The future of Mexican food is in las Estrellas

by Joe Murphy

The quesadilla Texana at las Estrellas with rice and beans. (photo by Joe Murphy)

‘Give me this day my daily meal… and I should be so blessed as to have las Estrellas in Winston-Salem as my meal each day.

Locating Las Estrellas was tricky. Traveling down Silas Creek Parkway past the Flow Automotive compound on the right, located in front of Rent-A-Center and Autozone and beside Giant Gas and Tire sits las Estrellas (formerly South by Southwest) denoted by a small sign adorned with five stars (estrella means “star” in Spanish).

Las Estrellas set itself apart from an average Mexican restaurant right from the start of the meal. The customary chips are thicker and crunchier than can be found at other Mexican joints or even at Harris Teeter and the salsa — as opposed to being merely spiced tomato paste — has visible chunks of onions and cilantro that complement its smooth viscosity, rich flavor and bite of spice.

I order a $2.25 Dos Equis while I glance over the extensive menu that includes the standard Mexican fare of tacos, burritos, tamales, enchiladas, fajitas and a whole assortment of combination plates. Overwhelmed by the options, I ask the server for a recommendation and, on her advice, choose the quesadilla Texana, replete with chicken, steak and shrimp topped with cheese, onions and peppers along with rice and beans on the side. All for the extremely reasonable price of $7.99.

Las Estrellas’ walls are adorned with professional soccer jersey replicas — some that are autographed — ceramic pots and stone medallions.

Cloth drapes of various colors dangle over the windows and the lighting primarily comes from lamps along the walls, with the exception of one overhead fan with its light on, creating a comfortable dining atmo sphere.

The secret appears to be out as the dining area is more than half full with customers in various hues of pale here to enjoy the authentic Mexican cuisine.

Before I can put a consequential dent into the Dos Equis my meal is served. The best way I can describe it is — as my litany of Spanish teachers rarely said to me — perfecto. The rice is fresh and well cooked and unlike the beans at other Mexican restaurants that have the consistency of paste squeezed from a tube, Las Estrellas’ refried beans actually contain sizable red beans. The quesadilla is fantastic as well. Melted cheese clings between the tortilla and my fork as I bring bites of meat and peppers — with rice and beans scraped on top for good measure — to my mouth.

For the type like myself who likes to add a little more spice when necessary, las Estrellas has authentic Mexican hot sauces: Bufallo Picante, green el Yucateco Chile Habanero and Tapatio. Despite being located in Winston-Salem, there is no Texas Pete to be found on any of the tables.

The portion is large enough that I’m unable to finish my meal and ask for a to-go box. In the glory days of my gluttony a few years ago I easily could have topped it off and asked for their dessert menu, but I guess my stomach is smaller now. Although the quesadilla, rice and beans were still just as good later that night as my daily snack.

wanna go?

Las Estrellas 845 Silas Creek Parkway Winston-Salem