I’ve heard for years that the “only” place to eat tacos in Santa Barbara is La Super Rica. Why? Because Julia Child ate there. No offense, but at this stage in my taco eating career, I’ll make my own decisions. Besides, the line outside La Super Rica was 30 deep with hipsters and reminded me a bit of the now famous Brunch Village episode from Portlandia (I love that show).
So I went to Lilly’s Tacos, also in the Downtown area. A 10 deep line, but moving swiftly. An excellent selection of offal meats (eye ball anyone?) as well as a few choice cuts. I chose Cachete, Adobada, Fried Tripa. One, two, three. Great, Great, Great.
I don’t often bat 1000 at taco shops I’ve never tried before with three meats that are irregular selections for me. As many readers know, I consistently evaluate Carnitas and Al Pastor tacos, with an occasional cabeza or asada thrown in. Well, adobada is a close cousin to pastor and cachet is technically cheek and closely related to cabeza. As for tripa, I rarely order up the innards, except in special circumstances or in taco shops that have solid reputations. I’d say my visit to Santa Barbara was a special circumstance.
Tripe is a regular menu item for me in Italian restaurants. Slow cooked in tomato sauce and served simply in a casserole, I love the texture and flavor of well cooked tripe. At Lilly’s, the tripe is deep fried to finish after the regular stewing process. All of the small, hacked up pieces of tripe offered some texture with each bite, but none were chewy. The smell was of fried food, not some off-briny scent or of funky meat. Flavors were very good, although I did give an extra squeeze of lime for my tripe.
My cachete was pure meat. Whoever picked through this cheek did a masterful job; no sinew, connective tissue, or globs of fat. Wonderful. The adobada I finished last because I love the flavor of thoroughly seasoned pork. There is something special about pastor and adobada cooked properly. A mouthful of flavor, with accents from the condiments complete the experience. The slight bite of onion, heat from the salsa, the distinct flavor of cilantro, and of course the corn tortilla itself adds to the joy of eating a perfect taco.
So forget La Super Rica and drive down the block to Lilly’s Taco’s. It may not be as hipster cool, but the tacos are really good.