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Mr. Taco


Stone
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I had always used the drive to and from Tahoe as an excuse to eat In-n-Out Burgers. Double-Double, fries and a soft drink (diet coke, of course). The problem is, I don't really likt InO Burger. I fail to see any difference between the sauce glopped on these and the sauce glopped on a Big Mac. While I appreciate the toasted bun (best buns in the bidness), there is no mistaking that this is a greasy burger. And the fries suck. I don't care if they're "fresh cut". They're undercooked and undersalted and underflavored. And have you every seen a black person working at InO? Not me. Never. Not once.

So on a recent trip with a friend we took an exit near Dixon (on the SF side of Davis) and looked for the InO. Didn't see it. We got back on the highway and got off at the next exit because, well, because women have small bladders. There was a Carls Jr right in front of us. Decent burger, in my opinion. But across the road, set back in a dusty, heavily potholed lot, was a rickety building proclaiming "Mexican Food". The weathered wood betrayed some history of green and red paint; there was a "booth" outside that looked something like a tomato or a sombrero and seemed out of place without a pool. But there were about six beat up old pickup trucks in the lot. Looked good to me. And the lady had charisma. So we went in.

I'm no expert on Mexican food, and I can't tell you the difference between Mex and Tex-Mex. Hell, I'm a Jewish kid from NY. But this is the best Mexican food I've ever had.

I've been twice now, feeling justified in my judgement. Each time, I and my guest were the only White faces in the place. Not much English is spoken. Lots of heavy denim, white straw cowboy hats, and faces deeply etched by the sun and wind. The menu is written on the wall, and it includes just about every thing you'd expect, and a whole bunch more.

The first visit, I had a Molcajete. (I've probably mixed up the progression of "l" "c" and "j".) Unbelievable. It was a large bowl chisled out of volcanic rock. Filled with a steaming stew of sliced beef, chicken, pork and, new for me, shreds of nopales. I've had these cactus's before as a side dish, and thought they were rather bland. Simmered in this stew, they added color, crunch and a great peppery, herby flavor. The dish was amazing. Hot, well-spiced and chock full of stuff. It was served with flour and corn tortillas and sides of guac and sour cream. More than enough for two.

Yesterday I had the carnitas plate. Heads and shoulders above anything I've had in SF. I've been to El Toro, Farolito, etc., etc. Not even close. Mr. Taco served a large plate heaped with diced pork that had been slow simmered and then sauteed in fat. The result was tender, toothsome pieces, brimming with roasted flavor and accentuated by a slight crispness on the surfaces. Wonderful. And, I was happy to see, not a hunk of fat or gristle to be found. Just meat in all its glorious porkiness. This too was served with a pile of guac, a healthy side of rice and refried and tortillas.

My friend had two chicken tacos. The chicken (i only had a bite), was moist and surprisingly flavorful. It appeared to have been simmered with peppers and other spices, not just grilled. Served in tortillas that had been freshly fried to a crisp and pile with lettuce, tomato and a healthy (unhealthy?) dollop of sour cream.

Yum.

Most entrees seemed to be $7.99, and well worth it. The Molcajete, which could feed two easily, perhaps three, was $14.

Location: Difficult to say, because the great state of California doesn't number their exits. Why? I don't know. I assume that making it easy for one to find stuff would somehow further the fascist expansion of capitalism. However: Look for the "Dixon/West A Street" exit. I think it's the middle of 5 "Dixon" exits, about 60 miles outside SF. The restaurant is jut to the south of the highway.

Edited by Stone (log)
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don't like in-n-out? there's gotta be an in-n-out thread here somewhere for guys like me...i love the stuff. i agree, however, that the fries are undercooked. fyi, the trick is to order them "well done"...they come out crispy. and i assume you're aware that there are many other secret codes you can use when you order, multiplying your sandwich and french fry options.

sorry if this is a repost, but here you go: Secret Menu

but, getting back to the topic...those carnitas sound amazing...Burrito King here in LA has great carnitas, too...their burrito con carnitas is so good you'll hardly notice the gleaming fat trailing down your forearm, finally dripping from your elbow to form a small pool on your leg. and i've never heard of molcajete, though i saw lots of dishes with nopalitos when i was in new mexico. maybe this was one of them.

fyi again, california began numbering their exits last year. Another link: Exit Signs

maybe next time you go, there'll be a numbered exit sign, and you'll be able to update us.

and i have seen black people working at in-n-out, actually. but if you live in SF, then you probably don't have as many in-n-out restaurants nearby as i do. plus i go all the time. more intriguing, perhaps, are the hidden bible verses on the wrappers, the bottoms of the cups, etc...

"He who distinguishes the true savour of his food can never be a glutton; he who does not cannot be otherwise."

Thoreau

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and i have seen black people working at in-n-out, actually.  but if you live in SF, then you probably don't have as many in-n-out restaurants nearby as i do.

what's the deal with black folks working at in-n-out? Is that the definition of a good burger?

:biggrin::biggrin:

Iris

GROWWWWWLLLLL!!

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If there was a Carls Jr. nearby, the CJ web site shows the Dixon location at 125 Gateway Plaza. The map link indicates the off ramp is Dixon Avenue W. Is this the off ramp with all of the fast food locations plus Mary's Pizza Shack plus an IHOP?

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There is a large sign for gateway plaza, but the only other place I saw at the exit was Carls Jr. The previous exit lead to a long plaza/strip mall with lots of restaurants and car salesrooms (it's where I was looking for the In-n-Out).

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Next time I drive up that way, I'll take notes. Used to be nothing there but the Dixon Fruit & Nut store, then the Cattlemen's restaurant, both on the right side as one is driving east, with some distance between them. And there was a Stuckey's on the other side of the freeway.

Back in the 70s, used to be an X-rated drive-in right past Davis. I remember seeing a John C. Holmes flick there in 1978.

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But this is the best Mexican food I've ever had.

There is great Mexican food like this anywhere there is a large Mexican population; in other words, all over California. A few random selections...

Lolita's in Petaluma (it's inside a Mexican market) makes great soft taco. $1.50 each. There is a woman behind the counter hand-patting the tortillas.

There's a place in Healdsburg (across from the Oakville Grocery) where I hear the soft tacos are even better than Lolita's. Haven't tried them yet.

There's also a sit down restaurant in Ukiah that has great food. They give you this great relish made out of cabbage-similar to what a Japanese restaurant serves, I'm blanking on the name. I can't remember the restaurant's name, but it is on the main street at the north end of town, has parking all around it-like it used to be a drive-in, and always has a million cars in the lot.

Last weekend I also had a really good taco in, of all places, a new deli in Gualala called The Mermaid Cafe. They had a few regular sandwiches for the tourists, but the vast majority of the menu was Mexican food.

The Mexican food is different in the Bay Area. I'm not sure it isn't just as good, but it is different. I grew up in the Central Valley (long ago) and I was very surprised at how different the food was when I moved to SF. I'd never seen a monster burrito; I was used to rice and bean plates w/ flour tortillas on the side.

PS I like In and Out, too. I agree w/ you about the fries, but I like that they grind their own meat on site daily. Greasy? Well, yeah, but isn't it supposed to be?

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Favorite semi-local place for Mexican is Los Panchos over in Pacheco, between Martinez and Concord. Strictly a take-out place in a tiny strip mall. Address is 5872 Pacheco Boulevard. We first got hooked on the carnitas; an order consists of big chunks, not that shredded stuff, rice, beans, tortillas, and a scoop of wonderful, medium-heat salsa fresca. Reminds me of my first carnitas at a place in Tijuana near the dog track.

Lately I've turned my attention to the chicken enchiladas; Los Panchos has a red sauce that is so smooth, so velvety, that I'm tempted to suck it up with a straw. My husband keeps encouraging me to get a weekend job there so I can learn the secret. I wonder if they add a soupcon of sour cream to the sauce.

They offer free bean dip if your order is over a certain amount. But their prices are so reasonable that we never reach that amount. It's usually about $14 for the two of us, and I can make two meals out of mine.

I've heard of a place over in either Pittsburg or Antioch called New Mecca that is supposed to rival Los Panchos. Might have to do a field trip one of these days.

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Stone, youve discovered what used to be called George's Orange, hence the round booth outside. I agree, it's damn good Mexican, very well be the best I've tasted. Best carne asada I've ever eaten, and I' ve eaten a lot. We never miss it. Small world, this.

cmvnapa, it's next to the fruit store, on the left as you face the store. It's been there for at least 25 years.

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Stone, did you happen to see the "Murder Burger" outside of Davis? I stopped there once - their big draw is ostrich burgers. My friends enjoyed the beef burgers and (surprisingly with a name like that) my veggie burger was quite tasty. I just love the name of the place. :laugh:

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And the fries suck.  I don't care if they're "fresh cut".  They're undercooked and undersalted and underflavored.

Get the fries well done. Get the burger animal style. If adventurous, get the shake Neopolitan.

I'm hollywood and I approve this message.

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And the fries suck.  I don't care if they're "fresh cut".  They're undercooked and undersalted and underflavored.

Get the fries well done. Get the burger animal style. If adventurous, get the shake Neopolitan.

The service is slow enough that I'm not asking for specials.

I did eat at Redrum Burger once, it tasted like French's Mustard. Great shake though. And I think the name was changed because the locals thought it was too violent. Remember, Davis is also a nucular free zone. Oy. :wacko:

Edited by Stone (log)
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  • 2 months later...

I went back to Mr. Taco recently, and had the chimmichanga. Another revalation. A HUGE flour tortilla, crammed full of carnitas, rice, beans, guac and lettuce, deep fried. The fry it without rolling it up completely so that the edge of the tortilla opens up to form a small bowl. This is filled with large dollops of sour cream and guac.

I couldn't finish the whole thing.

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The weathered wood betrayed some history of green and red paint; there was a "booth" outside that looked something like a tomato or a sombrero and seemed out of place without a pool.

It wasn't a tomato or a sombrero, it was a Giant Orange, and served freshly squeezed orange juice. It's been in its present location for at least 35 years. It used to be located in Dixon, near the RR tracks, before the the interstate was built. I know it was in operation in the early 1940's, maybe earlier.

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  • 4 weeks later...
The first visit, I had a Molcajete. (I've probably mixed up the progression of "l" "c" and "j".) Unbelievable. It was a large bowl chisled out of volcanic rock. Filled with a steaming stew of sliced beef, chicken, pork and, new for me, shreds of nopales. I've had these cactus's before as a side dish, and thought they were rather bland. Simmered in this stew, they added color, crunch and a great peppery, herby flavor. The dish was amazing. Hot, well-spiced and chock full of stuff. It was served with flour and corn tortillas and sides of guac and sour cream. More than enough for two.

This is a common dish at restaurants in Guadalajara and Jalisco. Can be really great. My wife had an awesome one at a fabulous restaurant in Puerto Vallarta. Nopales (cactus paddle) should be available at most big grocery stores down there, I would think. At least if they have any Mexican clientelle at all. They're really easy to cook and prepare, just cut off those spikes. Add a nice sour asparagus flavor or something like that to dishes. Excellent with beef, imo.

You should go to Oakland near the fruitvale area for some great Mexican. Here's a report on two places there:

LA GRAN CHIQUITA: A Chowhound find that paid off well enough. Had tacos de molleja (gizzards, I think) and cabeza (head or cheek). Both okay, but nothing special. Only the salsa roja was decent here. Also had a quesadilla de huitilacoche. Needed something to kick up the flavors of the huitilacoche, but the tortilla was fabulous. It was better than many of the best I’ve had in Mexico. I would have liked to try the squash blossom. Note: speaking a little Spanish will help here.

LA TORTA LOCA: This place rocks. Another Chowhound find. Funky little place connected to a laundry-mat. Great food, though. Started with a huarache de tinga. Huaraches are one of my favorite street foods. I love the thick masa tortillas covered with cheese, salsa, and meat like an authentic Mexican pizza. And this one was excellent. The tinga, stewed pork, was spicy and tender with a nice deep, rounded flavor like all slow foods should have. The salsa verde was nice and the cheese was nice. Based on the strength of this we got a taco de carnitas, my litmus test for taquerias. It came with cilantro, crema, tomato, pickled carrots, and salsa roja. Very good. The meat was good alone and the taco was good as a whole. This is a great little place and even though I usually prefer trying new places, I’d have a hard time not trying everything on the menu here before moving on. I imagine this should be the gold-standard for taquerias in the Bay Area.

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My wife and I stop at Mr. Taco every time we are near Dixon at around suppertime. The salsa is quite good, the decor a funky colorful mix, with old publicitygphotos of Mexican movie stars adorning the walls. The menu on the wall (as opposed to the printed one) has seemingly a million items. I've most recently had the enchiladas with mole and have had unmentionable dreams of them several times hence.

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LA TORTA LOCA: This place rocks.

Yes. Yes it does.

We have basically given up cooking anything at A's tailgates, because everyone would rather stop here to get a crazy sandwich. The place you are talking about is actually Torta Loca #2 -- there is a real sit-down restaurant a couple blocks north on the other side of E14th. They have more items, including huitlacoche when available and, I think, pozole on the weekends.

Tinga is beef not pork, at least at torta loca.

Edited by badthings (log)
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Tinga is beef not pork, at least at torta loca.

Tinga can be beef, pork, chicken, anything, but good to know what it was I had there.

I wish I would have seen the larger restaurant, though I'm not sure I ever would have left for my dinner at Chez Panisse.

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  • 3 weeks later...
My wife and I stop at Mr. Taco every time we are near Dixon at around suppertime.  The salsa is quite good,

They make their own salsa. It's very good and different. There's a slightly sweet undertone, as if a little honey had been added.

Hmm. I may have to make a trip out there before I leave this part of the world.

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