North of the Border

07/02/2014 1:28 PM

07/02/2014 1:49 PM

La Unica has been a Huntersville favorite for authentic Mexican food since opening in 2008. It was due to this popularity that owners, Willie Ceballos and Martin Alcantar decided to move into the building that formerly housed, Cheese Burger in Paradise on Northcross drive. Hoping for a soft opening, the owners kept the opening date a secret, “We wanted it to be very quiet—to sort of ease into the new space,” Ceballos recounts, and continues, “but on the day we opened we were mobbed and it hasn’t stopped since!” That’s about the best problem a restaurant can have.

Even though the restaurant doubled its number of tables when it moved to the new location, (going from twenty tables to forty), the lines during peak dining hours (lunch and dinner) are often out the door (best bet is to get there before noon for lunch and before six for dinner).

The reward for waiting pays off in spades. Starting with their warm, crisp chips and three kinds of house-made salsa (insider tip: if you like spice, don’t miss the salsa verde studded with jalapenos and creamy avocados—it is to die for), the menu is vast and varied, but always keeps its roots in authentic Mexican street food. La Unica’s street tacos with carnitas gets rave reviews from area foodies.

“These are family recipes,” Ceballos says. “We really, really care about making this a place where people feel comfortable and want to return again and again to eat true Mexican food,” he continues. Ceballos himself is an inspiration, having worked in restaurants in Tijuana and Mexico City since he was a teenager, he moved to Huntersville in 1998 where he continued working in Mexican restaurants, but “What they were serving wasn’t truly Mexican food—it was American/Mexican—not authentic,” he relates. He saved up his money until he could afford to open his own place six years ago and has been working the long, physically strenuous days since.

Ceballos or co-owner Alcantar are in the restaurant every day—sometimes both at the same time. They are true restaurateurs, in that they do what needs to be done, “If a table needs to be bussed, I do it. If food needs to be run out to the customer, I do that. We want our staff to know that we work as a team. We, the owners are not above doing anything we ask our staff to do,” Ceballos says. It’s this work ethic, this attention to every detail that is behind La Unica’s success. That, and the restaurant’s insanely delicious food.

Don’t miss the authentic tacos made with your choice of seven, savory meats, fresh onions and cilantro in warm, soft corn tortillas. There are several popular lunch specials including the Pollo Fundido, shredded chicken stuffed into a flour tortilla and baked with cheese and sour cream, or the Chimichanga, soft flour tortilla stuffed with your choice of beef, pork or chicken, flash fried until crisp and napped with authentic nacho cheese. For a peek inside owners’ favorites try the Chorizo Tacos, Mexican sausage, made fresh daily by a specialty butcher or the Caldo Pescado, Camaron Y Pulpo a seafood soup made of shrimp, octopus and tilapia in a rich, tomato-seafood stock. If you are looking for a serious taste of Mexico look no further.

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