MONROE, La (KNOE) “I didn’t think I would make a living painting. So I do what I like while I do my business,” said Mario Mata.
The artwork on the wall at Kahlo Tapas & Tequila in downtown Monroe.
Mario Mata loves art. Specifically, the art of Freda Kahlo, the famous late painter from Mexico. Her life story turned into a movie in 2002. Mata has married his passion for painting, yes, he painted this mural, with his love of cooking. He’s opened Kahlo Tapas and Tequila in downtown Monroe.
“It’s basically conversation food. You want to talk and drink and have a good time,” said Mata.
Tapas means ‘small plate” in Spanish. Dishes may be small but large on flavor.
“We want to show there is more than tequila and tacos to Mexico. We want to show you what all we can do with our food,” said Mata.
Mata enjoys breaking the mold on traditional Mexican fare. One of his signature dishes is ceviche. A dish from South America made from fresh seafood, like shrimp in this case, cured in citrus juices.
“Cow cheeks barbacoa. Say it again. Barbacoa.”
Cow cheeks or cow tongue is also on the menu. Served taco style. And the tortillas? They’re handcrafted.
“It might take a little longer to get your food out. But when you order a taco, we’re hand-making a tortilla when you order it,” said Mata.
“That is to die for. I absolutely love that. Wonderful flavor slow-cooked meat and that homemade tortilla what a difference that makes,” said Tammi Arender, KNOE 8 News.
“I really don’t want to let that go. I want to finish all those but I’m a quesadilla freak so before I get full I’m definitely going to try that. That is truly the best quesadilla I’ve ever had,” said Arender.
“Breaking up is hard to do. I’m going to take one more bite before I head to the corn.”
“Hibiscus tea. They boil the hibiscus flowers here. And it has no tequila in it. Even though they’re famous for their collection of tequila.”
Mata was born in Mexico but raised in Ouachita Parish until he was 15. Then his Mom insisted he go back to Mexico to learn about his native culture. And food. But he was thrilled to come back to Louisiana.
“When I came back to Monroe you realize how lucky you are to be here. You compare two different lifestyles,” said Mata.
Kahlo Tapas & Tequila is located at 428 DeSiard Street in downtown Monroe. They are open 7 days a week.