Right at the intersection of Poplar Street and Martin Luther King Jr Boulevard is a recent addition to downtown Macon’s restaurant scene. Anyone familiar with Smiley’s Flea Market on the south side may recognize the name La Bella Morelia, but for those who aren’t already acquainted with their business, they serve authentic Mexican food.
If your idea of good south-of-the-border cuisine is Taco Bell or Old El Paso taco kits, you may be in for a surprise at La Bella Morelia. Even the most seasoned fans of Macon’s many Mexican restaurants may not be familiar with tacos served on soft corn tortillas, mole sauce, or genuinely spicy Mexican food. It is not that Tex-Mex isn’t good if you go to a quality restaurant, or that one type of Mexican restaurant is better than the other, as that is an intensely personal choice; they are just different.
Once you’ve framed your expectations so that you know what you are about to experience, try La Bella Morelia. Their food is both traditional and terrific.
The menu features a spectacular collection of various spicy meats, including my personal favorite, al pastor, which is usually pork marinated in dried chilies, with spices and sometimes pineapple, and cooked slowly in a rotisserie using a technique reminiscent of Lebanese shawarma (another favorite of mine). You can also find flavorful meat options like carne asada, literally “fresh beef,” chicken, and for the more adventurous, cow tongue.
Your selection of meat can then be put into a taco, a burrito, or, as in my meal, an enchilada.
Enchiladas are a corn tortilla wrapped around a meat or cheese filling and then covered with a chili sauce and other toppings. La Bella Morelia gives you four small enchiladas smothered in lettuce, avocado, pico de gallo, and cheese. On the first bite, you will notice the full, rich flavor and a hot but not overpowering taste of spiciness.
Admittedly, I am a sucker for this kind of food, so it may be out of the ballpark for those who tend to order their “spicy” meals on the mild or medium side. I believe you can ask for a tamer version of most meals than the default. Ask your server.
Overall, these might have been the best enchiladas that I have had in a long time, and I would have to struggle to come up with any that were better, including homemade. Nothing was too powerful, the meat was tender and easy to chew and packed with flavor, and everything seemed to blend and marry together nicely. I could easily see this being a regular dish for me.
There is also a large selection of beverages, including bottles of real sugar coke as well as bottles of fruit-flavored drinks and alcohol.
I was there on a Monday at lunch, which is often a slow day for many restaurants, but this place was packed with patrons dining in and those with pick-up orders.
As far as service goes, this is not fast food, but the wait staff is friendly, even though the rush stretched their servers out. The food is worth the wait, but if you are in a rush, you can always consider calling in your order ahead of time and picking it up to eat as a takeout meal.
The renaissance of good local restaurants in Macon is a delightfully positive trend that I hope continues. If you want to venture out to try Mexican with a different character than Tex-Mex, give La Bella Morelia a try.
The restaurant is open for lunch on Monday from 11 AM – 4 PM and for lunch and dinner on Tuesday through Saturday from 11 AM – 8 PM. Their address is 499 Martin Luther King Jr Boulevard in Macon.