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You see it all the time: Authentic Mexican. But really, what makes it “authentic?” The salsa has fresh cilantro? No one in front or back speaks English that isn’t broken? There’s a tableful of Mexicans eating in the corner? They call you “Amigo?” La Bamba has all that. But heck, if that’s your definition, you’ll probably find all that at Taco Bell. When I went to La Bamba I found a kitschy sombrero hanging on the wall. And a really nice lithograph—of a cock fight. A1 Steak Sauce on the table. And even a man in black walking in the door. (He looked very much a goth. Turned out to be very much a priest.) Is that authentic enough for you?
The truth is: for an ethnic restaurant to survive it must adapt to the expectations of the locale. A restaurant in Mexico wouldn’t have A1 on the table. Nor would it have a T-bone with grilled onions, mushrooms, and steak fries on the menu—but that sells in Batavia. You can also get nachos marinos, topped with shrimp, scallops, crab, lettuce, and cheese (and nachos are really a border food). You can also get chori pollo: grilled chicken and chorizo sausage. You can also get really hungry looking at this menu too long. To those who question whether a restaurant named after a song by American-born Ritchie Valens could be authentic, “La Bamba” (the song) is actually an old Mexican wedding tune from Veracruz. As a culture we seem to be confused about what “real” Mexican is, but there’s never any confusion about what real good is. And La Bamba (the restaurant) delivers.
La Bamba, 23 N. Riverside Dr., Batavia, (513) 843-5967