*Update: Sadly, La Gloria has since closed. But happily, it’s been replaced by the very nice Roamers Cafe.*
Once upon a time, I was but a naive young grasshopper, living in that other part of Neukölln up on top of the hill, nearby an overgrown airport tarmac fenced off with barbed wire. Tempelhof wasn’t yet a park and nobody was calling the Schillerkiez the Schillerkiez, it was just that part of Neukölln where nobody really wanted to move to because everyone was too obsessed with Kreuzkölln and the Reuterkiez and the canal. Anyway, back in those halcyon days of my bygone youth (*ahem* four years ago), I actually got excited when hip little café-bars opened up around me. The neighbourhood was all dingy Eckkneipen (corner pubs) and Spätis (corner stores)–not that I dislike either of those things, but I was enthused by the possibility of spiffy new places to get a decent espresso by day and maybe a decent whiskey by night.
Fast-forward to the present day, where I’ve become one of those despicable jaded types, so spoiled for choice that I can barely muster a hint of excitement for the many many new cafés and bars constantly opening in my area. To put it into perspective: In two years of living on Weisestraße, a total of maybe three places opened in the ‘hood. Around where I now live down in the Reuterkiez, it seems like three new places are opening every week.
Which is why, although I first noticed the La Gloria Mexican food café sometime last year, and passed by it multiple times a week in the meantime, it took me until now to actually get around to trying it. And it’s going to be a keeper.
Nestled into the crook of a side street between Sonnenallee and Karl-Marx-Straße, La Gloria makes good use of its sidewalk real estate, with plenty of creative seating under the shade of a tree, a perfect spot for lounging and engaging in a little oh-so-colourful Neukölln people-watching. The inside space is is charmingly decorated in a sort of artsy Mexican funk aesthetic. Think Day of the Dead altars, Lucha libre masks and posters, and so on–memorable without being over the top.
The menu basically has four items–quesadillas, burritos, chilaquiles, and frijoles–each of which come in variations of chicken, veg, and so on. Chilaquiles, a traditional Mexican breakfast item (so said the menu), are crispy corn tortilla pieces topped with saucy chicken and/or veggies and cheese, then crowned with a golden fried egg. Not sure I could regularly stomach a dish this heavy first thing in the a.m., but it does have “hangover breakfast” written all over it. My quesadilla was amply stuffed with cheese and a tasty veg mix and came with two fresh salsas–a steal at just €3.50. We have yet to try the frijoles (beans baked with cheese, salsa and toppings) or the burritos, which are breakfast-style burritos stuffed with scrambled eggs along with the usual filling options. But I’m going to assume they’re as tasty as their other menu brethren.
Make sure to come thirsty, too. La Gloria makes fresh juice blends that go beyond the usual fruit suspects to include more adventurous things like spinach, beets, ginger, and celery. Couldn’t we all use a little “Energia Fresca” (honeydew melon, watermelon, kiwi, lemon)? Can’t say much on the quality of the coffee, though, because it was 34° C and we all got the delicious iced coffee, which has enough sugar and milk to mask the taste of any coffee sins.
What La Gloria has going for it, other than the alluring fact that it’s near my house: It’s a fresh taste of Mexico that offers something different than the many taco places that have sprung up around the city in recent years. (Most of which are blah, anyway–I’m looking at you, Santa Maria and Chaparro.) I also liked it better than the only other Mexican(ish) place in the ‘hood, Burrito Baby, whose food is just too bland and bean-heavy for my tastes. So, gloria in excelsis Deo–the Neukölln culinary landscape is one tasty eatery richer.
La Gloria: Donaustr. 1 | Open Tues.-Sun. 12.00-22.00 | Facebook page