NEW ALBANY — Chef Roza Segoviano found some of her favorite food from street vendors while spending a few years in Mexico. In early 2019, she will bring an authentic taste of that culinary scene to downtown New Albany.
La Catrina Mexican Kitchen, located at 202 Elm St., will present a grand opening on Jan. 4. The building was previously home to Dragon King's Daughter.
Roza, the restaurant's co-owner, is opening La Catrina with her husband, Juan Segoviano. The family also owns and operates Señor Iguanas, a Mexican restaurant chain with locations in Louisville and Clarksville.
While Señor Iguanas offers some street food, the new restaurant will have an increased focus on authentic Mexican cuisine.
"It’s party food," Roza said. "It’s street food. It’s family recipes."
Customers will be able to add their own toppings to La Catrina's "naked" street tacos and quesadillas, which include soft corn tortillas and choices of meat such as grilled steak, beef short rib, pork, chorizo and marinated chicken. These are simple tacos with great flavor, Roza said, and they are similar to ones found at plazas in Mexico.
The restaurant also offers "fully-dressed" tacos made from classic recipes from various regions of Mexico. One taco, called "Dona Nena," is a family recipe inspired by the cooking of Juan's late grandmother.
"We’ve really tried to put our heart and soul in here," Roza said.
The menu also features soups, salads and shareable dishes. Unlike Señor Iguanas, which only changes its menu about once a year, La Catrina will have a seasonal menu.
The restaurant also offers a wide selection of alcoholic beverages. Customers can order margaritas, beer, wine, bourbon, tequila and seasonal cocktails. The cocktail mixers will be made in-house, Roza said, and the menu features classic Mexican drinks such as a paloma.
This is the type of food the Segovianos eat as a family, according to Roza. They have been thinking about the concept for a while, she said, and she was particularly inspired by her experience living in Mexico.
"It’s kind of like, every evening, when the sun starts to go down, the plaza starts to fill up with people, and the street vendors start opening up their carts," Roza said. "You’ve got all these smells, and you just relax while you’re going around snacking. That’s what we want to do here — we want to kind of offer that same experience where you just come and relax and have some good food and some good cocktails."
In addition to the Señor Iguanas restaurants, the family owns Taqueria Don Juan on Eastern Boulevard in Clarksville. They tried out some of the recipes on La Catrina's menu at the taqueria, Roza said, and they received a positive reception.
"We thought, 'why can’t we open it up a little bit and throw on some more things that we really love?'" she said. "It’s just really a way to explore Mexican food. Authenticity is key to us, so I think the guests will enjoy getting a little tour of Mexico in one spot."
La Catrina includes overhead doors on three sides of the building to create an "open-air feeling" at the restaurant, Roza said. The walls of the restaurant feature murals inspired by Día de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead. The art was created by local muralist Braylyn “Resko” Stewart.
The restaurant's name and logo is also inspired by Día de los Muertos. La Catrina, an image of a skeleton woman dressed in a fancy hat, is associated with the Mexican holiday. Roza said she appreciates the culture's focus on celebrating both life and death, as well as honoring ancestors.
"To me, it’s so intrinsic with the family traditions and the reverence that you have for your ancestors, and it just crosses generations," she said. "This is just full of family traditions and the love that we had, so it just made sense to go with La Catrina."
The family's expansion of their business in Southern Indiana isn't ending with La Catrina. They plan to add another Señor Iguanas location in Sellersburg near the Ivy Tech campus this spring, and in about a year or so, there will be another location in Jeffersonville near River Ridge Commerce Center.
Keith LaBelle, marketing manager for Señor Iguanas, said La Catrina will be an expansion of New Albany's growing food scene.
"There’s been a renaissance down here from a culinary standpoint, and this just adds to that in a different way," he said.