Coast Cooking

La Norteña serves up authentic Mexican food and goods in Biloxi

La Nortena is famous for its tacos.
La Nortena is famous for its tacos. Special to the Sun Herald

La Norteña in Biloxi started out as a quirky little Mexican grocery store after 2005’s Hurricane Katrina.

If you want good tortillas, it is the place to go. In the refrigerated cases in the back of the store, you will find soft and perishable tortillas just like you get in the better Mexican restaurants.

Many people started going to La Norteña because of the selection of hard-to-find spices.

“If you want to make authentic food from Mexico and Central America, you can find what you need here,” said Roselinda Sandate, who has owned La Norteña for nine years.

After La Norteña opened, there must have been 10 feet of peg board on the wall with every kind of spice and seasoning you might want, including several kinds of dried chilies. It is the same today, and the selection is probably better than ever.

Want a piñata for a birthday party? You can find it at La Norteña. Want a saint’s candle, Valentina hot sauce (both hot and normal), an assortment of Hispanic cheeses, corn husks, cactus (the edible one), cowboy boots or Latino cosmetics? Or do you need to send a money order to Mexico, South or Central America?

La Norteña has you covered.

“Our customer base has grown now to include people from Honduras, Guatemala, Mexico and the United States,” Sandate said.

Change of focus

A few years after it opened, something interesting began to happen at La Norteña. On the weekends, a side room turned into what could best be described as a pop-up restaurant. Nothing seemed to be going on the rest of the week, but this place was hopping on weekends.

A safe conclusion was that someone at La Norteña knew how to cook, and they cooked very well.

Now it has a full-fledged kitchen and dining room, and some of the best authentic Mexican food around.

Take note of how crowded this place is around service time and of the diversity of the crowd. You’ll see lots of everday people, a sprinkling of foodies and a fair number of chefs.

Next step

The next step in La Norteña’s evolution was the addition of a meat counter. The first time I saw the counter, I bought house-made chorizo sausage and took it to a chef friend.

He turned the sausage into the best taco I’ve ever had. The selection includes some marinated meats perfect for grilling and they also make their own chicharrones, deep-fried pork skins that pair as beautifully with a cold beer as anything you’ve ever had.

Now if you pick up on a few of the ingredients mentioned here. you will be on your way to a special meal.

“We have recently started offering stewed pork and Mexican barbecue on Friday, Saturday and Sunday,” Sandate said. “You can buy it by the pound and take it with you. We also now serve tamales on Fridays.”

Stop by La Norteña and pick up a package of tortillas, a pound of chorizo, a quarter-pound of chicharrones, a soft cheese, a bottle of Valentino hot sauce and a few onions. With all these ingredients, you can make a taco like none other you have ever had.

Sauté the chorizo, add diced onions, toss the tortillas on a hot skillet to warm (add a little oil if you like), add cheese and hot sauce and there you go.

Be generous with the hot sauce. It is not too spicy, but bursting with flavor. Or you could just walk into the restaurant and sit down to one of the best Mexican meals you have ever had.

Try the tacos and burritos. You will be amazed.

La Norteña

Where: 224 Porter Ave. in Biloxi

When: 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily