“This is not TexMex,” Diego Contreras, one of the owners of La Piñata in Warren, says. “We want to make our food the most Mexican it can be.” Diego, his brother Luis Contreras, and his cousin Paul Covarrubias have brought the flavors from their childhood in Guadalajara to Rhode Island in a literal way: ingredients for their sauces, specialty dishes, and drinks come straight from Mexico and the southwest.
Take, for instance, the Classic Margarita. They use Exotico Blanco, a tequila handcrafted in Jalisco, Mexico, along with a margarita mix they make fresh every day with lemons, oranges, limes, and citrus peel. To sweeten, they use agave nectar instead of simple syrup. Even non-margarita drinkers (if such people exist) would find this drink exquisite. As a garnish, the glass is rimmed with both kosher salt and a house-made spice mixture: chile peppers, salt, and dehydrated lime juice – a tangy, smoky, and delicious combination – and only $5 on Margarita Mondays.
The creativity doesn’t end with bar drinks: all of their food, from the homemade chips and queso – a blend of five cheeses boiled for extra creamy consistency – to their signature dishes are made from scratch. Maria Celina Covarrubias, Paul’s mother, is the executive chef. According to Diego, “She came all the way from Mexico to cook and teach – nobody messes around in the kitchen.”
You can find La Piñata on the corner of Main and Croade Streets, where locals may recognize the colorful patio and vibrantly painted walls of Aruba Steve’s. The decorations, however, will transport visitors to the heart of Mexico: sheets of tissue paper cut into elaborate designs and painted by hand, called papel picado, are strung from the ceiling; a plethora of piñatas (very apropos) hang from wooden beams; Day of the Dead renditions, in the form of tiles and paintings, are on every wall; and enlarged Lotería cards, aka “Mexican Bingo,” fit perfectly into the wood paneling of the bar. “We wanted to create a fiesta, an atmosphere where everyone feels welcome,” Diego says, and this restaurant is certain to become the life of the party.