By Caitlin Croft

When you first walk into La Cocina at 76 W. Main Street, Allegany, the smell of warm tortillas hits your nose, bachata music fills your ears and instantly you are transported to a new place.  That is the reaction Mexico City native Usiel Fuentes, owner of La Cocina, is hoping for.

“We are bringing Mexican dining back to Allegany, with more flavors, fresher ingredients and more authentic cooking.”

Fuentes recently moved to the Allegany area from North Carolina with his wife, Aura and their daughter, Carolina. They are expecting another child soon.

While down south and in Mexico, Fuentes accumulated more than 20 years of restaurant experience and learned to prepare dishes native to all 31 Mexican states.

Fuentes said, “When you come to La Cocina, we want it to be like your kitchen at home, so custom orders are always available,” and if you are vegan, vegetarian or maintain a gluten-free diet, you can find options at La Cocina.

The menu focuses on dishes such as enchiladas, quesadillas, burritos and shrimp tacos, plus many chicken, pork, steak and seafood dishes. The restaurant’s blue corn tortillas are imported straight from Mexico City and Fuentes looks to source the freshest ingredients possible. He also emphasized that there are many salad options, too, as there has been a push in Mexico, as in the U.S., for lighter options.

“The Spinach Salad is a house favorite.”

La Cocina opened its doors on June 4 and expects to have a liquor license in the next 30 – 45 days.  When this is received, there will be multiple happy hour specials and two signature cocktails, the Kiwi Margarita and the Kiwi Mojito.

When St. Bonaventure University students return, look for student specials as well. Fuentes picked the location for La Cocina because of its proximity to SBU and Olean.  He likes the small town feel while still being near a larger population.

Every day there are new lunch and dinner specials along with a “Speedy Gonzales Lunch” which includes one taco, one enchilada and rice.  Lunch specials are $5.95 and dinner entrees run from $10 to $15.  The children’s menu is $4.95 and includes both Mexican and American choices. Take-out is available and La Cocina will deliver orders of $50 or more to locations in the area.

With a seating capacity of 98 diners, La Cocina also will cater to your private party needs.  In the future, Fuentes plans on making catering available and hopes to add an outdoor patio with 4-6 additional tables.

La Cocina is open Monday – Saturday from 11 a.m. – 10 p.m. and Sunday from 11 a.m. – 9 p.m.  Take a ride over the hill and check out what La Cocina is cooking. Call (716) 372-0303.