Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Lalo's Restaurant

The Location: Lalo's Restaurant 5063 24th Street Sacramento, CA

The Taco: Chicken, Al Pastor, and Carnitas

The Price: $1.25 per taco

The Verdict: You know you are in for an authentic Mexican experience when all the signage outside the restaurant is in Spanish.  We walked into this gem at noon on a Saturday. The place was packed! It's a small venue, in a seemingly undesirable part of town, with about 15 tables, most of which seat 6 comfortably. I was pleasantly relieved to find out our server not only speaks Spanish, but perfect English too.

The first thing to arrive at the table is a gigantic bowl of diced onion and cilantro with plenty of lime wedges. Next come two sides of salsa, a green and a yellow-red. The yellow-red salsa turned out to be my favorite.  Neither salsas were over the top spicy, but the yellow-red had a bit more kick.

I ordered 4 tacos; 2 chicken, 1 al pastor, and 1 carnitas. I also added a side of rice, just incase the tacos weren't enough.  I was amused that the rice arrived with peas and carrots too. It was standard Mexican rice that you'll find at most taquerias. All the tacos arrived with onions, cilantro and a dab red salsa on top. Everything in this restaurant is clearly freshly prepared.

The chicken tacos were small marinated grilled chunks of chicken. I didn't find them to be exceptionally very flavorful. The al pastor had a nice red sauce, possibly adobo, though I don't consider myself an al pastor aficionado. It was very good. However, la crème de la crème are the carnitas! I could have eaten four of just these carnitas tacos. If only I had known! Topped with the extra salsas and fresh squeezed lime juice, it was near perfection. No overly fatty bits of pork and a perfect juicy pork flavor. You can order the meats by the pound with tortillas on the side. I might have to do just that with the carnitas next time.

As a non-taco aside, my better half ordered the Molcajete, which is impressively served in a steaming hot cauldron with tortillas on the side. It's not every day you get to eat cactus.

Overall, an extremely pleasant experience and definitely worth the trip.  I'm only deducting a half star because the service wasn't exceptionally fast, it took a long time to get our bill and our entrees for two came out several minutes apart, not served together.

The Rating: ★★★★ ½ (out of 5)

Lalo's on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, November 2, 2011


The Location: Jalapeños, 1413 21st Street Sacramento, CA  

The Taco: "Tacos Special" 2 crispy carnitas tacos with lettuce cheese and sour cream served on a plate with beans and rice.

The Price: $6.95

The Verdict: The menu clearly states no substitutions, however, I was able to order my carnitas just the way I like them. Carnitas on a crispy shell with lettuce on top.  I seemed to have received a double portion of rice, since I asked for no beans, which was alright by me. The rice was pretty typical of what you'll find at most taquerias, fairly dry fluffy orange rice with nothing special added to it. Specifically, just the way I like my taqueria rice.

The staff was extremely friendly and the gentleman that took our order also brought us our food. He even noticed we hadn't helped ourselves to the silverware so he brought us forks and knives even though our table was just behind the self serve station.

Upon first impression, the tacos looked small, but it was late, I was hungry and I had a long night ahead of me. In the end they did fill me up, but I was not stuffed. The taco shells were perfectly formed so you could get a clean crisp bite every time. The carnitas meat was fried really well. Crispy edges, juicy meat in the middle. I did have one bite in one of my tacos that seemed overly fatty, but we'll just chalk that up to them being carnitas after all.

Now, I've said it before, and I'll say it again. Salsa can make or break a taco restaurant review. I noticed when we walked into the small establishment with just about 7 tables there was no salsa bar. Each meal came with one tiny cup of really thin red salsa, not a lump of tomato or jalepeño to be found.  The salsa was so thin, it didn't seem to have much flavor at all, on top of that, it was relatively spice-less. It's no wonder they keep Tapatío on every table.

I marked deductions for the salsa (or lack there of) and the less than perfect carnitas meat.

 The Rating: ★★★ (out of 5)

Jalapeno's on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Taqueria Garibaldi

The Location: Taqueria Garibaldi, 1841 Howe Ave, Sacramento.

The Taco: Crispy taco. Chicken, carnitas.

The Price: $3.10/each à la carte

The Verdict: When I drove by this restaurant with a vaguely Italian name I thought maybe I had stumbled upon some kind of cosmic Italian-Mexican mashup. Carnitas ravioli? Fettucine al pastor? Sadly it was not to be. (Note to the internet: please work on this).

Instead I found a typical taqueria with the usual burritos, enchiladas, and, yes, tacos. I opted for two of the crispy tacos - one with carnitas and one shredded chicken. Each one was loaded up with sour cream, guacamole, salsa cheese and meat. Speaking of meats, they offer at least eight different choices on the menu as well as four different types of tacos (regular, super, crispy & vegetarian); a return visit would definitely be required in order to sample every possible combination.

As for the tacos themselves, I found the shredded chicken to be pretty bland. The carnitas was chewy and had a hint of crisp on the outside, just about right — but it suffered from being a bit too fatty. Fat is flavor, but there can be a fine line between flavorful and over-fatty. The crispy shells were obviously freshly prepared and were not too greasy, a plus. For my taste the tacos were too heavy on the sour cream and not heavy enough on the guacamole but that may be a personal preference. Overall, I found these to be average – definitely an edible meal but one that could have been much more enjoyable with a few tweaks.

The Rating: ★★★ (out of 5)

Taqueria Garibaldi on Urbanspoon

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Sacramento Mobile Food Festival

The Location: 1st Annual Sacramento Mobile Food Festival. Fremont Park.

The Taco: Chando's Tacos & Tacos La Piedad.

The Price: $2/each (Chando's), $1.50/each (La Piedad)

The Verdict: After a long hiatus from writing reviews we ventured out, along with most of the rest of Sacramento, to the 1st Annual Mobile Food Festival in Fremont Park at 16th & Q. The local news stations are reporting that there were close to 10,000 attendees and I can believe it.

We waited about 25 minutes at our first truck stop - Tacos La Piedad, usually found in the vicinity of Northgate and Peralta Ave in Natomas. We sampled the carnitas tacos here which came loaded up with meat, caramelized onion and serve-yourself helpings of salsa, cilantro and lime wedges. The carnitas had a good juicy flavor with just a hint of chewy crunch and the chunks of caramelized onion were a nice touch that added a kick of sweetness. A delicious bargain at $1.50 each.

By the time we hit our next stop at Chando's the festival lines had swelled to immense proportions. I dug in and waited out an almost 2 hour line to sample both the chicken and carne asada tacos at this truck. Chando's restaurant location on Arden Way has been receiving rave reviews so I went in with high hopes. By the end of the line two hours later I probably would have eaten anything put in front of me, but Chando didn't disappoint as both the chicken and steak tacos were excellent with a good spice kick from the generous amount of salsa splashed on top. I look forward to trying their restaurant location soon.

Overall we were very satisfied with the food at the Festival, hopefully the organizers can find a way to control the lines next time (perhaps Sacramento needs a monthly or even weekly food truck event?) because waiting up to two hours for a taco is a little extreme, no matter how good they are.

The Rating: Food - ★★★★ (out of 5). Wait time - ★

Tacos La Piedad:
Tacos la Piedad No 2 on Urbanspoon

Chando's Tacos on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

524 Mexican

The Location: 524 Mexican.  524 12th St, Sacramento

The Taco: 3 item combo. One chicken & two carnitas tacos, plus rice and beans.

The Price: $11.49

The Verdict: We hit up 524 Mexican after reading some good reviews expecting to find the greatest gift to Mexican food since the flour tortilla. Unfortunately, we left sorely disappointed. I tried the chicken and carnitas crunchy tacos and found both to be bland and uninspiring. The meat had little flavor of its own and I encountered several inedible bits of gristle in the carnitas tacos. The reviews had led me to believe that the food here was consistently excellent and delicious, so either we ended up at the wrong restaurant or they were having an off night.

The Rating: ★★ ½ (out of 5)

524 Mexican Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Friday, July 2, 2010

El Mariachi

IMG_0883The Location: El Mariachi, Davis - Farmer's Market stand

The Taco: Large Taco

The Price: $7.50/plate (includes rice & beans)

The Verdict: We found this taco plate on a recent trip to the Davis Farmer's Market where a number of food vendors set up temporary shop on Wednesday evenings throughout the summer.  This one came from El Mariachi whose regular storefront can be found on G St in Davis.

I ordered the "large taco" with carnitas, and it was prepared quickly in the little tent and served steaming hot.  As far as tacos go, this was definitely on the large side, stuffed full with lots of meat as well as a dash of pico de gallo and… well, frankly I don't know what else because it was almost all meat.  Thumbs up!  My only complaint was that the meat was a little on the dry side.  No doubt serving from a temporary tent in the middle of Central Park isn't the most optimum kitchen environment, so I will give them the benefit of the doubt and look forward to giving them a second chance at their bricks and mortar location sometime soon.

The Rating: ★★★ ½ (out of 5)

El Mariachi Taqueria on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Taqueria Davis

IMG_0840The Location: Taqueria Davis. 505 1/2 L St, Davis

The Taco: Carnitas crunchy tacos

The Price: $2.89/each a la carte

The Verdict: Straying outside our Sacramento boundaries isn't unusual (we just hit up a few choice spots in San Francisco) but we try to keep this blog as locally-focused as possible. That said, Davis is just a short trip over the causeway and we will always have a soft-spot in our hearts for the hamlet and it's many taquerias. On this most recent trip I found myself at Taqueria Davis for the first time. It is tucked away in a somewhat rundown mini shopping-center sandwiched between a pizza place and 7-11.

After hearing warnings that the soft tacos were too small I decided to sample the crunchy tacos. I ordered mine with carnitas, and after a wait which seemed a little longer than it should have been they appeared at our table. Each taco was loaded up with meat, lettuce, sour cream, guacamole, salsa & cheese. The tacos themselves were a good size so the previous warning may only apply to the soft shell. The toppings were plentiful and while the taco was satisfying it wasn't particularly memorable. The meat was flavorful but not outstanding and seemed to be a little lost among the pile of sour cream and guac. A little more focus on getting everything arranged in the right proportions might have given this one a chance to earn an extra star.

The Rating: ★★★ (out of 5)

Taqueria Davis on Urbanspoon