There are a considerable number of exceptional restaurants in Denmark, choosing one for this mini-ethnography was no small feat. I turned to my trusty friend, Yelp, to help wade through the countless options. I searched for Mom and Pop restaurants with the desire to eat at a place similar to one I work at home. After scrolling for a while, I happened upon La Neta, a Mexican restaurant that had four out of five stars, one money sign and appealing pictures of street tacos. Immediately, I was sold.
La Neta is located off of the bustling street Nørrebrogade in Nørrebro. The storefront consists of big windows that welcome those who walk by. Neon pink and yellow letters line the windows, spelling out “La Neta” and “taquería and bar.” The restaurant is relatively small, but charming. The inside is bright with fluorescent signs and the walls are painted white with accents of blue, pink and yellow, to match the lettering on the exterior. Images from Mexican lotería are also displayed on the white tile walls. Fake plants hang from the ceiling and potted plants sit on shelves, adding a sense of coziness to the space.
Upon walking into the restaurant, I was welcomed by a Danish man behind the counter. He waited to take my order while I looked over the menu for quite some time. While deciding what to purchase, the man mentioned that the owner of the restaurant is Danish, not Mexican, but really liked Mexican taquerías, so he decided to open up a place similar to ones he was inspired by.
Although small, the menu consisted of a variety of different tacos, tacos grandes and quesadillas, with meat or veggies. After much contemplation, I ordered one carnitas taco and one barbacoa taco, staying true to the Danish way of eating pork with a meal. The Danish worker proceeded to engage in small talk after I paid for my meal, saying how customers usually do not pay with cash or coins nowadays, but with card. I was surprised at this short interaction because Danes do not usually participate in small talk, and I had not engaged in it with a Dane since arriving in Copenhagen.
While at the counter, I could see the cook at the grill in the open kitchen, preparing the food with fresh ingredients. After the cashier took my order, he handed me a buzzer and I went to find a table. I sat at one of the red Coca-Cola tables in the back of the restaurant. There were many people throughout the restaurant dining with friends, enjoying the food as well as company, filling the air with their voices. I noticed that the group next to me had already finished their food but were continuing to converse with one another despite their meal being over. When my food was ready, the buzzer went off and I went up to the counter to get it. I stopped at the salsa bar where I chose the least spicy out of three salsas, since I did not want to be sweating mid meal. Cilantro, onions and utensils were also available for the customers at the salsa bar. I went back to the table and savored the extremely tender and flavorful tacos.
I finished my food pretty quickly, because it was delicious and because I am American and tend to frequently eat my food fast, then took my dishes to the dirty dish bin. I walked out of La Neta completely satisfied with the food as well as the service.
La Neta, a little Mom and Pop style restaurant, successfully makes customers feel at ease while dining. The bright colors and decor, such as fake plants, adds a certain charm to the place. As Amy Choi states in “What Americans Can Learn from Other Food Cultures,” “food is the physical manifestation of our relationship with the natural world…where culture and ecology intersect” (Choi). Although not apparent or perhaps not the intention of the restaurant designer, the use of plants reminds the customer of the relationship present between humans and mother nature. A message that we are guests on this planet and need to be appreciative of the place we call home. If not for the natural world, we would not be able to physically manifest food to sustain ourselves or have a culture to call our own.
The ambiance and friendly atmosphere present in La Neta allows people to socialize with family or friends. Just as Michael Pollan states in the article, “The Food Movement Rising,” food has the power to establish communities and identities as well as “carv[e] out a new social and economic space removed from the influence of big corporations.” La Neta is a space where people can do all three of those things while being surrounded by pieces of Mexican culture.