Las Cavañas: Mexican food hides in Crozet gas station
Charlottesville is no stranger to gourmet gas stations. What's more of a surprise: finding killer auténtico Mexican food hidden behind the facade of a rural gas station with a Citgo sign on U.S. 250 in Crozet.
Walk into Las Cavañas, and the smell of roasting, mouth-watering meats immediately gives it away that this isn't your standard antiquated convenience store.
"Everything is homemade," says Maria Garcia, standing behind the counter of a store with the usual cigarettes on the wall and sodas in the coolers.
Not so usual– Garcia starts listing the meats she makes: roast chicken, chicharrones, chorizo, carnitas, steak, marinated pork called carne adovada, and lengua– tongue. That's when we know we've found the real deal in Mexican cuisine.
Garcia also makes the tamales, gorditas, and empanadas. Some of what she makes isn't on the menu board on the wall. We see posole, the traditional Mexican stew with hominy and pork, but she doesn't post that she also makes menudo, a typical weekend specialty. Nor does she list another of our favorites– chiles rellenos.
"Every Wednesday, one woman comes in and gets 12 chiles rellenos," relates Garcia. At this point, we're salivating shamelessly, and Garcia decides we should try her homemade chorizo sandwich. Did we mention she makes her own bread– and her tortillas by hand?
She says her burritos– made with the aforementioned homemade meats– are her customers' favorites, and a big hit are burritos made with giant tortillas called huaraches– like the sandals– which she also uses to make chimichangas. And of course she makes her own rice and beans. (Those beans, dear god, those beans.)
Her parents in Chapala in Guadalajara are known for their chorizo, she says, and Garcia has brought those family skills with her.
She opened Las Cavañas with her husband, Ignacia Becerra, four years ago on Rockfish Gap Turnpike down the street from Western Albemarle High. She's in the store a grueling seven days a week from 5am to 8pm.
This is her first eatery– although everything is strictly take-out– and she also runs the store and the gas station. Despite the 16-17-hour days, Garcia says she likes cooking traditional Mexican favorites.
"The flavor," she says, "is very personal."
She corrects a reporter who has written down Las Cabanas, which is the lettering on the sign outside, as the name of the store.
"That's wrong on the sign," says Garcia. Las Cavañas are little houses in the mountains, she explains. And even though it's a term that doesn't really turn up on our search of Spanish-English dictionaries, frankly, we don't care. A woman who cooks this well can call her deli anything she pleases.
September 9– brand of gas station corrected.