Adios Main Street, Hola Baxter Lane

Tuesday Dec. 31st, 2013

I’ve always loved full-flavored, authentic Mexican food, and I’m fairly certain that I could eat an avocado every single day of my life. Everything from burritos to tamales to flan, there’s really no mexi-style food dish that I dislike. So when a teeny, tiny eatery on Main Street known as La Tinga showed up on my radar, I knew I had to go and see what the locals were raving about. I believe I caught myself there about once a week for the first month after arriving in Bozeman. So even though the Main Street location is not open in the winter, business is better than expected for Curt and Alba, the husband and wife team, that have recently opened their brand new location over on Baxter Lane.

la tinga menu board

During my most recent visit, both Curt and Alba warmly welcomed me, as they had always done during every single visit before. I started chatting with them about their humble beginnings, among other topics, and even while hungry, lunchtime patrons were arriving and leaving completely satisfied, our conversation never felt rushed, nor did I feel like I was burdening them with my questions. Anyone who’s ever been to their restaurant knows they’re both extremely genuine souls who truly care about their customers and the quality of food they’re serving.

Here’s a little anecdotal side story about Curt and Alba: The two met in the Mexican city of Juarez. They crossed paths at a women’s crisis center where Curt was scheduled to give a speech, on behalf of his community service work while attending the University of Texas at El Paso. Alba, who is originally from Mexico City, was working as an accountant at the time and was at the crisis center for the sole purpose of picking up some paperwork. I didn’t want to probe too much in regards to their personal lives, and so I just left it at that. I suppose they fell madly in love…maybe Alba won Curt over with not only her warm smile, but it’s quite possible that her mad cooking skills may have played a part in their little love story as well. Whichever the case, the husband and wife team left the southwest for the Rockies and arrived in Bozeman almost a decade ago. Soon after, La Tinga on Main Street was born.

The original location on Main Street was a bit cramped, to say the least. It was so small that Curt and Alba were forced to do the bulk of their cooking and preparation at other kitchens located across town. Those who used to frequent the old location know what I’m talking about — you remember the long lunch lines and sitting shoulder-to-shoulder around the horseshoe shaped counter or alongside the outer perimeter while stuffing your faces and people watching. Alternatively, the new Baxter location, which opened around the first of October of 2013, is actually comprised of two separate lots, and you can see the pure joy in Alba’s face while she’s hand-making tortillas in her new and massively roomy, commercial kitchen.
La Tinga Plate
When asked what the two most popular menu items are, without any sense of hesitation, Alba said the daily specials and tacos topped the list. She noted that she personally tries to sell her tacos because the corn tortillas she uses are handmade. I can honestly say that I’ve tried every type of taco on the menu, and my personal favorite kind is the “tinga,” which is made with shredded pork and spicy chipotle salsa. Additional add-ons include lettuce, cheese and avocado, and you can choose none of them, one of them or all of them for a little extra pocket change per menu item. I always upgrade whatever I choose with fresh, sliced avocado. Also, I’m a total sucker for very, very spicy food, therefore, I usually go for the hotter option of hot sauces that are available – and I almost always regret it – in a good way. Other Mexican favorites of honorable mention are the burritos and tostadas, and I’m somewhat partial to the avocado tostada, even more so than any taco or burrito. I don’t know what it is, but I just really like the overall crunch of the tostada, which is just a crispy, flat corn tortilla, and I really enjoy the lightness and freshness of this particular dish. I like their burritos too, which are served on flour tortillas, and are, in my opinion, just the right size. Could I eat two burritos? Yes of course. The burritos at La Tinga aren’t your typical burritos, which are usually the size of a small child at just about every Mexican place you go to, but they are quite delicious, and there is a breakfast burrito option that advertises chorizo, eggs and cheese, and this morning specialty is served until they run out.

On my most recent visit, which happened to be a Friday, fish tacos were the special of the day, as they usually are on Fridays. Now I’ve always been tempted to try them but have always ordered something else instead. Don’t get me wrong, I like fried fish, but when faced with the option of having my fish either fried or grilled, I always go with grilled because I love fish and I hate it when the flavor gets covered up with tons of (usually) thick breading. I thought the fish tacos were okay. The tilapia was kind of dry and not very hot (the fish isn’t fried to order), and I immediately thought to myself that I would much prefer the tinga tacos or avocado tostadas for sure. Keep in mind, while I was eating my lunch, there were about six people that came through the door asking whether or not fish tacos were available — they love them — and that’s totally awesome. So keep doing what you’re doing La Tinga, and we will be your loyal followers, as well as a part of your novel and tasty upcoming endeavors at your new location on Baxter Lane.

La Tinga
3709 E Baxter Lane
Bozeman, MT 59718

Food Style:
Authentic Mexican

Self-serve water;
hibiscus tea and
horchata occasionally

Wednesday — Sunday from 7:30am — 2pm; open year-round now!

A la Carte

Wide, bright open space; cafeteria-like in a sense

Overall Rating:
(Out of 5 possible)

Food — 4

Prices — 5

Atmosphere — 3.5

Service — 5, 6 if allowed

Hello to all local Bozemanites, and more specifically, to my fellow foodie friends at heart. My name is Ashlee Yerrick, and I hope you’ll continue to follow my food critic reviews each month in, Bozeman Magazine. If you’d like to send me any questions/comments, you can visit my personal food blog at: “Happy Eating!”