Wizard Needs Food Badly: Birthday Bash At La Altena

Monday, April 18, 2016 - by Paquita Maria Sanchez

My birthday was this past week, which of course meant a trip to a Mexican restaurant. After going through a few online reviews, I decided to celebrate at La Altena at 314 W. Main Street.

Lionel and I were particularly excited about dinner. For the past few years before moving to Chattanooga, we had been living abroad. And though we were lucky enough to try authentic food from around the world, we always missed the taste of American Mexican cuisine, something that could not seem to be replicated anywhere.


We arrived at La Altena right around 6. There were more cars in the parking lot than I expected on a weekday, and if the weather had been just a touch warmer, I would have been tempted to sit outside on the restaurant's colorful porch.

As it was, we sat at a booth near the front where I promptly announced it was my birthday.

The service was fast and friendly. Lionel ordered a 28 oz. Negra Modelo ($4.49) which the restaurant had on tap.

“The perfect size for a whole meal,” he explained.

I ordered a 12 oz. frozen margarita ($3.75). The drinks came in chilled glasses and were a dollar cheaper than usual, since we'd arrived during Happy Hour (4 – 8 pm). We were both pleased with our choices.

While we waited for our entrees, we snacked on cheese dip ($3.49) and the free chips and salsa. The salsa was blended, my favorite style—just the right balance of refreshing and spicy. I've never met a cheese dip I didn't enjoy, and this one was no exception.

Our meals came out fast, really fast, almost suspiciously fast, but it's hard to critique such good service. There had been some interesting items to choose from. The menu was pretty extensive and included house specialties as unique as Mojarra Frita ($9.99)—a whole deep fried fish—and Shrimp Soup ($9.99).

As much as Lionel and I like to be adventurous with our food, we also have our favorites, and we chose to stick to them.

I'd gotten a single order of chicken and steak fajitas ($9.49). It came with the usual: grilled onions, peppers, and tomatoes, as well as sides of rice, lettuce, sour cream, beans, pico de gallo, and my choice of flour or corn tortillas. Lionel ordered a large spicy steak chimichanga ($7.99), which came with similar sides.

Though the marinade on Lionel's steak was fantastic—I may have stolen a few bites off his plate—he mentioned that the chimichanga itself might have been crispier. As for my fajitas, I had no complaints. I suppose the plate of sides might have been larger, but for the price as it was, it was probably fair.

After eating, I opened my presents. Lionel always knows just what to get me: the newest season of Game of Thrones and The X-Files: Fight the Future on Blu-ray.

As happy as I was with my gifts, I was a bit disappointed as I packed up my leftovers. Had my waiter forgotten? No “Happy Birthday” in Spanish? No sombrero? No dessert?

But then there they were! Three waiters and a free plate of sopapillas with chocolate syrup and vanilla ice cream!

They sang to me (in English) and put a silly sombrero on my head, something I was much more willing to wear after the delicious margarita.



Jim ‘N Nick’s Bar-B-Q Opening At Former Site Of Fox And Hound; Lupi's Doubles Downtown Space

A new barbeque restaurant is opening in Chattanooga. Jim ‘N Nick’s Bar-B-Q is located at 2040 Hamilton Place Blvd., Suite #150. The old Fox and Hound restaurant in front of the Shoppes of Hamilton Place was razed for the new building that the Birmingham-based restaurant chain has built.   This will be the 41 st  restaurant that Jim ‘N Nick's management has opened, ... (click for more)

Fulin’s Asian Cuisine To Open At Cambridge Square

Fulin’s Asian Cuisine, a family owned upscale Asian concept, will open a 3,000 square foot restaurant at Cambridge Square in 2019. Evan Chen and Ashlee Anderson of  Fulin’s in Cleveland will oversee operations at Cambridge Square. Cambridge Square is a mixed-use development located in Ooltewah, just off I-75’s exit 11. Family-owned and operated, Fulin’s has been serving ... (click for more)

Judge Collier Denies New Trial For Ex Pilot Travel Centers President Hazelwood; Did Not File Without 14 Days Of Verdict

Federal Judge Curtis Collier has issued a 48-page order denying a new trial for former Pilot Travel Centers president Mark Hazelwood. He said initial Hazelwood attorney Rusty Hardin of Houston, Tex., did not follow federal rules of filing notice of an appeal within 14 days of the verdict. Judge Collier also denied a request by Brad Henry, the new Hazelwood lawyer, for time ... (click for more)

Fight Breaks Out During Friday Dismissal At Central High School; Joshua Maddox, 18, Is Arrested With 3 Juveniles

Earlier Friday afternoon, during dismissal at Central High School, a fight broke out, at which time the SRO assigned to the campus called for additional deputies to respond to the school to assist.  The fight involved several students. Of those involved, three juvenile students were transported to the Juvenile Detention Center for disorderly conduct. Joshua Maddox, ... (click for more)

Arming Teachers With Guns Will Be Too Dangerous - And Response (4)

Arming teachers with guns in the classroom, as Bill Lee proposes, would be the single most dangerous thing to happen to students in Tennessee history. Students and teachers in close proximity to loaded firearms daily? Across this state, in middle schools alone, there are probably hundreds of student/teacher conflicts a day. What if a student got hold of gun in a struggle with ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: Dumb Ain’t A Crime

As half of America wonders how a Texas school superintendent still has a job, the other half of the country now understands that being dumb is no crime. Minutes after the Houston Texans dropped a ugly 20-17 loss to the Tennessee Titans on Sunday, an upset educator – obviously with a full head of steam -- pounded this sentence out on his Facebook page: “That may have been the most ... (click for more)