The Mexitalian bistro La Chaya has staying power

Diners hungry for a place to linger over their meals have a home in Kingfield

In my mind, the strongest section of La Chaya's menu is its brunch list. If you've been among the throngs waiting...and waiting...and waiting for a table at Victor's or Maria's on a weekend morning, you'll appreciate having another Latin breakfast spot in town. Morning meals at La Chaya begin with a cup of strong coffee, Mexican hot chocolate, or fresh-squeezed juice served in tall, fluted glassware—the one with pineapple and lime would be a perfect hot-weather refreshment. The pastries—croissants, sweet rolls, and scones—won't top those of many local bakeries, but the fresh, abundant selection was impressive.

Thick, chewy, house-made tortillas are the base of the huevos rancheros and quesadillas, both of which are mellow dishes that can be spiced up with salsa. My two favorite brunch items were the familiar eggs Benedict with avocado, green salsa, and a side of roasted potatoes, and less-common molletes, just toasts with refried beans and melted cheese served with a coarse-chopped tomato salsa that had enough acid to cut through the rich, pasty beans. (If you don't finish your meal, La Chaya thoughtfully provides biodegradable to-go containers.)

Would I tell someone to drive in from Wayzata to dine at La Chaya? No. But do I think it's a boon for the neighborhood? Certainly. The thing to realize about neighborhood restaurants is that people aren't necessarily going there for the food. Even as culinary conveniences—Simon Delivers, online takeout orders, prepared meals—make it easier to eat at home, people still crave community connection. Sometimes diners go out to eat more for the sake of going out, and they're just as concerned with a restaurant's ambiance and hospitality as its menu. Maybe La Chaya's cuisine could use more focus, but perhaps that's not so important. Even if I didn't always love what came out of La Chaya's kitchen, I always lingered in its dining room.

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