Mighty Taco. Lloyd. Cantina Loco. Salsarita’s. La Tolteca. Think you’ve tasted all the best Mexican in Western New York? Think again. La Divina Mexican Store opened quietly in Kenmore earlier this year, a family-run grocery store with a small lunch counter on the side. But word spread quickly about the fresh corn tortillas, authentic ingredients and speedy service and soon, La Divina had a line out its unassuming door. We stopped in during a recent lunch rush for our second stab at La Divina’s offerings, and left with full bellies and ecstatic taste buds.
On the day we visited, La Divina’s tortilla-maker was sadly serving as extra storage space, and corn tortillas were being scooped up from a packaged stack. Corn tortillas have a nuttier, more assertive flavor than the flour tortillas used at most local establishments, and when heated on the all-purpose flattop, they become stable enough to scoop up as many ingredients as your taco-loving heart desires.
La Divina typically has six to eight meats on the menu, and we chose tripe and barbacoa for a pair of tacos ($2 each), “crispy beef” for a torta ($7) and carnitas for a quesadilla ($3.50 with meat). Everything is made to order, so we grabbed a seat at the counter to watch the action. Keep your head up while you watch the scraping, flipping and sizzling; it’s mesmerizing, but trust us, you don’t want to miss your order.
Next to the griddle is a toppings station, with a selection of sauces ranging from a creamy avocado-based green sauce, spicy salsa and a fresh cilantro-tomato-onion blend. There also are chopped white onions, cilantro and sliced radishes available for your taco-topping pleasure. After loading ours with sauce, onions and radishes, we sat down to tasting.
The torta came out top of the class, a favorite by a long shot. The sandwich is made on griddled bread, dressed with pickled jalapeño, tomato, a generous slice of avocado, mayonnaise and shredded lettuce.
The perfect blend of flavors, textures and heat, the torta would have made a cheap, filling lunch all on its own. The tripe taco was tender and mild, none of the chewy rubber hose character we’ve had elsewhere. Barbacoa, a slow-cooked barbecue meat, was slightly more saucy with a roasted, smoky taste. Each of the meats was cooked to perfection, with that melt-in-your mouth toothsome sensation, rather than the dried-out fare that hides under taco toppings elsewhere.
Now, that quesadilla. Quesadillas can be ordered con queso ($3) or con carne ($3.50). Spring for the meat. You’re worth it. We tried ours with carnitas, or roasted pork, nestled with melty queso in a crispy, griddle-browned tortilla. Working under the assumption that everything is better with cheese, this quesadilla was gooey, umami and crunchy for a taste sensation that reminded us what a quesadilla should taste like. Our home toaster version will never be the same.
La Divina serves a wide range of meats and styles, so bring a friend or two and plan to share. Owner Sergio Mucino also runs Don Tequila, Agave Mexican and El Agave, but it’s at this Kenmore location where his true prowess really shines.
Whether you’re looking for lunch, dinner or just a taco snack, La Divina is cheap enough to experiment, and delicious enough to keep you coming back, taco after torta.
La Divina Mexican Store
Where: 2896 Delaware Ave, Kenmore