Southwest Food



Lista’s is NOT a Mexican Nor Tex-Mex Restaurant… We’re authentic southwest!

Executive Chef Ruben Evangelista
Executive Chef Ruben Evangelista

Lista’s Grill has been bringing the authentic bold flavors of the American Southwest to Pasadena since 2001. Previously operated as a New Mexican restaurant in our Fells Point and Virginia Beach locations, our Pasadena location offers a Modern American selection serving both traditional American favorites and authentic Southwest food. Our award-winning Executive Chef and Colorado native, Ruben Evangelista, has over 50 years of culinary expertise and offers tried and true family recipes as well as Pasadena’s local favorites.

What’s the difference between Southwest, Mexican, and Tex-Mex?

We get this one a lot! The cuisines referred to as “Southwest,” “Mexican,” and “Tex-Mex” share some ingredients in common, and are often confused by those who mistakenly lump all three categories together under the term “Mexican.” However, each style of cooking has its own unique characteristics, can vary widely in their ingredients, and also vary in how they are prepared. The usage of these terms can even vary by region, so we thought we’d offer some clarity:

Southwest food is an indigenous American cuisine inspired by the foods of Northern New Mexico and Colorado, and is a part of our menu here at Lista’s Grill. Southwest is a fusion of Spanish and Mediterranean, Mexican, Pueblo Native American, and Cowboy Chuckwagon influences. Southwestern cuisine is bold and flavorful and remarkably healthy, full of fresh vegetables, grains, and legumes, prepared with very little fat or salt. It features premium ingredients, no lard, and larger cuts of protein. True Southwest cooking is considered the highest quality of the three; that’s what we serve here at Lista’s Grill. Along with tried and true family recipes, at Lista’s we are also inspired to create new dishes. Some dishes have subtle flavors, some are over the top spectacular. The sounds of surprise and appreciation permeate our dining room and reward our Chef’s efforts.

Mexican cooking features food that is native to the country of Mexico. It also features chiles and some European influences such as the meat of domesticated animals, but may incorporate tripe, brain, lard, and other parts not considered as desirable in the United States. Corn tortillas are a staple, and smaller, less expensive cuts of protein plus the use of lard mean that Mexican food is often less expensive to prepare than Southwest food.

Tex-Mex is a term describing Americanized versions of traditional Mexican fare that originally evolved along the American side of the Texas border. Tex-Mex dishes typically feature more beef, fewer beans, chili instead of chile, heaps of yellow cheeses and sour cream, may use bacon, bacon grease, or lard, and contain fewer vegetables. The use of spices and sauces are also much different from true Mexican fare, and Tex-Mex is often the spiciest of the three cuisines. Tex-Mex is also typically the least expensive to prepare due to lower-quality and processed ingredients (ex, Velveeta).

What’s the difference between “chile” and “chili?”

New Mexico green chile
Uncooked, fresh Hatch green chiles from New Mexico

Chile (pronounced “chee-lay”) is a savory sauce or stew made from the New Mexican chile which is mild to moderate in heat. When harvested, the chiles are green, but they turn red as they dry. Green chile made from freshly harvested chiles tends to be hotter. Red chile made from dried chiles tends to be more flavorful but not as hot. New Mexico is the only state with an official question — “Red or green?” — referring to the choice of red or green chile with your meal. If you’d like to try both, just order “Christmas-style.”

Chili (pronounced “chilly”) is the abbreviated version of “chili con carne” which means “chili with meat.” Chili is a spicy stew often containing hotter varieties of chile peppers, meat (usually beef), tomatoes and tomato sauce, and often beans.