One feels cooler simply for patronizing La Secina. The architecture of the restaurant seems to evoke a perpetual party vibe. At dinner, individual lights dangle on long lines amid a mesh of vines that gives the cavernous space a homey, DIY feel. The teal and orange on the wall are bright and clean. The stenciled restaurant logo and exhortations of “bienvenidos” feel as organic as they do well designed.
Downstairs, picnic tables radiate outwards from a long, inviting bar. Upstairs a dedicated booze closet services a patio that looks out upon a beautiful church across the street. And on weekends, live blues bands play everything from Albert Collins to Muddy Waters to Robert Johnson.
As hip as La Secina obviously aims to feel, it’s just as clear that its owners take the food they serve very seriously. Upon entering the restaurant, one encounters a team of furrowed-browed cooks doting over two giant comals. From these grills spring the namesake food item, cecina, a marinated and air-cured beef sliced super thin.
“Cecina is more expensive than ribeye,” Alejandro Regens, one of the siblings who opened La Secina two years ago, told us. “It takes seven days to dry in the sun. Some cuts are 30 meters long.” He said this with eyes atwinkle, speaking with an obvious love of the meat. According to Regens, this love developed over years of traveling with his brothers on motorcycle and unconsciously hunting for the best roadside versions. “We couldn’t find any good cecina in the city. So we decided to open this place.”
While the restaurant imports its cecina from the widely acknowledged best source of cecina in Mexico, the state of Morelos, its methods of conveying the meat and even spelling it are unique. For a native Spanish speaker, spelling the word with an “s” at the beginning seems unnatural (like seeing “steak” spelled “cteak”). But that’s the point. While cecina is traditionally served on its own, alongside complimentary sides, La Secina serves its namesake meat amid a wide array of unconventional culinary backdrops: salad, tacos, tlayudas.
This last dish is particularly delicious. Tlayudas are a Oaxacan specialty usually consisting of a very large, crunchy tortilla topped with vegetables, meat and cheese. Secina’s version includes beans thickly smeared onto the tortilla, which is topped with cabbage, tomato, Oaxacan cheese, refried beans and perfectly grilled chunks of cecina. When this dish is served, dinner conversation halts as diners’ eyes widen. Talk usually resumes with praise for the tlayudas.
La Secina complements its meat dishes with a fine selection of artisanal beers, both on tap and in bottles. The other menu items are decent, too, with highlights including a queso fundido stuffed with mushrooms and a veggie tlayuda full of avocado and nopales (cactus paddle). But the first-time customer at La Secina would be wise to reserve as much stomach space as possible for the restaurant’s delicious eponymous dish.
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