By Betsy Cook
Special to The Roanoke Times
When I first moved to Roanoke from Charlottesville, I missed the ethnic restaurants. Roanoke had fine dining places and plenty of chains , but the choices in between were limited. Happily, over the past few years, Roanoke has become home to Lebanese, Korean, Indian, Thai, Cuban, and Vietnamese restaurants. Now, with La Elenita Tienda & Cocina, we can add more authentic Mexican to the list.
Located on Melrose Avenue near the old Krispy Kreme site, La Elenita is a small grocery store and restaurant. Each time I have been there, there has been a steady stream of customers coming in to get groceries, choose a pinata for a birthday party, pick up Mexican pastries, or enjoy a meal. The family that runs La Elenita speaks Spanish. The menu board is also in Spanish, but the young woman who takes orders at the counter is happy to describe the day’s offerings and answer any questions in English.
Two friends joined me for lunch on a cold, windy Monday, and the aroma of flavorful, homestyle cooking greeted us as we entered. My Spanish-speaking friends helped me navigate the menu board, which listed a variety of tacos, burritos, quesadillas, and sopes. Although it was not listed on the board, a customer nearby was enjoying a steaming bowl of posole, which he highly recommended.
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