I had dinner at La Costeñita up in Hillsborough last week, and noticed that owner Alicia Aragos has new hours. She hasn’t been able to update her website yet, but they are:
Monday-Thursday 11:00am-9:00pm; Friday-Saturday 11:00am-10:00pm; Sunday 11:am-8:00pm
The night of my visit, we enjoyed the items you see pictured here, and of course it was all delicious! First time I’ve tried her guacamole, and the chips were freshly fried, which is wonderful.
We also had the chipotle shrimp for the first time, it is moderately spicy and comes with her very good plantains. And the crispy chorizo/potato tacos were good too, filled with mostly chorizo (truth be told, I didn’t see potato, so maybe it’s all mashed together). I love the fresh lettuce, avocado, etc. on top, a flavorful salad in itself.
The relleno was made with a Poblano chile and filled with cheese, not the pork filled smoked Pasilla version from my previous visit. She makes limited quantities of the Pasilla version, due to the filling not keeping more than a day or two. Ms. Arango is very picky about freshness and quality of ingredients. For instance, she won’t use canned tomatoes, they must be fresh. I don’t know how she puts out such a variety of fresh foods day in and day out, seven days a week. She is a wonder, and I am so thankful to have found La Costeñita.
By the way, I noticed the link from her Facebook page to my March 28, 2014 review in the Princeton Packet now leads to a pay wall, i.e. you have to pay to read it, so I am pasting the original text in below.
By Faith Bahadurian for the March 28, 2014 Packet Publications TimeOff
The fiesta starts as soon as you step inside La Costeñita in Hillsborough. The Mexican grocery store cum cantina has put their wildly colorful lacquered tables right up front, a riot of stereotypical scenes from Old Mexico: villages, foods, musicians, and handsome women with bandoliers slung across their torsos in place of beauty pageant ribbons.
The petite owner, Alicia Arango, is a vivacious presence behind the counter, and the single mother of four proudly showed us her simmering vats of mole sauce (made in a two-day process), and chile verde, along with the smoky dried pasilla chiles her sister ships to her for her traditional pork-filled rellenos, that also include almonds, raisins and olives. (Watch her make those on YouTube by searching for “La Costeñita Relleno.”)
La Costeñita, ”girl from the coast,” was her nickname back home in Oaxaca where she was a school teacher. Once here, she held a series of menial jobs but finally opened her store in 2008, alarming her friends who worried about such a rash action in the midst of a growing recession. “But I’m already always in crisis mode!” she told them. Her grit has paid off, and what started as an ethnic grocery with a couple of stools at a counter is now more restaurant than store, although there are still shelves of provisions, bins of dried chilies, and a refrigerated case for chorizo and cheeses (and desserts).
Breakfast dishes are available all day, as the rest of the menu gradually comes into play: soft tacos with doubled up corn tortillas, flautas (rolled crispy tacos), enchiladas, tostadas, and waffle-like corn sopes, all with your choice of various beef, chicken, fish, or pork fillings. Some of these can also be had with shrimp, tongue or chorizo, and, in a nod to Norte Americano tastes, there are burritos, quesadillas, and wraps. Aside from those, everything is made with more traditional corn tortillas.
There is also a selection of empanadas and various specialties like the tamales, chicken mole and chipotle shrimp. Many dishes are garnished with some combination of shredded lettuce, queso fresco (soft fresh cheese), crema, cilantro, onion, pickled jalapeno, avocado, and bright red tomato. Spicy house made salsas come in little plastic tubs to be added at the diner’s discretion, and bottled hot sauces are on the tables, too.
The tamales are steamed in banana leaves and my chicken tamale with that mole sauce ($2) was rich and filling. On that first visit, we also ordered chicken enchiladas ($8.50 for four) with green sauce, and flautas with carne asada ($7.50 for 4). I was having a hard time choosing from the many filling options for the soft tacos ($7 for four), so ended up with one each of the three kinds of pork offered: spicy, citrus-marinated Mayan pit pork, and al pastor. I liked them all, but in the end tipped my hat to the al pastor which contained pineapple.
From the beverage case we shared a bottle of non-carbonated mango Bongo ($1.75), and in summer, freshly made horchata, a sweet rice drink, is offered. Mexican hot chocolate is also on the menu, but instead we shared kid-friendly tres leches cake ($3) with strawberry filling and colorful icing. On my return visit I took home my favorite flan ever ($3); she makes it herself, in various flavors, mine was coconut.
Tortas (sandwiches) and ensaladas (salads) round out the offerings, along with soups like chicken/vegetable or cactus/black bean. On the weekends, seafood and tripe soups are added to the mix, with the seafood, at $14 the most expensive item on the menu.
On my second visit, for lunch, the pork-stuffed rellenos ($10) were not ready yet, so I enjoyed a cheese filled poblano pepper version, served in light tomato broth with simple yellow and black beans on the side. We also had a side order of fried plantains ($3) with delicately crisp exteriors and creamy interiors. That’s when I also tried the sopes ($8.50 for three), puffy corn rounds, much like a mini-waffle, piled with the meats of your choice (I had chorizo, al pastor, and carne asada), and an amusing challenge to maneuver into your mouth.
You’ll go through lots of the little napkins on the tables here, and while you order at the counter, your meal is brought to your table on plastic plates by the obliging staff, and the cutlery is plastic, too. Nothing’s fancy at this little spot that seats maybe 15 to 20, but the care in preparation is evident.
We also watched, fascinated, as one of her assistants prepared a special dish for a compatriot sitting at a stool, a tlayuda (not on the menu), according to Wikipedia “an iconic dish of Oaxaca.”It consists of a platter-size thin crisped tortilla (they sell packs of them) that was set on the griddle surface, and gradually topped with refried beans, meat, cheese and, other requested toppings like lettuce, tomato, avocado, etc.
My priorities for my next visit are fish tacos and that smoked pasilla relleno. La Costeñita is one of those hidden gems I almost hate to tell you about, because I want to be assured of a seat when I go. But anyone who works as hard as Ms. Arango (seven days a week!) deserves success, and with such fantastic traditional Oaxacan dishes to be enjoyed, we all win.
450 Amwell Rd. Hillsborough, NJ 08844
Phone: (908) 874-0091 htttp://lacostenitamex.com/
Vegetarian: Options scattered throughout the menu
Ambiance: No frills storefront dining
Prices – Breakfast $7.50-$8; Sandwiches/wraps $6.50-$10; Other dishes $7-$12; seafood soup on weekends, $14.
Hours: (SEE NEW HOURS ABOVE)
Essentials –Major credit cards accepted; BYO; Wheelchair accessible, no reservations.