Lala’s Mexican Café is a fast-casual restaurant that focuses on clean food. Lala’s, owned by Michelle Mireles of One Arts Plaza’s Jorge’s TexMex Café, opened last fall in Preston Center. With Lala’s (named after her grandmother), Mireles is taking her traditional family cuisine and infusing it with a modern, healthy twist.
Lala’s approaches healthy food in several ways. All the food is organic. There are vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free options. All the food is non-GMO, it uses grass-fed beef, and the ingredients are free from processed cheese, flour, refined sugar and artificial flavors.
Inside, it’s set up like a typical fast-casual restaurant with counter service. But after standing behind a couple ordering at the register for a few minutes, we were told, “No, no — go sit down at a table! We’ll serve you there.”
Upon first glance, the menu is extensive and overwhelming. There are so many choices with many ways to modify them. Lala’s includes icons to designate which items are vegetarian, vegan and grain-free, which further complicates the already cluttered menu.
The first thing Dallasites are bound to notice: Chips and salsa will cost you ($2.60 for small, $4.60 for large). In Texas, this is a sin. We bit the bullet, though, and tried the habanero salsa with organic corn chips. The salsa is creamy and satisfyingly spicy, but the chips are obviously from a bag. Alternatively, you have the option of Siete grain-free chips for an added $1.30.
Other appetizers include queso ($4.80 for small, $6.80 for large), pozole rojo ($5 for small, $8 for large), quesadillas ($9-$13) and mini flautas ($8.50-$9).
Lala’s offers a large variety of tacos, with options such as verde nopales ($3.50), fajita al carbon with shrimp ($4.75), black bean and spinach with grass-fed ground beef ($4.50), and vegan al pastor ($4.50) — which, confusingly, you can also order with organic shredded chicken. For a grain-free option, try one of the mini tacos, served on sliced jicama.
Lala's also has grain-free jicama tostadas with chicken, beef or shrimp ($4.25-$4.75); grilled chile rellenos ($6.25-$7.25); and enchiladas ($3.85-$4.75), which you can also get with a zucchini “tortilla.”
Order a quinoa bowl, lettuce wraps or a salad with one of four toppings. The fajitas — organic chicken, grass-fed beef, veggie or shrimp — are $17 for one person or $21 for two people.
After we finally made sense of the menu and ordered with the help of a server, everything we ate was satisfactory. The food was clearly fresh (except for the chips), and while it definitely tasted healthy, it was not bland or boring.
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Like the menu, the pricing is confusing. It’s understandable that you’ll be paying more for the types of ingredients that Lala’s uses. But it doesn’t make sense: One teeny tiny beef taco is $3.25 while four flautas with beef are $9. You have to pay $2.60 for a small bowl of salsa while a side of verde riced broccoli is $2.
Overall, Lala’s is an uneven experience. Once you figure out how to order inside the restaurant and sift through the menu, it offers some high-quality, well-seasoned, healthful food.
Lala's Mexican Cafe, 6030 Luther Lane (Preston Center)