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Entries in Taco (38)

Sunday
Aug122012

Lilly's Tacos, Santa Barbara

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.

Lilly's Tacos on Urbanspoon

Sunday
Aug052012

Central Valley Ramate, Swap Meet, Flea Market Trifecta

"Shopping Made Fun" Slogan of the Cherry Auction

I've been to the Cherry Auction, Selma Flea Market, Madera Flea Market in recent months and had a few wonderful dining experiences. 

I remember as a child hearing about the Sunnyside Swap Meet, something my parents never brought me to. In recent years commuting through Fresno on a Saturday or Sunday, I’d notice the Selma and Madera Ramates just off Highway 99. Sure, I’d see the food trucks, but I was usually in too big of a hurry to stop and grab a taco.

 

So, after nearly 40 years of never going to a swap meet, I went with my Dad to the Selma Market and wandered around for a couple hours looking at everything from cooking to contractor supplies. Dad actually picked up several packages of high-grit rotary sandpaper at a cost lower than Harbor Freight. From the foodie perspective, The Selma Market had some nice looking portable flat-top grills for a pop-up meal, as well as huge cauldron style deep fryers for carnitas. I remember being at the market in Tlachichuca seeing these type of deep-fry cauldrons being put to work on a daily basis.

In the last couple weeks, I’ve been to the Cherry Auction and the Madera Flea Market. Each of these markets have their own character, their own groove. Madera had a nice layout and entry way which brought patrons through the fruit and veggie section first. The Cherry Auction greets patrons with food. The upside of the Cherry Auction? Animals are for sale.

Looking for a prize fighting cock? Oh wait, that’s illegal. Perhaps an exotic bird? Rabbits to cook…I mean a pet for you children? The Cherry Auction has all of this and more. If I were looking to raise some chickens for eggs or rabbits for meat, this is the place I’d come to buy them. Of course, I’d finish my animals on specific diet before I slaughtered them.

Call it what you like, a Flea Market, Swap Meet, Auction, or Ramate as far as I’m concerned it’s the Central Valley’s version of Off-the-Grid in San Francisco and the original food truck scene for Fresnans.

Off-the-Grid in San Francisco has a variety of cuisine, from simple sandwiches, to Chinese dumplings, to dessert trucks. The Ramate has Mexican food, plain and simple. If a reader would like to quibble with me about the errant pizza guy or the coffee guy that shows up at these things, yes, there are always exceptions like the one-and-only Chinese Food truck that shows up at all the Ramates in the area, but in terms of frequency and volume, Mexican food rules. I’ve already highlighted the Selma Ramate in a previous post.

Cherry Auction, while it’s great for live animals, the food was coming in a distant third when compared to Madera and Selma. There is an upside at Cherry though, the Espresso guy in the converted van.

Be on the lookout for pupusas at the Madera Flea Market from a small trailer with an address marked from Chowchilla. It looks to be a family operation, with every age group represented from the family; 12 year old girl making tortillas from scratch up to Grandpa opening up bottles of cold Mexican Coke. Another truck of note in Madera, the one with Mikas sort of rubbed out, had fabulous al pastor tacos. 

I continue to head to the Ramate for food and I’m curious what else I’ll find around the state.

Wednesday
Jul252012

El Grullense, Los Banos

I don't often make the run through Los Banos in time for a lunch or dinner, but I had time recently to hit up a taco restaurant on Pacheco Blvd aka Highway 152, El Grullense. This is a brick and mortar restaurant, not a truck.

I ordered the trifecta of tacos, carnitas, al pastor, and cabeza. Without hesitation, I'd say I'm underwhelmed on all three.

The corn tortillas were simple, grocery store style tortillas, nothing special. As for the meats, the carnitas tasted a day-old, although I cannot confirm that. The pork didn't taste fresh. I eat a lot of tacos and a lot of pork. The carnitas tasted like they were reheated.

The cabeza, what little of it there was, was not tender and still had a bit of sinue. Not good.

The pastor, while it had bacon in it, also didn't taste freshly made. It was the best of the three, but that doesn't say much.

El Grullense was disappointing, considering recent taco experiences in Turlock, Modesto, and Madera.

El Grullense on Urbanspoon

Wednesday
Jul182012

Tacos Guitarron in Turlock, Lander Ave Exit Highway 99

Tacos Guitarron is a taco truck/trailer on Lander Avenue, just off Highway 99 in Turlock. There are trucks on all four corners of the intersection.

They sold out of pastor by 1pm, my usual, so my brother and I chose cabeza and asada instead. We were not disappointed. Flavors were good, real good. Nice application of salsa, cilantro, onions. The additional garnishes were all fresh and delicious. 

The cabeza was picked clean of sinuous fat, leaving nothing but perfectly cooked cheeks. The asada, not a regular pick for me, was seasoned well and moist. Really a beautiful plate of tacos from the cleanest looking truck on the four corners.

Tuesday
Jul172012

Tacos Tijuana, Fresno

Were the chilaquiles good?

Yes, they just weren’t great.

If anything, the beans and rice were at least as good as the main course, something I rarely eat or would admit to. Normally, beans and rice are on Fresno Mexican restaurants as filler, nothing more. If the restaurant offers a plate of “anything” with beans and rice for $7.89, there is probably a lot of beans and rice; just not very good beans and rice. However, in Tacos Tijuana’s case, I actually liked the beans and rice a bit more due to low expectations, than the main dish of chilaquiles.  I’m getting more spoiled with chilaquiles frankly. I’m starting to experiment with in-house recipes and will order chilaquiles on brunch menus when I have the option.

I probably should have stuck with the Tacos TJ staple, tacos. 

Taco's Tijuana Y Mariscos on Urbanspoon