La Casita 723 8th St. SE. 543-9022.
Hours: Lunch, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., dinner 5 to 10 p.m. Mondays through Fridays; Saturdays and Sundays, noon to 1/ p.m.
Atmosphere: Beautifully decorated in Mexican manner, noisy in a friendly sort of way, informal.
Price Range: From children's platter at $1.90 to barbecued goat dinner at $9.95.
Credit Cards: None, but personal checks accepted with identification.
Special Facilities: High chairs, booster seats, accessible by wheelchair. Street parking usually available.
What every neighborhood needs is a good neighborhood Mexican restaurant, and Capitol Hill has recently acquired one. Called La Casita, it is run by the same Gonzales family that operates the popular Speedy Gonzales in Arlington.
When we entered the attractive tiledecorated restaurant with seven adults and five children at 7 p.m. on a Saturday, without reservations, no one seemed the least bit ruffled. The hostess asked us to wait while the staff assembled three tile-topped tables and 12 brightly painted wood and straw chairs. Boosters, high chairs, menus, and tostadas with hot sauce were brought prompty by a waitress in Mexican garb.
A nine-member Mexican band strolled from table to table, and large Ojosde Dios (God's eyes), lush hanging plants, ceiling fans, and a tile half-roof added to the Latin ambiance.
My husband and I decided on La Casita Sampler, which includes a "special" taco, a beef taco, a beef chalupa topped with cheese, lettuce and tomatoes, a beef and cheese burrito, two beef enchiladas with chile con carne, a beef tamale, guacamole salad, refried beans and rice, all for $7.20.
Although a children's platter, "El Chavalito" -- a beef taco or enchilada with beans, rice, and salad -- is available for $1.90, we decided to let our daughters, who are 2 and 5, share our meals. It was a good decision, for even the help of our hearty eater failed to wipe my platter clean.
From a large selection of Mexican, Texas, and other beers, we chose a Mexican brand at $1 a bottle, regfetting that the restaurant did not sell beer by the pitcher. The only other fault I found was that the guacamole salad did not have enough guacamole to go around, leaving me with a lot of tasteless shredded lettuce.
Most of the 20 or so items on the menu are priced between $4 and $6 and include salad, refried beans, and rice. Besides Mexican fare, there is also Southwestern-style pit barbecue. Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights the restaurant serves a baby goat barbecued over charcoal, with refried beans, rice, and guacamole salad, for $9.95 -- the most expensive item on the menu. Because everything at La Casita is cooked to order, service is not speedy, but tostadas keep waiting diners happy.
For dessert, we has an order of sopapillas, deep fried Mexican pastries served with honey, which were a big hit with the kids for $1.25 All together, our bill for a family of four including beers, colas, main dishes, and dessert came to $19.65, plus tip. The families who accompanied us had similar bills.
By the time we left at about 9:30 p.m., a long line had formed at the door. Like people in a movie queue, they looked at us inquiringly. We smiled, our signal that La Casita was worth the wait.