Each of the 31 states in Mexico has a unique style and flavor. They might have the same dish but it can taste completely different based on the spices and mode of preparation. When Denny and his mother-in-law decided they wanted to open a restaurant, they chose to base it on the flavors and recipes of Guadalajara and Nayarit. When Denny first went to a family gathering with his wife’s family, he tasted a fried shrimp taco made by his mother-in-law. He ate 16 tacos that day and knew right then and there that he had found the flavor that he wanted the basis of his restaurant. Casa de Nena is named after his mother-in-law, Maria Elena Or “Nena” for short.
Desiring to keep the menu simple, fresh and delicious, Casa de Nena focuses on shrimp and birria (shredded beef) Mexican dishes. They also have weekly specials and new flavors that are introduced each week for limited times. The food is cooked fresh and prepared fresh at the restaurant off Pennsylvania Avenue in Ogden.
I have always loved shrimp since I was a young man. My parents would let me pick where I want to go to dinner for my birthday and I usually picked sizzler for their all you can eat shrimp. I didn’t realize that there is so many more delicious ways to prepare shrimp then just deep-fried. I got to experience some new ways to enjoy shrimp visiting Casa de Nena.
The first wave was in a dish called ceviche which is a cold dish, my favorite was what they called the Cosido con Limon which is raw shrimp mixed with avocado, onion and cucumber. It is cured and marinated in lime juice and it’s delicious. Another popular version of this is combined with onion, tomato, cucumber, lime, salt and tomato juice topped with avocado. Both are served with a tostada and they’re both very delicious.
By far my favorite flavor was the shrimp empanada. This delicious shrimp turnover was full of wonderful flavor and juiciness. It’s one of those flavors that I call a comeback flavor. Most restaurants serve delicious food and you can find something on the menu that you like. A few restaurants have a flavor that stays with you and rattles around in the back of your head. I hear a little voice that says, “you should go have that again.” That flavor at Casa de Nana was the shrimp empanadas. The birria, carne asada and weekly special of chicken were all very good but the shrimp empanadas are still bouncing around in my head.
They also do some fun additional things like make Agua Fresca each week. These drinks are made from water and fresh produce. They offer flavors like cucumber water, watermelon water, and strawberry water, as well as the traditional flavor of Horchata. They add a delightful taste to fresh cold water and they’re a wonderful addition to the dish, adding just the right amount of sweetness without having to drink pop.
We also tried the fried tacos, quesadillas, and several other dishes. All were delicious; all had unique flavors and tasted very fresh. Melissa and I were also inspired by the entrepreneurial spirit by which this restaurant came about. Denny had an idea, found a location, built traffic through word-of-mouth and now are beginning to advertise as the word is getting out about their delicious food and unique flavors. Denny and his wife took the brave step of quitting their full-time jobs to work the restaurant full-time. Denny’s mother-in-law still works her full-time job comes in very early to cook and then also after work to keep food fresh and her recipes perfected. Denny’s mom also helps make many of the desserts. To top off our delicious meal we had a fresh cheesecake with a scoop of ice cream and Mexican caramel drizzle over the top. It was delicioso.