Home Feature “La Catina” at Blanton Plaza: Good Food, But More Rice Bowls Are Just Repetitive

“La Catina” at Blanton Plaza: Good Food, But More Rice Bowls Are Just Repetitive

by Sal DiMaggio

When students came back from spring break, they were greeted with a change in the food court of Blanton Hall. Where Chick ‘n’ Bap once resided was a new dining option, named La Catina. Marketed as an authentic Latin option, I was curious to see the menu offerings.

To my disappointment, the menu featured the same type of food that Chick ‘n’ Bap, Halal Shack and even Freshens serve: rice bowls. Here I was, thinking that we would get quesadillas and burritos and tacos. Instead, students are getting the same type of food, but from a different cuisine.

Ever since the departure of the beloved California Tortilla, students have been longing for that quick and tasty answer for Mexican food on campus. La Catina is Gourmet Dining’s attempt to answer that longing. And while the food is not terrible by any means, it falls short of the bar that most were hoping for.

Let us start with the main menu option, called a Latin plate. A full-sized plate is $12.99, although there is a student meal deal option that costs one block, or $8.35. That deal includes a smaller 24-ounce bowl with bottled water.

Students can choose white rice, yellow rice or fresh greens as the base of their bowl. Meat options include cilantro lime grilled chicken, al pastor, jackfruit asada for vegans and bistec palomilla. The steak will cost you an extra $1.99.

Next comes your choice of beans, which can be either spicy black beans or pinto beans with roasted serrano peppers (No beans is also an option). Toppings include tri-color tortilla strips, pickled jalapenos, red radishes, cilantro and a lime wedge.

And of course, you can not forget the sauce. Students can choose from avocado crema, salsa criolla, roja and verde and spicy chipotle crema.

For this review, I built my bowl with yellow rice, al pastor, tortilla strips, radishes, cilantro, avocado crema and salsa verde. I also got chips and guac on the side, which cost me (you might want to sit down for this one) an extra $5.99.

The presentation of the food was very underwhelming, although I will note that I had walked across campus with my meal before opening it. The ingredients seemed to be plopped in the bowl without any care for appearance.

When it comes to taste, being able to customize your bowl with sauces and toppings does help cater to one’s taste buds well. The meat was juicy, tender and flavorful- no complaints there. The taste of the rice can vary in my experience, but it’s nothing inedible even on its worst day. My toppings added some texture variety to my meal, which was much appreciated. The sauces added to the flavor of my bowl and complimented everything well.

Now, it is worth mentioning that I have the spice tolerance of a Victorian child, so I made sure to stay away from anything I knew would have steam coming out of my ears. That being said, I was expecting a little more heat just from the seasonings and sauces themselves. For a dining option whose name translates to “spicy” in Spanish, I was almost disappointed with the lack of suffering I was in.

The chips and guac also were not bad. The guacamole was not anything special, but it did its job. I did enjoy the seasoning on the chips- I was expecting them to have a sprinkle of salt on them and call it a day, but whatever spices they dusted the chips with hit the spot.

La Catina does have other menu items under a category called “Chef’s Creations,” but unless you have an abundance of blocks or flex dollars to spare, steer clear. These options include larger plates of certain Latin dishes, such as arroz con pollo, a larger bistec polomilla plate, and chofan de vegetables. However, all of these options cost over 15 dollars, and that is without any beverage or add-ons. I think I heard my wallet scream just looking at those prices.

So while the food at La Catina is not lacking in quality or taste, they missed a huge opportunity to give students some variety in what they are eating. Adding a Latin food option would have been perfect to include some creative dishes and replace what was taken away when California Tortilla disappeared. Instead, we got another variation of what already exists on campus.

But just because options like tacos, burritos quesadillas and other Latin dishes are not included right now, that does not mean they will not be in the future. It is not too late for Gourmet Dining to start asking students what kinds of options they would want from the newest dining venue on campus. But until then, we have to settle for more rice bowls.

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