La Cocina in Seacrest Beach has Next Level Latin Flair
July 30, 2018 by Audrey Johnson
The team at La Cocina has made big changes and big plans!
Eric Bartholomew is the restaurant's first ever Executive Chef. He is the right guy at the right time to develop the new Latin inspired menu with a coastal twist, focusing on a more upscale feel with fresh and traditional ingredients.
Locally-caught seafood, grass-fed beef, and produce sourced from local farmers make up the lighter, fresher flavor that’s not your typical Mexican cuisine. Also new to the concept - sharable plates so friends and families can try a lot more of the menu while dining at La Cocina Mexican Grill & Bar.
“I find Latin cooking and the culture itself intriguing. Very family oriented, very steeped in tradition. I think the response we’ve gotten so far is a good barometer for us as a restaurant going forward,” says Chef Eric.
Highlights from the menu include a Fresh Tamale Entree made in house fresh every day, Pork Belly Tacos and Steak Tacos being prepared authentically, which is unique for the area, and a fresh fish entree featuring a rotating catch to provide guests with the freshest seafood available. La Cocina sources directly from Greg Abrams Seafood in Panama City, a relationship carried over from Chef Eric’s earlier days.
“He is bringing in some great product. I heard about him first when I was working in Birmingham,” says Chef Eric. “He just has a phenomenal product, very fresh. The fish I got in today, they pulled it off the boat yesterday afternoon. Literally we’re getting in within twenty-four hours of them pulling it off the boat.”
It’s this level of freshness that makes dishes like the Gulf Snapper Crudo not only possible, but surprisingly delicious. Gulf Snapper is prepared sashimi style and partially denatured in lime and blood orange juices, garnished with serrano pepper and micro cilantro. “I feel like during the summer it’s a very light sharable dish. It’s very clean,” says Chef Eric.
Blistered Shishito Peppers, traditional Latin American peppers known as a Patron Peppers or "Gambling Peppers" are fast becoming a novelty at La Cocina. One in every ten peppers will be hot while most of them are mild. The kitchen crew cooks them on high heat with oil and salt and serves them with a sweet guajilla-honey glaze.
La Cocina's crowd favorites such as enchiladas, burritos, fajitas and quesadillas…and of course chips and salsa, guac and queso are more delicious than ever.
“If you want to get a burrito, it will be a better burrito. If you want to get a quesadilla, it will be a better quesadilla. The response to the new menu has been great so it gives us some room to do more authentic things as well,” says Chef Eric.
Dishes like Achiote Fried Wings - achiote marinade, chicken wings, arbol ranch, and watercress salad -paired with the Mango Margarita - Habanero infused tequila with a tajin rim – make for a fine snack.
“I want people to taste something or see something they’ve never tried before, just to open their eyes to something new,” says Chef Eric.
La Cocina is open daily for lunch from 11:30 am to 3 pm, and dinner from 5-9 pm in Seacrest Beach. Like many local hotspots, the restaurant operates on beach time (yes, that’s a real thing…kind of like island time but faster) and does not accept reservations. Tables are seated on a first come, first served basis. Visit http://www.lacocina30a.com/ for menus, online ordering and more information. Check out La Cocina on Facebook and on the ‘Gram @lacocina30a.
The Spell Restaurant Group also owns George's at Alys Beach, La Crema Tapas and Chocolate in Rosemary Beach, Grits & Grind in Seacrest Beach, Edward's Fine Food and Wine in Rosemary Beach, Saltwater Grill in Panama City Beach and Brookhaven Pub & Grill in Memphis, TN.