one visit. The rice was the real kicker that night - I have never, ever had that crappy, out-of-the self-boiling envelope par-boiled rice in any restaurant, and certainly not in a Mexican place. My favorite dish was always the carne asada - a thin sliced piece of rib-eye steak, with delicious flavoring, served with a couple of soft, hot tortillas. But I still remember the tough meat in the grande burrito - believe me, it's not a matter of wanting to hate my favorite place all of a sudden. They let me down.

            1. re: mountainman
              s
              snl1129 RE: mountainman Jan 5, 2008 02:27 PM

              Although I am in denial...I would have to agree with the original post except regarding the La Carreta in Manchester off of exit 10. I need to mention first that I am a devout La Carreta patron. We have been frequenting this location on a bi weekly basis for about 5 years now. Even before the big addition. In the last year or so, I have noticed a significant decline in the quality of the food, not so much the service. The service is quick and attentive, but almost to the point now where you feel rushed. As though it's fast-food. Today we had a late lunch at our favorite spot here. We ordered the nacho supreme appetizer as we usually do. I was shocked to see that it had shrunk to about 1/2 the size since we ordered it a month ago. It consisted of lots of the free chips, refried beans, 1/2 slice of tomato, dobs of sour cream, guacamole and lettuce plopped on top. We both looked at each other in dismay. We called the waitress over and double checked our order with her, just to be sure we had received the right dish. On previous visits over the years, this appetizer was so filling it could have been a meal. There was no melted cheese, jalapenos, chopped tomatoes etc. that it usually has on it. But the real kicker was that it came out to our table in less than 5 minutes. With all of our other items ordered at once. You could clearly tell these dishes were slapped together ahead of time and then microwaved to heat them up. We were sooooo disappointed.
              La Carreta is the place for us that we've brought our out of town guests, our friends and family. It's always been the "go to" place for us here in this vast culinary wasteland this side of Manchester. I hope they get the message and shape up. Because it will be a very sad day if we have to stop frequenting La Carreta. :( :( :(

              1. re: snl1129
                CookieMOMster RE: snl1129 Apr 9, 2008 09:26 AM

                Went to La Carreta's in Nashua last night. We hadn't been there in over a year .Service was fast and friendly as before but food portions were much smaller. I wanted to try their chili and to my amazement...it was the absolute worst chili I have ever had in my over 40 years! It was like a salty, sweet meat gravy with some cheese plopped on top. Not even the slightest hint of any chili in it. The margarita was weak and mostly ice.
                Needless to say we will be looking for another Mexican restaurant to go to next time :(

            2. applehome RE: applehome Apr 9, 2008 10:33 AM

              I did finally go back last week and have to say that I've confirmed the worst. I won't go back again. The par-boiled rice with ketchup really, really bothers me. How much time and effort are they saving? The carne asada was still a thin rib-eye - but it was obviously pre-cooked and reheated - very tough. (How can you make a rib-eye tough?) The tamales were tasteless - in fact everything was just bland.

              This place has become thoroughly gringofied - not that it was Mexican, but it was good Tex/Mex - well spiced food, cooked just right. It's an example of a place that became super popular (hour waits were normal) and decided to cut corners. Then eventually, they found that they didn't have to maintain their quality - most people couldn't tell the difference, so why bother? It could have had something to do with their expansion - they have places in Manchester and Derry, but ironically I'm told that those other places are actually better (in terms of food quality) than Nashua. I think that they just decided that they could get away with lowering their quality at a place that attracts mainly gringos - that's a decision that they're going to regret in the long run.

              1 Reply
              1. re: applehome
                l
                ltownhound RE: applehome Apr 10, 2008 07:49 AM

                Check out Mr. Jalapeno on Merrimack St. in downtown Lowell. Excellent, authentic, Mexican. There is a post about it if you search the board.

              2. j
                jazzdancer59 RE: applehome Jun 18, 2009 11:46 AM

                I'm very surprised at the experience. La Carreta is one of the best Mexican restaurants in the area. The salsa is awesome! Very flavorful and just enough spice. I've been eating there for about a year and I have never had a bad meal. Everything is very authentic. It reminds me of restaurants I've eaten at in Mexico. The margarita's are wonderful. All the staff is Hispanic and they do speak spanish. I've never seen an american person working there. My husbans is hispanic and very particular about food. He thinks this restaurant is wonderful, too.

                3 Replies
                1. re: jazzdancer59
                  applehome RE: jazzdancer59 Jun 18, 2009 06:26 PM

                  Welcome jazzdancer. It's interesting - I haven't been back for a year or more - maybe they realized the error of their ways and have gone back to their roots. I loved this place from the first time we ate there sometime in the1990's until about 2007. Then they went downhill. The rice became par-boiled, many dishes pre-cooked and warmed up to serve, the beef in the burritos of a poor quality and not at all braised and shredded, but tough, chewy slices of roast chuck or rump, sauced for minimal flavor. It was obviously someone instituting shortcuts and cost saving measures because they felt no respect for their clientele.

                  Since you've only been there for a year, it may entirely be possible that they saw the error of their ways and went back. Perhaps a change of management caused the problem and another one corrected it. Perhaps they lost a great chef and floundered until they found another.

                  When you say that this is what you've eaten in Mexico, what region? Mexico is such a huge food paradise with so many regions and types of food. What La Carreta serves is very much Tex-mex - border food and somewhat Sonoran, but far different from the foods you would get in Mexico City, the Yucatan or southern states. For me it's more like what you'd get in Texas and Oklahoma - decent carne asada, but no moles - nice chille rellenos, but no ceviche, enchiladas but no lengua tacos. The menu is full of varieties of super-supreme nachos - not exactly authentic Mexican. At least, in real Tex-mex territory, they'll serve soft, hot corn tortillas with butter and hot pickled vegetables. Here, they serve chips and "chunky" salsa that is almost a pico de gallo - a very Americanized thing to do.

                  Perhaps they've bounced back and I should visit them again. But I tell you - once I get served par-boiled rice with ketchup instead of some pan-roasted rice with lots of garlic and onion and a tasty base of tomatoes and stock - well there goes anything close to authentic, right out the door, and me with it.

                  1. re: applehome
                    natureboy RE: applehome Jun 19, 2009 06:08 AM

                    I recently went there for lunch and I think it's back on the uphill again. The food was fresh and service great. I agree that it seemed to have gone downhill in the past, but I think it's worth another try.

                    1. re: applehome
                      d
                      dunstable_diner RE: applehome Jun 21, 2009 04:59 PM

                      I can't say I agree that La Carreta has been going downhill for that last few years, but we haven't been going lately.

                      We've started going to Casa Blanca (http://www.casablancamexican.com/) in Billerica, MA. I'm partial to the Pork Carnitas and Sopa de Albondigas (Does anyone else serve that?

                      )

                      The food and service has been great and we've never had to wait. Not too far down Rt3 and right off Exit 29/Rt129.

                      -----
                      Casablanca Mexican Restaurant
                      99 Chelmsford Rd North, Billerica, MA

                  2. Ferrari328 RE: applehome Apr 30, 2012 10:38 AM

                    I stopped by for lunch today and found that my favorite lunch, the Special #4 is still as good as ever and the service is still very fast and friendly and the parking as bad as usual! Get here before noon or after one. Home made chips are excellent and the salsa isn't bad either.

                    http://thedailylunch-woburn.blogspot....

                     
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