La Cocina goes Latin, light and local

By Michelle Farnham

SEACREST BEACH – A new summer season has arrived, and with it comes a new chef and a new selection of menu items at La Cocina Mexican Grill & Bar. Christy Spell, co-owner of the Spell Restaurant Group – which counts La Cocina among its seven eateries – said it was time for something new, for both the restaurant and the South Walton dining scene as a whole.

“We wanted to provide some more Latin-based items – as opposed to strictly Mexican – and give a little more variety and some better quality,” she said. For example, all the seafood comes from the gulf and the produce is locally sourced.

“We always want to do as much as we can locally, and we have great resources here being by the gulf,” Spell said.

Camerones Tacos at La Cocina Mexican Grill & Bar
Camerones Tacos at La Cocina Mexican Grill & Bar

You’ll find gulf shrimp in the Camerones Taco, while the fish in the Pescado Taco changes out based on the season, ensuring the freshest flavors. The latter, by the way, comes topped with the house slaw, red chili aioli, and pineapple-jicama salsa.

“We’ll have market items as well that will be ever-changing,” Spell added.

Other street taco varieties include Pork Belly, Brisket Barbacoa, Arrachera (skirt steak), Polla Adobada (chicken), and Veggie – all served on a corn tortilla. Fresh-made tamales include the house brisket and an avocado crema.

Street Tacos
A few of the street tacos available at La Cocina Mexican Grill & Bar in Seacrest Beach.

Denver-based Chef Eric Bartholomew answered the call to come back home to the Southeast and head up the new menu as La Cocina’s executive chef.

“He has been a great addition,” Spell said. “Eric has a background working in Mexican-type and small plate restaurants, sort of the direction we wanted to go. It was a perfect fit!”

The Shishito Peppers at LA Cocina Mexican Grill & Bar in Seacrest Beach.
The Shishito Peppers at LA Cocina Mexican Grill & Bar in Seacrest Beach.

Chef’s Blistered Shishito Peppers are among the more popular new dishes – and something you can’t find anywhere else in the area. Think of them like a bowl of edamame you might find at an Asian restaurant. Diners pluck this small green pepper by the stem, dunk it in the accompanying guajillo-honey sauce, take a bite and then hold on! Served with a sprinkling of salt, most have a taste similar to a green pepper with mild heat, but one in every 10 is hot, earning it the nickname “the gambling pepper.”

Spell also pointed to the Achiote Fried Wings, which are a unique Latin take on the popular bar food. They have a satisfying texture, a unique flavor, and are served alongside arbol ranch and a watercress salad.

The Achiote Fried Wings at La Cocina Mexican Grill & Bar
The Achiote Fried Wings at La Cocina Mexican Grill & Bar

Something else you might not expect to find on a Latin starters menu, the Brussels Sprouts take on Mexican flavors with chili-roasted pepitas, salsa morita, and cotija cheese. Standards like the guacamole are offered traditional, or “30A Style,” which includes pepitas, pomegranate and cotija cheese.

Find La Cocina at 10343 E County Highway 30A, Seacrest Beach. The restaurant is open for lunch from 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m., and dinner is served from 5 to 9 p.m.

Photos provide courtesy of La Cocina Mexican Grill & Bar