South of the border on North Beacon Hill

La Cabaña is a modest Mexican restaurant on Beacon Avenue South just south of where the Hill's namesake road crosses 15th Avenue South, in the heart of one of the city's most ethnically diverse business districts.

Just before noon Saturday there was no one in the place but my teenage son Tor and me, which flies in the face of one of my standing rules: never choose a new restaurant that has no other customers. Well, I didn't actually choose this one. The editor told me to go to lunch again, and he said I should go to La Cabaña. So here we were.

The restaurant at 2532 Beacon Ave. S was opened by the Galvan-Robles family in 1985 and continues to be family owned and operated. Our server, Martin, a member of the family, said that business tends to be a bit slow on Saturday afternoons, and has been since the Sept. 11 attacks. Is there a connection? Who knows?

The walls are paneled, colorful serapes serve as window treatments and wall decorations, there are several large paintings of heroic Aztec warriors and Mexican cowboys and lots and lots of plants. We sat in a booth where three small bowls of condiments graced the table-red salsa, green salsa and a bowl of sliced jalapeño peppers in what we decided was lightly salted water. The salsa, as well as everything else, is made from scratch on the premises. The red is milder than the green salsa, both of which have wonderful flavors. My son backed off from salsa, even the mild one, and after a short while I understood why. Even the mild sauce leaves a warm tingling in your lips after a dozen well-loaded tortilla chips.

Tor and I ordered from the list of large combination plates, of which there were 13 on the menu for $9.95 each. He had two pork tamales and I had a chicken enchilada and a chili relleno. There was also a choice of 12 small combo plates ($8.50), but we were hungry. We should have ordered the small combos. The large combos include two entrée items, coleslaw, beans and rice. The portions were plentiful, and the quality showed that La Cabana is the exception to my rule about not going into empty restaurants. We both enjoyed the food very much, especially the refried beans.

The small combos differ from the large in having just one entrée and your choice of two of the three sides. On reflection, we probably should have gone for the burritos, with choice of rice or beans ($6.95) or a taco salad, served in a tortilla shell for $6.95 (add $1 for sour cream and guacamole). Well, we thought we were hungry. We were hungry. We just were no match at mid-day for the size of the large combo.

On the way out, Tor pointed at the pay phone on the wall next to the door and laughed. He had never seen a pay phone with a rotary dial before. Ugh, 14-year-olds sure can make you feel ancient.

Freelance writer Korte Brueckmann can be reached via

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