OUT to LUNCH: Family outing a treat at La Parrilla Mexican Grill

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By Bethel Poston

I listen to music when working in my office. Maybe hearing Jose Feliciano singing “Feliz Navidad” several times during the Christmas season influenced my decision to choose Knoxville’s La Parrilla Mexican Grill as my latest “Out To Lunch” adventure.

It also could have been wanting a change from being overstuffed with the holiday fare of turkey, dressing, dumplings and cranberry sauce; or ham, sweet potatoes and green beans.

Knowing that during the holidays some of our family living in Kansas City would be visiting, I arranged for a family “Out to Lunch.”

Our four-generation family group of 12 and one guest were quickly seated at a large table at La Parrilla in Knoxville. The Grill is across from J.C. Penney in Turkey Creek, at 11639 Parkside Drive, in the former location of Vinny & Me.

I had called ahead to arrange seating.

Our server, Aldo, had baskets of warm nacho chips and a salsa dip in front of us almost as soon as we sat down.

Driving home for the holidays from Kansas City (Olathe) were our son Bryan, his wife Tonda, along with their sons, Brady and Brannon, and Brady’s girlfriend, Aly Commons.

Bryan and Tonda are both in furniture manufacturer’s sales, calling on retail stores in Kansas, Missouri and Nebraska. Recently, Brady completed his service in the U.S. Army, and Brannon in the U.S. Air Force.

Bryan started us off by ordering “Camarones a las Diabla.” It was hot and spicy shrimp served with mushrooms, Mexican rice and refried beans.

Tonda went for a fajita of tender sliced chicken, with bell peppers, onions, tomatoes, guacamole, salsa and refried beans with tortillas.

Brady sat next to me, so I got a good look at his generous plate filled with a Quesadilla Texana, a  10-inch grilled quesadilla (flour tortilla) filled with grilled chicken, steak and shrimp. It’s served with lettuce sour cream and guacamole.

He consumed it.

Aly ordered a bean and cheese burrito with a side of French fries. I never thought of fries as being Mexican. I saw Brady snitch some fries from her large serving.

Brannon chose enchiladas supremas of four stuffed corn tortillas - one beef, one chicken, one cheese and one bean.

For someone who writes about food, you’d think I would know the difference between a fajita, burrito, enchilada, quesadilla or tortilla. They look — and taste —  alike to me.

A visit with La Parrilla Mexican Grill’s manager, Giovanny Ayala, cleared up some confusion in my computer research.

This Mexican Grill is not part of another Atlanta based chain with a similar name.

Giovanny’s father, Eduardo Ayala, and other family members own and operate La Parrilla. The family also operates El Cantarito in Oak Ridge and Harriman and Don Eduardos in Kingston. I have previously written about the Harriman and Kingston locations.

Giovanny grew up in Oak Ridge and graduated from Oak Ridge High and the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. I also found that Eduardo studied at Universidad de Guadalajara.

Others in our Poston family “Out to Lunch” group live in Knoxville. They were our son, Bethel III “Buddy” and his wife, Faye; our grandson, Bethel IV “Bubba”, his wife and our 5-month old great-granddaughter.

Buddy is also a furniture manufacturer’s salesman calling on retail stores in Tennessee and Kentucky. Faye is office manager at West Hills Presbyterian Church.

Buddy ordered from the Pollo (chicken) section of a very extensive menu. He selected the choripollo, a tender chicken breast cooked with chorizo (Mexican sausage), then smothered with nacho cheese on top and served with rice, beans and tortillas.

Faye chose three fish tacos that were served with pico de gallo, tomatillo sauce and a choice of rice or beans.

I didn’t even have to suggest that everyone order something different for me to write about. It was unusual a group of 12 would not have two or more order the same dish. One end of the table couldn’t hear what someone at the other end was ordering.

Bubba had eaten there before and quickly ordered the enchiladas rancheras. I don’t know if he selected chicken, beef tips or pork to go on top of his two-cheese enchiladas. It came with a guacamole salad on the side.

His wife had soft chicken tacos in between feeding her daughter, fourth generation Poston, something not on the menu, a bottle of leche (milk).

La Parrilla opened in September 2009 and can seat 150 people. It has a full-service bar and standard beverages. Eight flat-screen TVs are mounted on the walls throughout the restaurant.
Hours are 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Thursday; 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. on Friday; 11 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. on Saturday; and 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Sunday.

On-the-menu entrées are divided into fajita, chicken, seafood, burrito, quesadilla, enchilada, taco, chimichanga and vegetarian dishes.

Soups, salads, a lunch menu and a kids’ menu fill out the selections.

In the Especialidades section, my eyes were drawn to the Especial La Casa of sliced beef and chicken grilled with cactus, onions, tomatoes, refried beans and two tortillas.

I’m not sure about eating cactus. I was told it looks a lot like strips of green pepper, is mild in flavor and somewhat rubbery in texture.

Giovanny said one of the most-ordered items from this section is “The Best of La Parrilla, which is described as “steak, chicken, shrimp with bell peppers, onions, tomatoes, zucchini, mushrooms, carrots and broccoli and served with melted cheese on top.”

It also comes with rice, beans, lettuce, sour cream, pico de gallo and tortillas. It’s not Mexican unless you have rice and beans.

Carol found out from previous visits to Mexican restaurants that she really likes chimichangas, and she didn’t want to try anything else. Her chimichangas were soft flour tortillas, filled with beef tips and refried beans, then topped with lettuce, tomatoes and cheese dip. She passed on sour cream and guacamole.

I went for a lunch favorite, “Burrito De Carne Azada.” It’s a soft burrito filled with slices of tender ribeye steak, served with Mexican rice and refried beans (of course), plus topped with lettuce and tomatoes. I also passed on sour cream and guacamole.

No one in our group asked to see the Postres (desserts) section of the menu because we were all so pleasantly stuffed.

While writing, I reviewed the menu, and the “cheesecake chimichanga” sounds tasty. It’s a pastry-crusted cheesecake enhanced with a scoop of ice cream and topped with sprinkles and a raspberry drizzle.

Our server, Aldo, and his assistants wore heavy gloves to serve our very hot plates. Also our beverage glasses were always full.

Readers know that I do computer research for my “Out to Lunch” articles before visiting a restaurant. The post below is a good description of La Parrilla:

“My wife is from Texas, and I lived there for 12 years so we are always looking for good Mexican food. This place was really, really good. I had the fish tacos and they were great. The salsa is good also. All in all, it’s among our top two picks for Mexican food places in K-town.”

Satisfied and full, nobody at our house had an appetite for leftover turkey sandwiches later that night.
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Bethel Poston is a Roane County businessman and entrepreneur who writes about places of interest in our area. E-mail suggestions and comments to postonplace@bellsouth.net.