Tortillas are made with a tiny press, gorditas and sopes are cooked from masa dough after being formed by hand. La Peña takes its time with food from scratch and long recipes that can’t be found elsewhere in Central Iowa. Molletes are open faced pieces of soft Mexican torta bread, here topped with refried beans and melted cheese for an appetizer. Chilaquiles are made with leftover tortillas, and cooked in a deep earthy red salsa before topping with Mexican cheese and the extra thick Mexican crema sauce.
The specialty of La Peña is Birria Revolcada, which translates to tumbled goat. This takes the slow cooked birria and then grills it in onions and jalapeno peppers for a rich mix of soft meat and spicy juiciness. Another specialty is Pollo Enchorizado, made with chunks of chicken with a red chorizo sausage grilled with peppers and onions.
The name La Peña translates from Spanish to mean the rock, or the boulder, and I don’t understand any deeper meaning or metaphor to be gleaned. But it has lasted over a decade just outside downtown Des Moines, serving a growing Mexican community on the South Side.