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Chasing the Perfect Taco Up the California Coast


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article from NYTimes Travel section

Deep, obsessive love begets connoisseurship, and a more refined understanding is sought. The plan? A trip along Highway 1, between Los Angeles and San Francisco — among the most beautiful stretches of road in the country, and possibly the hottest taco crawl outside of Mexico... our raison d’être? Five days, 28 taquerias, 49 tacos. Do rich people eat tacos? I had heard that wealthy Santa Barbara was a hotbed of authentic taco activity, but I was hard-pressed to believe it. A cruise down quaint, tree-peppered North Milpas Street, however, confirms it. The street is lined with taquerias, including the one that started the craze — La Super Rica Taqueria. Known to many as “the Julia Child joint” — she was a loyal customer until she died two years ago — La Super Rica is bright and airy, and the tortillas are handmade on the spot...

Just a few of the multiple taco places on this journey: EL PARIáN Los Angeles, TACOS BAJA ENSENADA Los Angeles, LILLY’S TAQUERIA Santa Barbara, CHAPALA RESTAURANT Morro Bay, LA TAQUERIA San Francisco, TAQUERIA SAN JOSé San Francisco ....

Has anyone got personal choices for "don't miss" tacos on Highway One in the state? :rolleyes:

Melissa Goodman aka "Gifted Gourmet"

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There is a discussion of sorts here about this article. Let's just say that the San Diego contingent isn't exactly happy that they were by-passed entirely, particularly since Tacos El Gordo in Chula Vista and a couple of it's neighboring kin serve up truly good tacos to a virtually exclusive Mexican customer base. Nor are some of the Santa Barbara or Monterrey folks entirely happy with the reported selections.

Best tacos ever, anywhere? The night time taco vendor on la plaza chica in Patzucaro, Mexico

Best oddball taco? The mashed potato fried taco at Mama Testa's Taqueria in San Diego (where they actually serve 26 varieties of tacos, one from each state in the Mexican republic. Didin't make the article either :wink: )

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For posterity, here is the entire list of places from the article by Cindy Price cited in post #1:

EL PARIáN 1528 West Pico Boulevard, Los Angeles; (213) 386-7361.

TACOS BAJA ENSENADA 5385 Whittier Boulevard, Los Angeles; (323) 887-1980.

LA SUPER RICA TAQUERIA 622 North Milpas Street, Santa Barbara; (805) 963-4940.

LILLY’S TAQUERIA 310 Chapala Street, Santa Barbara; (805) 966-9180.

CHAPALA RESTAURANT 2816 Main Street, Morro Bay; (805) 772-4492.

RUDDELL’S SMOKEHOUSE 101 D Street, Cayucos; (805) 995-5028.

TAQUERIA VALLARTA 1101 Pacific Avenue, Santa Cruz; (831) 471-2655.

TAQUERIA Y MERCADO DE AMIGOS 1999 Pescadero Creek Road, Pescadero; (650) 879-0232.

LA TAQUERIA 2889 Mission Street, San Francisco; (415) 285-7117.

TAQUERIA SAN JOSé 2830 Mission Street, San Francisco; (415) 282-0203.

EL TONAYENSE TACO TRUCK Harrison Street & 22nd Street, San Francisco.

LA PALMA MEXICATESSEN 2884 24th Street, San Francisco; (415) 647-1500.

Serendipity struck yesterday! We decided to escape the 100 degree heat on the SF Peninsula and headed over the mountains to the coast. After a cool stroll on the coastal bike path in northern Santa Cruz we headed up to Pescadero and tried the tacos at TAQUERIA Y MERCADO DE AMIGOS after hearing about them in this article. We sampled the carnitas and al pastor tacos and they were excellent! Great tortillas. perfectly cooked, tasty meat, fresh condiments. We'll definately be back.

The storefront is very lowkey--it is right across the street from Duartes Tavern where I have been going for years and I never knew that there was a taqueria in the gas statiion/market across the street. There are about 10 tables to sit and eat in the taqueria.

Edited by ludja (log)

"Under the dusty almond trees, ... stalls were set up which sold banana liquor, rolls, blood puddings, chopped fried meat, meat pies, sausage, yucca breads, crullers, buns, corn breads, puff pastes, longanizas, tripes, coconut nougats, rum toddies, along with all sorts of trifles, gewgaws, trinkets, and knickknacks, and cockfights and lottery tickets."

-- Gabriel Garcia Marquez, 1962 "Big Mama's Funeral"

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Best tacos ever, anywhere?  The night time taco vendor on la plaza chica in Patzucaro, Mexico.

Yes, and the ambiance is the stuff of dreams.

At least mine.

I don't understand why rappers have to hunch over while they stomp around the stage hollering.  It hurts my back to watch them. On the other hand, I've been thinking that perhaps I should start a rap group here at the Old Folks' Home.  Most of us already walk like that.

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Best tacos ever, anywhere?  The night time taco vendor on la plaza chica in Patzucaro, Mexico.

Yes, and the ambiance is the stuff of dreams.

At least mine.

Here's my photo of the very same.

Visit beautiful Rancho Gordo!

Twitter @RanchoGordo

"How do you say 'Yum-o' in Swedish? Or is it Swiss? What do they speak in Switzerland?"- Rachel Ray

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Sabroso, in Canoga Park, on Vanowen Avenue - I think it is close to Corbin, has terrific tacos, especially the carnitas and the tacos Al Pastor which are as close to the ones I have had in Mexico as any I have tried in the U.S.

The meat is cooked diffrently than most Mexican meats, on a vertical rotisserie, sort of like the Greek "gyro" rotisserie, and sliced off so you get a bunch of slivers of meat. Delicious!!

"There are, it has been said, two types of people in the world. There are those who say: this glass is half full. And then there are those who say: this glass is half empty. The world belongs, however, to those who can look at the glass and say: What's up with this glass? Excuse me? Excuse me? This is my glass? I don't think so. My glass was full! And it was a bigger glass!" Terry Pratchett

 

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The meat is cooked diffrently than most Mexican meats, on a vertical rotisserie, sort of like the Greek "gyro" rotisserie, and sliced off so you get a bunch of slivers of meat.  Delicious!!

Isn't that just the correct method for cooking meat al pastor anyway? Is there another technique?

Edited by rancho_gordo (log)

Visit beautiful Rancho Gordo!

Twitter @RanchoGordo

"How do you say 'Yum-o' in Swedish? Or is it Swiss? What do they speak in Switzerland?"- Rachel Ray

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Taco Temple, north end of Morro Bay.  Fresh mexican diver scallop taco yesterday, a longing desire to return today.

That sounds incredible; thanks for the tip.

A few weeks ago I made a local find for great tacos...

Los Altos Taqueria

2150 Old Middlefield Way #E

Mountain View, CA 94043

(650) 965-7236

The cross street is Rengstorff Ave.

This area has local fame as the "burrito triangle" as there are a bunch of good Mexican taquerias here, but these are some of the best tacos I've tasted over the course of exploring dozens of (almost all good to very good) taquerias in the area over 10 years or so. After our first visit, we went back twice more over the next week and a half. As far as tacos go, so far I've only sampled carnitas, al pastor and fish. I wanted to try new things but had to reorder these for now. All were excellent and the al pastor and fish tacos were the best I've had. ((The carnitas were excellent as well; it was just that I had never had al pastor that approached anything like this. Excellent tortillas. Everything was fresh, flavorful, generous and prepared with care to order. I sampled a carnitas super burrito as well which was excellent.

It is a small casual place with 5 or 6 counter seats and 8-10 small tables. The service is also noticeably above average for a place like this, quick, clean, friendly and professional. Each time we went there was also a steady stream of customers from all walks of life ordering stuff to go. Obviously, this place is only a discovery for me as far as many locals are concerned but I'd thought I'd share it anyway.

small note: The grilled fish tacos were listed as a special, I'm not sure how often they're available athough they had them each of the times we went.

Well--it just cracks me up that this place was so close to by to me for so long and I didn't know about it. Finding this place and the place in Pescardero in the last month has been marvelous!

"Under the dusty almond trees, ... stalls were set up which sold banana liquor, rolls, blood puddings, chopped fried meat, meat pies, sausage, yucca breads, crullers, buns, corn breads, puff pastes, longanizas, tripes, coconut nougats, rum toddies, along with all sorts of trifles, gewgaws, trinkets, and knickknacks, and cockfights and lottery tickets."

-- Gabriel Garcia Marquez, 1962 "Big Mama's Funeral"

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Well they missed 2 of the other key taco places in Santa Cruz including my favorite: La Cabana for great desebrada and carnitas tacos.

65136202-O.jpg

You can find them on Mission just before HWY1 North begins. Do follow their tip for Fiesta Tepa Sahuayo in Watsonville. Great place though I can't imagine ordering tacos there with the range of foods on offer.

Nathan

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In Cambria, we love the fish tacos at the Moonstone Beach Bar & Grill. Robin's in Cambria also does some really good ones. My favorite tho is at the California Market at the Highland's Inn in the Carmel Highlands. Gorgeous views and amazing fish tacos, what could be better? Stay cool! :)

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I just did a little taco tasting a couple of weeks back. Best tacos by far that I tried (better than La Superica IMO) were Tapatio Taqueria in Camarillo:

gallery_14365_3254_735847.jpg

Carne asada, puerco al pastor, carnitas and pollo. Go with the pork, can't go wrong with pork.

La Superica: puerco chuleta and puero adobado (still pretty darn good, though)

gallery_14365_3254_78009.jpg

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Taco Temple and Chappala in Morro Bay are about 1 block apart giving N. Morro Bay one of the highest excellent taco densities around. The density goes up if you drive down Main St. to Tacos de Mexico which is also excellent. The cuisine in Morro Bay has been getting steadily better IMHO for the last 20 years.

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TAQUERIA VALLARTA: If this is the place I think it is in Santa Cruz, then anything with the Chicharron in it is excellent.

Up in Northern California Cactus Taqueria (Berkeley) Strays from the bunch and serves up stuff made with Niman Ranch meats....maybe not in the true spirit of a taco/burrito place, but you can't argue with the quality.

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