Casa Mañana, which opened in 1976, is located at 2510 Ryan St. in Lake Charles. (Michael Cooper / American Press)
Casa Manana's bottomless chips and salsa are provided at no charge. The chile con queso dip is one of the restaurant's marquee attractions. Casa Manana also offers the queso dip with meat mixed in or a white version, called queso blanco. (Michael Cooper / American Press)
Last Modified: Thursday, November 01, 2012 5:05 PM
To many, Casa Mañana, is known for its cheese dip, chips and salsa, and margaritas.
But the restaurant, which has been a favorite around the Lake Area since 1976, serves dozens of tasty Tex-Mex dishes in its own right.
American Press staff members Laura Heller, Johnathan Manning and I went there for lunch a few weeks ago.
All three of us had eaten there many times before, so we knew what to expect. And, as always, we walked away satisfied — and full.
I have been seriously addicted to Casa Mañana’s chile con queso dip for many years. And I am sure I am not the only person to try to replicate it at home.
Despite numerous attempts, I have not come close.
People say it is just “melted Velveeta and Ro-Tel tomatoes.” I can tell you, it ain’t Velveeta.
Laura shares my obsession for the cheese dip. Most of the times, it’s the only thing she orders.
“When I think about Casa Mañana, I smile and say ‘cheese dip,’ ” she said. “I want to drink it. I want to swim in a pool of it.”
We ordered a large cheese dip (cost $5.95) and asked our server, Johnnie, if he would reveal the recipe.
He said the recipe was top secret and as far as he knew, only a couple of people knew what it was.
Other than some finely chopped tomatoes, peppers and onions, he admitted he had no idea what went in it — other than the cheese.
Despite failing to help us crack the “queso code,” Johnnie was a great server.
We arrived at the restaurant a little after 12:30 p.m. and missed the biggest part of the lunch rush. We walked in, were seated immediately and Johnnie had our drinks and chips and salsa on the table in less than five minutes.
Laura ordered the firecrackers (cost $8.15), a relatively new addition to the Casa lineup.
The menu describes it as “flour tortilla with a spicy mixture of chicken, sausage, cheese and jalapeños.”
You can have the firecrackers either fried or grilled. Laura chose grilled.
The meal comes with a delicious house ranch dip, which looks like ranch dip but had a kick of dill to it. The sauce really took the bite out of the spicy firecracker and added some creaminess.
I picked my old standby — beef fajita queso a la parrilla (cost $9.70). Queso a la parrilla is a build-it-yourself dish similar to fajitas. Melted white cheese, meat, onions and peppers are served in a small cup with four warm tortillas on the side. I have been ordering this dish, which also comes with chicken instead of beef for those looking for a healthier option, for years and it has never failed to deliver.
Two warnings though. First, I would shy away from ordering this dish if you are wearing nice clothes — it can get a little messy with the cheese and meat juices. Second, the dish is meant to be eaten quickly. There is a lot of cheese and if you give it time to cool, it will become rubbery.
Johnathan chose a single order of beef fajitas (cost $14.55), which is served with onions, peppers, rice, beans, sour cream, guacamole. Johnathan said it was great, as always.
Since we were on lunch break, we had to skip the margaritas, but we all have had them before and know that they have earned their stellar reputation.
Our bill came to $49.16. Not bad for a filling lunch for three people. And each of us had leftovers.
Casa Mañana’s decor can best be described as Mexican cantina. It is laid-back and personable.
It can get loud at times, and I wouldn’t go with the family on Thursdays when regular margaritas are half off from 4 to 8 p.m.
The best bet for families is to go on Monday nights, when two kids can eat free from the children’s menu for every one adult in the group.
• Location: 2510 Ryan St.
• Hours: 11 a.m.-9:30 p.m. Monday through Friday; 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Saturday; 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Sunday.
• Phone: 433-4112.
• Online: www.casamanana.net.
• Notes: Monday from 5 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. is Kids Nite. Two kids per adult eat free off of the children’s menu. Regular margaritas are 1/2 price from 4-8 p.m. on Thursday.