Menuplease: La Conquista Conquers Tequila – and Little Else

“Now, tequila may be the favored beverage of outlaws but that doesn’t mean it gives them preferential treatment. In fact, tequila probably has betrayed as many outlaws as has the central nervous system and dissatisfied wives. Tequila, scorpion honey, harsh dew of the doglands, essence of Aztec, crema de cacti; tequila, oily and thermal like the sun in solution; tequila, liquid geometry of passion; Tequila, the buzzard god who copulates in midair with the ascending souls of dying virgins; tequila, firebug in the house of good taste; O tequila, savage water of sorcery, what confusion and mischief your sly, rebellious drops do generate!” — Tom Robbins (Still Life with Woodpecker)

La Conquista is one of those places just off the freeway where travelers pop in for a fast meal, then slide back onto I-5, never to return. Femme de Joie and Amico del Signore visited a couple of months after it opened. It was, not to put too fine a point on it, Godawful. All M. de Joie recalls of that evening is a vegetarian burrito filled with what were labeled “grilled vegetables.” They weren’t grilled, they were interrogated and tortured. Amnesty International and the Geneva Convention couldn’t have saved them. We expected La Conquista to go out of business shortly.

Three years later and La Conquista is still in operation. Femme de Joie decided to be brave and give it another try. It’s hard for her to believe that a restaurant could stay in business based on shots of 500 tequilas, but that may indeed be the case, as the food ranges from pretty average to pretty stuccolike.

Service was friendly and fast. Chips and salsa arrived at the table promptly, along with one food menu, one tequila menu, and one cocktail menu. This, in addition to the laminated tequila menu tacked on the wall of every booth, did not bode well for what the food might be like.

The menus are difficult to read, with bolded font on very intensely-colored paper in torn plastic page protectors. And they’re badly organized: La Conquista has all the standard Mexican menu items, but you’ll have to search for them. They’re there somewhere in the midst of more tequila promotion. Combination platters are featured at La Conquista, most of them running $9.29 at lunch and $9.99 at dinner; they come with a choice of sides — refried beans, corn, rice, or a green salad.

La famosa wet burrito with shredded beef, $8.99

Shredded beef filling was moist and tender but not especially flavorful. The refried beans inside were not nearly as hot as the meat so there were hot and cool spots within the burrito. Serving size was very generous.

Pork enchilada verde and chicken taco ($9.29 lunch, $9.99 dinner)

This combo of enchilada and taco were amply sized, filled with tender but bland shredded meat, but overwhelmed with too much melted cheese. It took a few spoonfuls of salsa to add any character other than cheese. A side salad was served separately (a good idea instead of lettuce wilting rapidly on a hot platter); nothing out of the ordinary but was adequate. The corn also was served separately — plain buttered corn but unusually sweet, as though it had been heated in sugar water.

Shredded beef tamale and chile rellano, rice and beans ($9.29 lunch, $9.99 dinner).

This plate was heavy going and difficult to plow through. The tamale was shaped like a taco with nary a corn husk in sight, plasterlike masa reminiscent of canned Gebhardt’s tamales and the same shredded beef used in the wet burrito. Gobs of melted Monterey Jack cheese engulfed the beef bursting from the masa casing. The chile rellano was a canned green chile filled with Monterey Jack cheese, coated in a heavy floury egg batter and deep-fried, then covered with more cheese. Refried beans were canned and the rice had a weird and unpleasant over-reheated taste. Everything was very salty.

Though M. de Joie visited La Conquista three times during prime dining hours, she never saw more than ten tables occupied. She has to assume those 500 tequilas are keeping it in business – though she didn’t actually see anyone belly up to the bar and order a shot. If you’re looking for a tequila sunrise, an aged anejo, or a shot with a lick of salt and a squeeze of lime, this is the place, but M. de Joie thinks you could do better elsewhere for dinner.

La Conquista, 1630 Hilltop Drive, Redding, CA 96002. 530-222-0450. Open Tuesday-Saturday, 11 AM – 9 PM, Sunday 11 AM – 8 PM. No checks. Cash, cards. Full bar. Vegetarian selections. Parking on-site. Outdoor seating.

Femme de Joie’s first culinary masterpiece was at age 4, when she made the perfect fried bologna sandwich on white bread. Since then she has dined on horse Bourguignon in France, stir-fried eel in London, and mystery meat in her college cafeteria, but firmly draws the line at eating rattlesnake, peppermint and Hamburger Helper. She lives in Shasta County at her country estate, Butterscotch Acres West. She is nearly always hungry. Visit MenuPlease for more.

A News Cafe, founded in Shasta County by Redding, CA journalist Doni Greenberg, is the place for people craving local Northern California news, commentary, food, arts and entertainment. Views and opinions expressed here are not necessarily those of anewscafe.com.

Femme de Joie
Femme de Joie's first culinary masterpiece was at age 4, when she made the perfect fried bologna sandwich on white bread. Since then she has dined on horse Bourguignon in France, stir-fried eel in London, and mystery meat in her college cafeteria, but firmly draws the line at eating rattlesnake, peppermint and Hamburger Helper. She lives in Shasta County at her country estate, Butterscotch Acres West. She is nearly always hungry. Visit MenuPlease for more or send her an email at femmedejoiefood@yahoo.com.
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12 Responses

  1. Avatar jacki g. says:

    Wittiest, most literate restaurant reviews this side of the Atlantic…delicious!

  2. Avatar Patricia says:

    We ate there once and it was one time too many for us.

  3. Avatar Mark T. says:

    Well, it is a Tequila Bar first, restaurant 2nd. And they do have the best selection of tequilas around, by far…The last 2 times I was in there was during happy hour. They have a very good house Tequila and Margarita at reasonable prices, and Happy Hur food specials that were reasonably priced and pretty tasty, I thought. Certainly not gourmet Mexican food, by any means. (By the way, have you tried the shrimp tacos at Market St. Wine Bar? Best I've had, even from Cabo.)

    But I do hope that La Conquista sticks around, and they sure have improved their food over when they first opened.

    Mark T.

  4. Avatar Jose says:

    500? Wow I will check that tequila bar out for sure

  5. Avatar Shayne says:

    I had a similar experience there. A pound of cheese was melted over the dish to cover for the lack or flavor and the dish being over cooked and dry. Hopefully they will take some of these comments to heart and work more on their dishes and less on the " to kill ya".

  6. Avatar Moey says:

    It's about time we're able to find some critical analysis about restaurants and such, that isn't driven by advertising and the Chamber of Commerce- thank you, ANewsCafe.

    Keep up the good work!

  7. Avatar rustler says:

    I stopped in to see what kind of people would open a place right across from Chevys, and by Redding standards, it's not that bad- keeping in mind it is a Tequila bar.

    A patron sitting across from me explained that she was there to fortify herself before making a WINCO run…made sense to me.

    I hit it for happy hour, and roll my own (spicy beans w/ corn tortillas, that is) mini-burros, and sip on their featured Maggies or a Sierra Nevada.

    Service is great, and that's more than you can say for half the so-called restaurants in this town, so stay on the happy-hour menu, drink deep, and you won't be that disappointed.

  8. Avatar gamerjohn says:

    I don't drink anymore so there are 500 too many bottles of booze for me. I can't stand their commercials. I would have gladly donated 50 cents so they would have a whole dollar to spend on the video.

    Back to the food. In my attempt to eat at every local restraurant, I spend some hard earned money on their crappy food. There are many better places, but I still haven't had carnitas worth ordering twice. How I miss Tres Palmas in San Jose.

  9. Avatar don says:

    Now why is it that some wannabe food critic thinks its fair to write such a review. It almost seems she has something personal against this establishment. My family and I have dinned at

  10. Avatar don says:

    …….la conquista and have always had a pleasant experience. We are not from Redding and were so happy to find a restaurant that cooks with fresh ingredients and makes all their food unlike half of the other mexican places on the hilltop strip. I will continue to go and I hope this review doesn't detour others from supporting a thriving newer restaurant..

  11. Avatar Tammy says:

    I have eaten at La Conquista many many times. I have always had a good experience and not because of the tequilla. Their food is freshly made, not canned, and I have enjoyed everything I've tried. I agree that it sounds like this food critic is being a little harsh. Does she have a personal grudge against this place? They are still thriving through these hard economic times so that should speak for itself. I personally don't like food critics because I think people need to judge for themselves. We are all different, with various likes and dislikes, that what makes the world so great. Go and try it for yourself.

  12. Avatar Lisa says:

    I have lived in Redding for a while now and have found La Conquista to be a Gem! The service is always great, those kids sure work hard and really care about the customers. One time I thought I was brave enough to eat their camarones diabla (spicy shrimp) but midway through my first taste I realized I couldn't handle the sweet spicy sauce,,,,my waiter actually noticed I wasn't eating the shrimp. When he asked me if everything was ok I told him my dilema. He was so kind and gladly took the entree back and quickly brought me a milder version that was perfect. When it was time to pay he gave me a free dinner card. Now what more could you ask for out of a restaurant? Especially in these times I notice restaurants are starting to jip customers, but La Conquista is generous with their portions and the food is NOT canned. I consider it the best in town for mexican. This food critic obviously doesn't know what authentic mexican food is because if she did she would apreciate their concept. The 500 tequilas are just an added bonus to dinning there.