La Bonita Tienda Mexicana is now serving Mexican fare on lower Brownsboro Road. | Photo by Kevin Gibson

For as long as I’ve lived in the Clifton neighborhood, I’ve longed for a place where I can get a traditional lengua street taco. That dream became a reality recently thanks to La Bonita Tienda Mexicana on lower Brownsboro Road.

The business opened late last year as a small grocery, but an ominous sign in the window touted “Mexican food coming soon.” Now that food is here, and for lovers of traditional Mexican fare, it’s a welcome addition in a stretch that mostly features fast-food chains, along with Ngon Appetit, Chik’n & Mi, a Chinese restaurant and Café Aroma, another Mexican restaurant with tasty food but a somewhat limited menu.

La Bonita Tienda Mexicana is pretty evenly split between tienda and taqueria, with the former side offering a deli, frozen foods, packaged goods and sundries, fresh bread and produce. If you want to find Mexican soft drinks and other beverages, there’s a pretty impressive selection for the size of the place. And there are bags upon bags of dried peppers, from ancho to guajillo.

The business is half-taqueria and half-Latin market. | Photo by Kevin Gibson

The other half of the business is a small, bright dining space with seven tables and two rows of counter seating looking out onto Brownsboro Road.

Multi-colored chair cushions combine with gold and red walls for a colorful experience. A menu adorns one wall.

When I walked in and started peering at the menu overhead, the young man manning the taqueria quickly offered me a hand-held menu. I ordered three tacos and a soft drink, for which he offered a cup of ice.

By the time I finished my meal, he had checked on me three times to make sure everything was satisfactory, which is impressive given the restaurant isn’t even designed for table service. Suffice to say, expect friendly service at La Bonita; I also noticed the man flowed seamlessly between speaking to me in English and helping Hispanic customers in Spanish.

My meal consisted of an al pastor taco, a chorizo taco and, of course, a lengua taco, all served in two corn tortillas topped with cilantro and onions, and garnished with lime wedges and slices of fresh radish, per tradition.

The al pastor featured tender, seasoned chunks of pork with several huge pieces of pineapple, while the chorizo was lightly spicy and chunky, rather than finely chopped as with many taquerias. My only complaint about the latter was that the portion was modest, at least compared to the fairly packed lengua taco.

The third taco was the highlight, with plenty of rich, beefy beef tongue. While the lengua wasn’t the most tender or juicy I’ve had, the flavor made it some of the best I’ve had in a while — kudos to whoever braised and prepared it.

Classic tacos at La Bonita Tienda Mexicana | Photo by Kevin Gibson

The lengua also paired nicely with the fiery red salsa presented with my meal. A second salsa was a creamy, nutty, avocado-based green salsa that was a tasty match for the radishes.

The menu at La Bonita Tienda Mexicana isn’t lengthy, but it’s deceptively varied. There’s a daily special, which on the day of my visit was costillas de puerco (pork ribs) in salsa roja. But while the daily menu includes basics like tortas, burritos, quesadillas, gorditas, fajitas and sopes, there’s also a dish called Tlayudas oaxaqueñas, which, based on a Google search, sort of resembles a Mexican pizza.

The dinner menu offers up items like chilaquiles, guise del dia (a type of stew), milanesa de pollo (fried chicken filet) and four seafood dishes, including mojarra frieta, a garlic fried fish that traditionally is served whole.

After your meal, you can stock up on produce, meat and sundries. | Photo by Kevin Gibson

Daily soups include chicken and vegetable, as well as a caldo de cameron, the traditional, hearty shrimp stew.

On weekends, the menu expands to include classics like menudo, pozole and caldo seven mares, which is a seven-seafood soup that includes shrimp, octopus, crab, calamari, clams, mussels and scallops. Most tacos are $2.50, and the prices top out at $12 for the mojarra frita.

Finally, there’s also a breakfast portion of the menu, with enchiladas and a version of the chilaquiles that is topped with a pair of sunnyside eggs. In addition, there are four options under the title “huevos al gusto,” which roughly translates to “eggs cooked to order.”

They can be ordered rancheros style, paired with chorizo, or ordered a la Mexicana (usually with tomatoes, onions and peppers) or divorciados-style on tostadas.

I’m just lucky to live pretty much within walking distance, so I’ll look forward to exploring the menu further. Just as long as I have a place nearby for traditional street tacos with lengua, I’ll be happy.

La Bonita Tienda Mexicana, located at 1999 Brownsboro Road, is open daily from 9 a.m. to 9:30 p.m.

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Kevin Gibson
Kevin Gibson tackles the 3Rs — retail, restaurants, real estate — plus, economic development. He loves bacon, loathes cucumbers and once interviewed Yoko Ono. Check out his books, “Louisville Beer: Derby City History on Draft” and “100 Things to do in Louisville Before You Die.” He has won numerous awards for his work but doesn’t know where most of them are now. In his spare time, he plays in a band called the Uncommon Houseflies.Email Kevin at [email protected]