There has been alot written about La Carta de Oaxaca and after two successful trips, I agree with the 89% of approving votes on Urbanspoon. But, like my trip to Cafe Presse in the snow, I have managed to have alot of luck with some of the major detractors about this restaurant. The fact of the matter is, I have walked right in and sat right down on both occasions, though I was very aware that I seemed to come in the exact moment before the onslaught of people (and thus, waiting) begins. Also, I know that unlike alot of people, I don't get vexed easily by waiting at a good restaurant, I don't lose patience with servers who are working their tails off to serve a packed house and move people through. While I do think restaurants where people are prone to linger insist a reservation system, La Carta doesn't seem to be the type of joint that that was the case, tables just turned over too rapidly for that. And there are plenty of other places in Ballard to linger over a beer or cocktail. Another thing that lends itself to rapid turnover is the high noise level and excited conversations that are not contained by the space in any way. You are not likely to enjoy this place if you try to linger for a good long time, so if that is what you are looking for, try some place else. If you are looking for delightful, authentic Mexican food, that will get you in and out in well under and hour, this is your spot. Everything about this place was genuine, unpretentious but seriously on point, even the prices, which were very reasonable at about $7-$9 per plate.
The first time I went to La Carta, I was looking to facilitate and come to encourage my move back to eating meat. And one of the things that, for the most part, is not compatible with veganism is traditional Mexican food. While, not cheese and sour cream laden, like Tex-Mex, the poor (and very American) interpretation of Latino food, there is still a stronger prescensce of lard, cream, meat and some cheese. Fact of the matter, reading the menu there was not a single thing, other than AMAZING guacamole, fresh hot, salty chips and assorted salsa bar, there would have been for little gluten-free vegan me. Thus the de-veganism fueled the desire to go to (all) the restaurants I had been missing out on and the restaurants themselves and the promises of a renewed world of taste, flavor and food encouraged me to continue on becoming non-vegan again, which was what was best for my health.
Over the two trips, I have surveyed a good representation of their offerings from the Entomatadas my mother enjoyed to the Mole Negro Oaxaqueno that my friend Colin tried to the Fish Tacos I tried on my first visit, everything has been successful. The guacamole is delicious and fresh, the magaritas crips and refreshing. I was most excited on my second visit to try the Posole. One of my favorite recipes, which was part of my culinary showcase, is Vegan Posole. I had never tried regular Posole and so very keen to understand the different flavor profiles. They are such different flavor experiences. Other than the garnish (cabbage, radish, chopped onions) and the hominy, there is not much else similar in the vegan and nonvegan versions. Which is actually a great thing. They are distinctly different and both so delicious you would want both for so many different reasons. Posole is made with pork, shreddy and tender and has a spicy but not thick broth, complimented by hominy. It was a perfect light, but satisfying soup. The Entomatadas and Mole Negro were a bit more hearthy than the soup, but still had very reasonable, some might say small, portions. I found this too be a good thing, in the past eating I always associated going out for Mexican food with huge portions and overfull bellys. But not at La Carta. I was perfectly satisfied. And I was encouraged to continue to incorporate more meat back into my diet, as my doctor had been recommending and to continue on my omnivore way. La Carta de Oaxaca didn't just provide a delightful eating experience, it helped me change my ways for the better.