Wednesday, November 05, 2014

La Panda : Longmont

These days, there's a good chance you'll find my SO and I dining at either El Pollote or at La Panda.

There is a healthy number of taquerias in Longmont, and all of the ones we have tried have ranged from decent to pretty good.  However, the tacos at La Panda have just stood out from the crowd, and we have since found a few other offerings that we're fond of too.


I'm guessing La Panda is short for Panaderia (bakery), which took me way too long to come to that conclusion.  They do have a selection of various buns and cookies, which are located out of frame in the following picture (helpful me, I know).  But in fairness to me, the photo does show the freezer with the ice cream, which we actually enjoyed more than the baked goods that we've tried.



Tacos
The tacos are the primary reason we come here and we've, uhh, come here a bunch of times:







They have a number of choices for meat. Just to name the ones I remember: carnitas (braised pork), carne asada (grilled beef), barbacoa (beef cheeks), salsa verde, pollo, milanesa (breaded pork), lengua (tongue), tripas (intestines), buche (pork stomach) ... and I know I'm leaving off a few.

In general, we tend to be nightmare taqueria customers on our first visit, since we like to do a "variety pack" order in order to try out as many types of meats as we can.

However, on our successive visits, we've continued to do this, since they just do an outstanding job with their meats.  Each is cooked well and more impressively, has its own distinct flavor and texture.  For example, the carnitas has a more pure flavor, tasting like and with a texture of pork, slow-cooked with some salt, while the barbacoa tastes like it has been more marinated in a chile sauce and cooked until it has a toothier texture.

I should note that they do *not* have a salsa bar (at least at the original location), but they do serve a salsa with their complimentary tortilla chips.  They seem to switch between two different salsas, both of which we've been more than happy with.

Menudo
My SO is a big fan of menudos and La Panda offers it on the weekends.  Personally, menudos can be more hit or miss - sometimes the texture of the tripe can be a little much for me.

With that said, we both enjoy the menudo here.  Their tripe has a texture of a chunks of beef if they had a good portion of tendon/fat attached to them.  The flavor of the soup is really the attention-getter, though: just a great mix of flavors of slightly smokey chiles and beef stock.


Caldo de Pescado
We are also big fans of their fish soup, so much so that we've tried looking up recipes to see if we can to make some on our own.  The soup has a nice rich flavor, melding the individual flavors of the vegetables together with a unique tang to it as well.



Smothered Burrito
Yes, it looks like your standard burrito that you get at an Americanized Mexican joint, but a few things distinguish it from those: 1) there's not as much heavy filler in the burrito itself, just your chosen meat (which as mentioned above with the tacos, I'm a big fan of), 2) the green chile salsa is fresh, on the more viscous side and has a kick, so cuts through the heaviness and 3) the sour cream is not your usually super heavy stuff.

With that being said, it is a fairly large portion, so while I recommend it based on the taste alone, do note that it's probably best for when you're got a healthy appetite.




Flautas - Carnitas
Your desired meat, rolled up tightly in a tortilla, deep-fried and topped with sour cream, tomatoes and lettuce.  Also recommended as well.


Breakfast burrito - Chorizo, potatoes & eggs
I have no picture - we ate these too quickly - but I would be remiss if I didn't mention their breakfast burritos.  Delicious, with the ingredients being nicely tied together by their salsa.

Ice Cream
Last, but certainly not least, are the ice cream pops that they have.  They serve two local brands of ice cream: Paleteria Americas in Fort Collins and La Michoacana in Longmont.

We've only tried the Paleteria Americas ones, mainly because we've been scared off by the artificial sounding ingredients in the other brand.  We're also pretty particular about the flavors of Paleteria Americas ice cream that we do try now, after we tried their gooseberry flavor and it was so ick-sweet that we simply couldn't finish.

However, the flavors that we do like, we *really* like.  In particular, we're fans of the nuez (pecan), piƱon (pine nuts), and the chocolate.  The nuez and the pinon each have a nice creamy mouth-feel, reminding me a little of the red-bean ice cream pops found in Asian grocery stores. Both have plenty of their respective nuts in them, so flavor-wise, each has a nice pairing of creaminess and the flavor of the nuts.   The chocolate flavor can be best described as a fudgcicle, with actually decent chocolate and cream in it.


While I can't say that this is destination restaurant that you drive specifically to eat it, it is one of those places that if you're in the area, it's more than worth your time to check out or if you live in the area, hit up on a regular basis.


La Panda Panaderia y Taqueria
609 Ken Pratt Blvd Longmont, CO 80501 (Map)
(303) 776-1396

La Panda II
1118 Main St Longmont, CO 80501 (Map)
(303) 682-0649

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