By: Jason Perlow
Immediately after my wife Rachel and I moved to Coral Springs from New Jersey in June of 2012, we knew we had to get our priorities straight. It was imperative that we find our local bagels, pizza, Asian, and Mexican places — the four essential food groups for anyone coming from up north.
Maria Nieto and her family, originally from San Luis Potosí, Mexico, opened a little taqueria and bakery shop six years ago on the site of a former pizzeria on Wiles Road in Coral Springs, just a few weeks after we settled in.
I have always struggled with the idea of writing a review of La Union because the place is so small and gets so overcrowded that I really didn’t want to let anyone else know about it.
It was difficult enough coming in during the weekend and getting my café con leche and huevos à la ranchera, eggs with green chile sauce, as it was. Señora Nieto’s tiny restaurant, which only has a few tables, has been utterly swamped with customers from all over Broward County ever since.
The authentic and quite excellent pastries, bread, and tres leches cakes — the latter of which is essential for hosting any traditional Mexican celebration — are just like you will find at any respectable panaderia in her home country. But our favorite baked goods are the guava-filled puff pastry sticks and their sweet and moist cornbread.
Fortunately, the opportunity came for La Union to expand, when Takote, another Mexican restaurant in the El Bodegon shopping plaza on Sample Road (just across the Coral Springs border in Margate) suddenly closed in August of 2018.
La Union II is an upgrade for Sra. Nieto and her staff in a number of ways. For starters, it has more seating. But it also has the capacity to make fresh tortillas and has a rotisserie spit for making tacos al pastor, the Mexican equivalent to gyros. This typically consists of shaved off slices of chile adobo seasoned pork with pieces of pineapple and is my favorite taco variant. I’m looking forward to trying La Union’s version as soon as they are up to speed on their new equipment.
The original location in Coral Springs will stay open to bake goods for both locations and the new site will house their primary restaurant. Both will also serve tacos and other Mexican specialties.
You pretty much cannot go wrong with ordering anything on the menu, which is centered on authentic Mexico City-style taqueria fare. It is very much the real deal. While most members of the staff speak pretty good English, this is an ideal place to practice your Español. Don’t worry if it doesn’t come out sounding perfect, mine isn’t.
While of course you can get Mexican refrescos (soft drinks) I suggest you begin with agua fresca, the Mexican version of fruit punch. They have tamarind, Jamaica (hibiscus), pepino (cucumber lemonade) and horchata (cinnamon/vanilla rice milk). These are great when the weather is blisteringly hot.
Tacos here are served on soft corn tortillas, as one would find them in many parts of Mexico. For meats, you’ve got your choice of carne asada (steak), pollo (chicken), carnitas (pork), barbacoa (beef cheek), and chorizo (spicy pork sausage). But you can also get them as tostadas on fried flour tortilla shells, or as sopes, which are griddled disks of nixtamalized white corn masa.
Another option is as tortas, the Mexican version of the hero sandwich, on toasted freshly baked bread.
The best way to order these things is con todo, i.e., with everything — lettuce, tomato, cilantro, queso fresco, and crema. Wedges of lime and house-made red chili and green tomatillo hot sauces from big squeeze bottles are on the table for adding extra zip.
The guacamole is served with freshly fried totopos (tortilla chips) and is one of the best I have ever had in the area.
In addition to the standard taqueria fare, you can get plates as well. Chile rellenos, or battered and fried poblano chiles stuffed with white Oaxaca cheese, draped with a seasoned tomato sauce, are the absolute bomb and should make any vegetarian happy. Fajitas de carne asada, which are served sauteed with green and red bell peppers and onions, are meaty, juicy, and have plenty of spice.
Quesadillas, burritos, and enchiladas are also available, and yes, they are damn good. All the plates come with yellow rice and refried beans — and more tortillas if you need them.
Our favorite meal at La Union though is brunch. In addition to my standard huevos a la ranchera, there’s also huevos à la Mexicana (scrambled eggs, Mexican style, with pico de gallo, chorizo and jalapeño), and the ubiquitous chilaquiles, runny fried eggs served over warm tortilla chips moistened and soaked with green chile tomatillo sauce.
Or do the ultimate Mexican breakfast hack: huevos divorciados con chorizo. That’s fried eggs over crispy corn tortillas, with red and green sauces, side by side (divorced), with spicy Mexican ground pork sausage and cheese and crema on top. It looks like the Mexican flag when they serve it.
On the weekends, the restaurant has caldos, hearty soups. The most notable is pozole, served Mexico City-style, which is an ancho chile seasoned chicken broth, with chunky pieces of meat and large kernels of hominy corn in it.
If you walk out of here hungry, there’s something wrong with you. Make sure you get some tamales to go.
LA UNION BAKERY (original location)
7796 Wiles Road
Coral Springs, FL 33067
LA UNION BAKERY II
8038 W Sample Road
Margate, FL 33065
Monday-Friday 6:00 a.m. – 9:00 pm.
Saturday 8:00 a.m. – 9:00 pm.
Jason Perlow is a long-time foodie who spent 20 years in the New York City and New Jersey metro areas reviewing restaurants for The New York Times and his personal food blog, Off The Broiler, which he started in 2006 and ran for ten years. He is also the founder of eGullet, a popular food discussion site and not-for-profit organization that was formed in 2001, which was featured on Tony Bourdain’s “No Reservations” cable television program.
As a technologist by profession, he writes the Tech Broiler blog for CBS’s ZDNet web site. He has been a Coral Springs resident since moving to South Florida in 2012.