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Because Missing Out Is Never Fun!

Nena's Mexican Restaurant


One day, I may learn about portion control.


Nena's Mexican Restaurant
445 W. Weber Avenue, Suite 120
Stockton, CA

Eating one of Nena’s warm, soft, chewy, pillowy flour tortillas right off the press makes you feel like snuggling underneath a blanket…a blanket made of Nena’s warm, soft, chewy, pillowy flour tortillas.

Arguably the best Mexican restaurant in Stockton, Nena’s holds the secret to nearly three decades of success: classic recipes with bold flavors, relaxed atmosphere, congenial staff, and, with the recent move to the downtown waterfront, sweeping views of the Delta.  On weekends, crowds spill out onto patio seating and servers adjust umbrella shading or space heating to suit your needs.

What’s good here?  Everything’s good here.  Most recently, I was extremely pleased with my Taco Vampiro, chock full of steak, chorizo, cheese, onions and cilantro wrapped in a corn tortilla that had been dipped in red enchilada sauce and pressed into finely chopped red chilies.  The fiery flames were quelled by the crema and Cotija cheese topping my crispy Pork Chimichanga.

On morning occasions, it’s all about the Chilaquiles.  Sadly, I’ll usually put away half a basket of chips and salsa before my entrée arrives; so when my platter of (more) tortilla chips sautéed in red sauce and mingling with eggs and cheese appears, I am silently kicking myself.  After further carb-loading with another fresh tortilla, I may as well call it a day.

Tip well and, if you’re a regular, accept a kiss on the cheek from Nena herself.  She’s the one dressed to the nines with amazing shoes…every time.

Chavez Supermarket & Taqueria

One of the safest places to buy burritos in Hayward!

Chavez Supermarket & Taqueria
1157 W. Tennyson Road
Hayward, CA
Chavez Supermarket on Urbanspoon
 
Armed with an expense account and ravenous appetite, I bolted over here once I checked into my Union City hotel.  Why?  Carne asada.

To tell you the truth, my heart sank once I stepped inside the market and saw a heavily armed guard at the door.  Yikes!  Have I risked my life for meat?  AGAIN?  I crossed my fingers and walked into the taqueria.

EVERYTHING looked delicious.  I am a sucker for fish tacos and anything seafood, so when I saw another customer with a HUGE margarita-glass-looking-thingie full of ceviche, I almost caved.  I'm glad I didn't.

I ordered the carne asada burrito, was instantly upsold to the super burrito (sucker), and took a seat at a table behind the ceviche dude.

In a word?  AMAZING.  The steak was perfectly grilled, with crispy charred bits that added great flavor, texture and crunch.  Perfect proportions of rice, cheese, pico de gallo, salsa, sour cream and guacamole were skillfully layer into an expertly steam flour tortilla.

I intended to only eat half...really I did!!  But I remembered the Hip Hop Abs DVD I brought in my suitcase and figured "what the hell". You only live once, right?

Muy bueno, Chavez, muy bueno...
 

Vallejo's Restaurant


Dinner tonight (and lunch tomorrow).


Vallejo's Restaurant
1900 4th Street
Sacramento, CA
Vallejo's Restaurant on Urbanspoon

When I arrived for dinner on Friday, a server was carrying a Thanksgiving-sized platter of SOMETHING to a table for two.

And that was just one person's entree.

Instantly, I liked the place.  And I hadn't even glanced at the menu yet.

Entrees of gargantuan proportions are served here.  The prices are amazing, especially since you are almost guaranteed to bring home leftovers.  The quality?  Outstanding.  You can tell a lot of time and effort goes into this food.

I was so preoccupied with a neighboring table of ten's veritable feast that I forgot why I came...to eat!  And once I saw Mole Con Pollo on the menu, I was sold.

HOLY CRAP.  I had finally found a restaurant who makes mole as good as the mole I've had in Mexico.  Such complex layering of flavors is a true skill.  Giant chunks of chicken were swimming in a delicious, dark gravy lightly sprinkled with toasted sesame seeds, served with corn and flour tortillas, rice, beans, sour cream and guacamole.  I was in heaven.

Impeccable service, some seriously awesome grub...what more could you want after a long week of work?

El Rinconcito Del Mar


Why yes, this IS heaven.

El Rinconcito Del Mar
2908 E. 1st Street
Los Angeles, CA

I took a huge leap of faith when I chose to redeem my Restaurant.com gift card for a voucher to use here.  I mean, LA is riddled with Mexican restaurants, good and bad, large and small.  But half a grilled lobster alongside carne asada and a couple side dishes sounded pretty good to me.

White guy in tote (ha), I certainly felt like a fish out of water when I walked in.  However, we were welcomed as if we were one of the many regulars there that night.  In fact, everyone looked like a regular…and that’s always a good thing.  The place was packed, the waitresses were working hard, and the karaoke hostess was almost finished setting up.  Sunburned and starving, we sat back and enjoyed our cocktails amid the buzz of Spanish being spoken all around us.

Service wasn’t exactly speedy on this busy Friday night, so it was nice to not be in a rush for a change.  Complimentary chips kept our hunger at bay while we salivated over others’ dinner platters.

And then came the lobster.

I wanted to jump for joy when I saw my platter, overflowing with bubbly, grilled lobster, charred carne asada, a huge, steaming baked potato with butter and crema, rice pilaf, and a generous dipping bowl of garlic-infused butter.  Having no shame, I tore into it, likely flinging butter and lobster bits every which way without realizing it.  I guess I made quite the spectacle of myself, because patrons seated around us started to order the same entrée…hmmm…

In the middle of our dinner, karaoke started.   Spanish karaoke, at that.  What a treat!  The big surprise of the night was a young Asian kid who brought the house down with a Spanish ballad.  It was better than anything I’d seen on the Latin Grammys.  Take that, Marc Antony.

Taqueria Eduardo 2

157 cubic inches of heaven can be found here.

Taqueria Eduardo 2
1104 W. Tennyson Road
Hayward, CA
Taqueria Eduardo II on Urbanspoon

If you want a perfectly assembled, lean and mean burrito for $8, I suggest Chavez Supermarket and Taqueria.

But if you haven't eaten in 7 hours, and wanna initiate a knock-down, drag-out fight with your intestines, for less than $7, come HERE.

When the lady behind the counter brought me my Carne Asada Burrito, I pretty much gained a couple pounds just looking at it.

I'm not kidding when I tell you my burrito was five inches in diameter and about 8 inches in length.  Do the math and you'll find that's roughly 157 cubic inches of burrito.  What's the capacity of the unstretched human stomach?  I'm afraid to find out.

The steak?  Phenomenal.  And lots of it!  Maybe a little bit too much rice, but that didn't stop me from eating 80 percent of the thing.

Towards the end everything started becoming a little greased-soaked, so I ended the battle, using about 17 napkins to clean up my hands.  Classy.


Rubio's


Rubio's
Various Location in the Western US

By the time Friday rolls around, the last place I want to eat lunch is in my office. 

Tucked into a nearby shopping center is Rubio's; and while this website is usually reserved for family-owned dining destinations, there's just something special about this fast-casual option that deserves mentioning.  Stomach growling, I kidnapped an unbeknownst coworker for an early lunch and we headed out. 
 
In the middle of a business park we found our little oasis, and as I walked up to the entrance I dreamed of fish tacos and anything else that grabbed my attention.  Today, that something extra was a fresh-baked churro.  We were promptly greeted with smiles from both cashiers and cooks.  I quickly placed my order with a cheery young girl before finding a cozy table away from the inevitable lunch rush crowds.  Already salivating, my dining partner and I ambled over to the condiment bar and found a myriad of salsas, vegetables, and my favorite cilantro-onion mix.  I then seated myself away from the bustling front door, kicking back in my seat and enjoying painted murals depicting Southern California beach life.  A few folks at other tables seemed to have the same idea. 

I made small talk with my lunch buddy, but quickly became preoccupied when my name was called.  At that point, my friend was officially ignored, and I found myself staring at some of the most enormous fish tacos I've ever laid eyes on.  Are they always this size?  Did the cooks accurately interpret how hungry I was from a single glance?  I pondered these questions as I took my first crunchy bite of an Original Fish Taco.

I've eaten many variations of fish tacos in my life, from halibut to shark to tilapia and on both flour and corn tortillas.  Quite frankly, Rubio's has some of the best: theirs are on single thick and sturdy corn tortillas, eliminating the need to double up on tortillas like competing establishments with substandard ingredients. The batter is substantially thick and fried to a golden crisp, yet all the while yielding moist, tender fish beneath.  Add a smattering of crunchy shredded cabbage, a light drizzle of secret sauce and a hint of juicy pico de gallo and that's all you need on a Friday afternoon!  Well, that and a side of rice with plenty of onions and cilantro mixed in.  And maybe a warm churro covered in cinnamon sugar.

My coworker washed down his Regal Springs Tilapia Tacos with a cerveza and for an instant we thought about playing hooky for the rest of the day to head to the beach.  Then we remembered we were sitting in the middle of a shopping center.  Well played, Rubio's.  Well played.

Old Town Mexican Cafe


Delicioso!

Old Town Mexican Cafe
2489 San Diego Avenue
San Diego, CA
Old Town Mexican Cafe on Urbanspoon

Home of the world's best fish taco.  Says who?  Says ME.

I ordered a 3-Item Combo consisting of a Chicken Enchilada, Fish Taco and Chile Relleno.  I then proceeded to eat an entire basket of chips and drink a Raspberry Margarita.

Therefore, I was full four bites into my dinner entree.  But, guess what?  I finished the plate because it was so f**king good.  Story of my life.

The mariachis were awesome AND had a great sense of humor.  They serenaded my soon-to-be 23-year old male cousin with a quince song.  Gracias, amigos.

Sal's Tacos

!Aye carumba!

Sal's Tacos
400 C Street
West Sacramento, CA
Sal's Tacos on Urbanspoon

It's absolutely amazing that I'd never heard of this place until a coworker brought me here!  It's got everything you need in a Mexican joint: mosaics from floor to ceiling, Spanish music thumping at you from every direction and a fully loaded "Sal's-a Bar".

Get it?  Sal's-a?

Oh yeah, one more thing: gargantuan proportions!

Before ordering, the salsa bar had my full attention.  I had already concocted the perfect crema fresca/salsa/onion/cilantro combination in my mind; my actual meal was an afterthought.  I quickly ordered a Carnitas Burrito (no frijoles), then began piling chips into small wooden bowls.

Moments later, it arrived.

My jaw literally dropped.  To the point where it hurt my jaw.

Looking back, I wish I'd had a measuring tape handy, because the photos I took barely did it justice.  For one thing, this burrito was served on a dinner PLATTER!  A platter, for Christ's sake!  Furthermore, the burrito took up most of said platter.

Inside, crispy carnitas goodness.  I looked for it, but couldn't find the pools of grease I've come to expect from a beanless burrito. Could it be?  Finally?  Burrito perfection?  Shredded lettuce was a unique addition, and helped cut down on the overall richness that lied beneath globs of smooth guacamole and sweet crema.

45 seconds in, I told myself to take two more bites, then take the rest home.

Eight minutes in, 40% was devoured and lethargy kicked in.  Unfortunately, it's not ladylike to lie in the  fetal position in restaurant booths.  On the other hand, it's probably not ladylike to eat 40% of a burrito the size of a toddler, either.

Have I mentioned prices?  At the time of this review, I had eaten 40% for lunch yesterday and 30% for today's lunch.  I think you know what's on the menu for tomorrow.  For you math wizards, that's three meals.  The cost?  Seven bucks and change.

Sal's is an outstanding value and certainly a hidden gem in West Sacramento.  Come for the salsa bar, stay for burritos the size of your forearm.

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