La Piedad has location — and portion size — on its side
If you judged a Mexican restaurant by the number of plates the waiters can carry at one time, La Piedad would win hands, or maybe arms, down. The daredevil servers at this festive Broad Ripple eatery often carry as many as seven platters of burritos and enchiladas, five on one thick forearm and two on the other. Given that the menu warns about how hot the plates can be, you can tell just how tough these guys are. Amazingly, we never heard a single plate drop or a saw a single waiter wince.
Parillada la Piedad ($9.95) was a similarly diverse plate of fajita toppings, including ribs, chorizo, shrimp, chicken and skirt steak, all sizzling hot with a cloud of smoky steam.
It’s no secret that Indianapolis is loaded with authentic Mexican restaurants, not just on Washington Street but in every quadrant of the city. But very few of them are located in such a bustling residential district as Broad Ripple, where diners can just stroll a few feet from their homes to meet friends for a beer and nachos. At La Piedad, a few diners seemed to have walked right from their daily constitutional on the Monon Trail to a table on the outdoor patio. But who wouldn’t be tempted by Mexican food after an evening jog? With location on its side, this place is packed most evenings, especially in warm weather. An attempt to get in May 5, Cinco de Mayo, left us finding eats elsewhere. Parking along the Monon can also be tight. But the atmosphere at this place, named for a city in the Mexican state of Michoacan, is very casual and familiar, and the place seems filled with regulars who have their favorite dishes. Families with children inquired about toys they had left the last time or chatted with amiable owner Joe Rodriguez while they waited for a takeout order. Tortilla chips, which appeared immediately, were crisp and warm without being greasy. Salsa had just the right heat but didn’t impede our snacking. Guacamole, on the other hand, was almost certainly pureed in a blender or food processor; this over-mixed dip lacked a rich, chunky texture. Signs around the place advertised fajitas for two with four Mexican beers, a pretty hedonistic repast for just $23.95. Our waiter also recommended some of the more popular dishes, such as the pollo loco, grilled chicken with cheese sauce, or the Michoacano, a chicken burrito and enchilada with traditional embellishments. The “special dinner” ($8.95), however, seemed a better way to sample the range of what La Piedad’s kitchen could create. After about half an hour in which a cavalcade of plates streamed out to other tables, we finally got ours. The special alone brought three full plates to the table, easily enough to share. Plate one offered a tamale and an enchilada. The tamale wasn’t served in the usual corn husk, and it seemed not to have been steamed in one. Quite solid and dense, it was covered with a dark red sauce with ground beef that added little flavor. The enchilada also had plenty of ground beef inside and a very tame dark sauce. Moving onto plate two brought us the best dish of the five: the chile relleno, an oversized batter-dipped chile that oozed a delicious creamy cheese, perfect with a mild red sauce. A deconstructed chalupa next to it was more like a bean tostada with plenty of that same guacamole over the top. Here, however, another red sauce had a bit more kick than the others. Plate three provided just one item: a crunchy taco filled with hamburger and plenty of grated cheese — without sauce or other garnish. Parillada la Piedad ($9.95) was a similarly diverse plate of fajita toppings, including ribs, chorizo, shrimp, chicken and skirt steak, all sizzling hot with a cloud of smoky steam that gave our table a rather flavorful facial. Tortilla toppings were cut pretty small and the chorizo seemed to color everything brown. Ribs were streaked with fat, and the steak was a bit chewy. But this would have fed at least three diners with extra tortillas. Desserts range from flan and sopapillas to fried ice cream, a nod to American tastes. The flan ($1.99), which the menu said was baked fresh daily, was a super-thick custard, a bit like butterscotch pudding. The caramel sauce wasn’t as dark as it might have been, but this did make for a sweet finale. Mariachi music never once paused during our meal, giving this pink-hued place a rollicking, frenetic sort of feeling that lingered until well past 9. Strolling out, we put a quarter into a fortune-telling game and let “Gina the Gypsy” tell us that “No matter how many wrinkles you have, you’re still young at heart.” This seemed an apt adage for this youthful, friendly and generous neighborhood restaurant. La Piedad 6524 Cornell St. 475-0988 HOURS Sunday-Thursday 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Friday-Saturday 11 A.m.-10:30 p.m. Food : 3 Stars Atmosphere : 3 Stars Service : 3.5 Stars