Tweedledee: La Joya Fiesta


M. Eleanor Schmalzl ’20


After a long and laborious week of being 2Ls, Taylor and I decided it was time for a celebration. No, a party. Nay, a fiesta. As a result, she and I opted to try a new Mexican restaurant here in Charlottesville: La Joya. Located off Exit 120 on 64-E (and right across from the beloved Wegman’s), La Joya provided us with quick service and a great atmosphere for our first joint restaurant review.


Taylor and I entered a pleasantly quiet restaurant, dimly-lit but bright enough to find our table and even see each other from across the booth. We perused the menu and struggled to decide what meals to get given the wide variety of appealing options. Those who struggle to make decisions may be overwhelmed by this Mexican restaurant’s unique offerings, but I loved getting to pick from a wide array of exciting options. I often get the same thing every time I go to a restaurant for fear of getting a dish I don’t like as much as my normal go-to, but since this was my first visit to La Joya, the world was my oyster.


Despite the great assortment of options, Taylor and I didn’t stray too far from our core values. We ordered guac and queso in addition to the salsa that was provided fo free by the fine establishment.[1] Additionally, we both got margaritas.[2] The appetizers all had a nice little kick to them, providing the perfect[3] burst of flavor before our main courses. However, the margaritas left us wanting. What we were wanting? Alcohol. Seriously, I got a jumbo and wasn’t disgusted by the taste of tequila by the end of it (as is per usual for me when I get jumbos elsewhere in Charlottesville). But hey, if you enjoy sugary drinks that don’t leave you at least a little buzzed, La Joya margs are the ones for you!


Next came our entrees. I got the pollo con arroz[4] and, except for good company, found it to be my favorite part of the dinner. With bits of zucchini and mushroom mixed in, I enjoyed the unique twist on one of my go-to Mexican restaurant dishes. And I hadn’t realized this when ordering, but the dish didn’t include pounds of queso, meaning I didn’t have to waddle out of the restaurant in pain from being so full, as I normally do when eating at Mexican restaurants. Best of all, the restaurant honored my request for no onions despite them being included as part of the normal menu item. There is nothing worse than special ordering a dish to add or remove ingredients and those special orders being completely ignored. For this alone, I have to respect La Joya. I just can’t take the onion.


Overall, La Joya was a fine little hole-in-the-wall place for some decent grub. While I will stick to La Plaza Azteca when I need a good marg after a long week, and El Puerto for its closeness to the law school, La Joya provides a nice change of pace for people wanting a more low-key Mexican restaurant. Plus, with a Nestlé Tollhouse ice cream shop right across the street, how can you not love pay this nice, little restaurant a visit?

 [1] But extra chips after the first basket cost an additional $0.75. As the positive food reviewer, I will reserve statement on this menu decision.

[2] Only for the sake of journalistic research, obviously.

[3] Except for the onion in the guac. I don’t know why onion must be put in everything, but it has always felt especially inappropriate in the delicacy that is guacamole.

[4] This was its official title on the menu, should anyone question my knowledge that it is more commonly known as “arroz con pollo.”


Taylor Elicegui ’20
Features Editor


I have high standards for Mexican restaurants, and La Joya was okay but did not exceed expectations. The atmosphere is decent—it feels like a typical Mexican restaurant. The menu had a lot of options, which is always a bonus. There were almost too many good choices; Eleanor and I struggled to make decisions.


We started off with some cheese dip, guacamole, and salsa. This was one of my biggest complaints: the first basket of chips was free, but refills cost money. I appreciated the instant gratification of how quickly these delicious dips arrived but was very bitter when we had to pay $0.75 for another basket of chips to finish off our dips. The cheese dip was really good, but a little bit on the spicy side for my weak self. I was still undecided between several options, but the spiciness of the cheese sauce persuaded me away from the nachos and cheese enchiladas.


Ultimately, I decided on chimichangas—one chicken and one veggie. It came with rice and salad (which I find outrageous), but I substituted the salad for some refried beans. The beans were absolutely delicious and unhealthy—my favorite combo. The chicken chimichanga was also yummy and flavorful, particularly because it was covered in cheese. The veggie chimichanga was pretty solidly meh, particularly because I am not at all a bell pepper fan. I felt a little outraged on Eleanor’s behalf, though—what type of ACP doesn’t come smothered in cheese?!


My other biggest complaint was the margarita. As our driver, I went for a small, but was hoping for some interesting Eleanor jokes after she finished consuming her large. Unfortunately for me, the margarita appeared to be missing the key ingredient (tequila). She could have been the one driving us home, even post-jumbo margarita. Interestingly, the margarita also didn’t come with salt on the rim. I was happy, because I don’t like salt, but found it strange I didn’t even have to request it. If you happen to be a person who prefers a more exciting rim, make sure you request it.


Overall, the company was great and the food was okay. Not my new favorite Mexican restaurant in Charlottesville, but I would consider going again if I found myself on that side of town.