La Mesa: creative flair, fare and atmosphere

La Mesa’s interior is an intimate space, bright and schmoozy, with service on thick oak tables covered in old-fashioned parchment. There’s an unusual vase per person loaded with a half-dozen each of forks, knives and spoons, a curiosity, but a practical one, especially if, like me, you drop forks all the time.

La Mesa comes in three settings: In addition to the central interior, it has a fresh-air garden setting in the back and a mirador setting on the second floor for a view of the lake. Juan Pablo, our waiter, sporting a long, rich, religious-looking beard, met us at our reserved table, neatly tucked into a corner. His smile sparkled to a broad welcome, polite chair-adjusted seating, immediate menus and a ready drink request – all done with patience and poise.

For dinner, you can have pork presented with pineapple, red onions and cilantro combined with a homemade sauce; chicken in white wine mushroom sauce; a hunter’s special of arrechera and pulled pork BBQed (a house specialty); salmon with rosemary dressing; and of course filet mignon.

But fashionably billed as vegetarian-friendly, La Mesa also offers a plant-weighted menu as well: bean tacos, Cobb, Spinach, Caprese salad (greens, juicy tomatoes, chunks of panela cheese, garlic, capers and a generous dowsing of olive oil) and Greek salads. There’s also a great selection of vegetarian sides, including tangy house chili beans and French fried sweet potatoes.

The salmon cakes, an appetizer, caught my eye, because they are a rarity at Lakeside and because salmon is good for mental health, so any and all that I can get, I’ll take. I chose the cakes as an entree, imagining them to be much larger than they were. Despite their starter-size, they were perfect: four pan-fried medallions: flaked salmon firmed up with shredded potato and onion. Served with a dill-flavored, very light tartar sauce. As accompaniment, I combined them with orders of La Mesa’s homemade potato salad and coleslaw. It was an experimental set of courses. And none disappointed. You have to ask for a service of bread.

My partner’s choice, a spinach salad, came full-blown in a huge bowl, plush with avocado, toasted pecans, fruit chunks, red onions, blue cheese and a sweet balsamic vinaigrette.

Another novelty: you may be tempted to order your food raw and roast it yourselves over their pit fire, anything from steak to thick-cut vegetables.

There’s a full bar and a fine selection of white wines, but I chose what turned out to be a robust Merlot and we had several glasses before and after dinner, which seemed the right full-bodied sipping partner to the light fare. Live music on Fridays and half-price wine on Wednesdays.

Find La Mesa on the mountain side of the Carretera a block and a half west of Colon. Inside, outside, mirador – choose the dining adventure that suits your mood. 

Carretera Poniente 19A, Ajijic, tel: (376) 766-2948.