Wednesday, November 24, 2010
This place almost had me in tears......... I discovered for the first time what all the fuss was about. What I'm referring to is La Gloria Market in Oxnard. More specifically, after I walked though the doors of this wonderful red bricked Mexican grocery store, I found a Disneyland of Mexican food awaiting me. Am I going a little crazy here? probably, but its my taco blog (that goes for you, 3 people that read this!) and I think this place was awesome.
Well- awesome in the sense that it reminded me of my childhood trips into Mexico with my parents. The place definitely had the feel and look of a place across the boarder. There was so much Mexican culinary variety at La Gloria that I just don't have enough time to write down everything that I saw. Also, I need to stay on point some what with me only there for the tacos.
Yes, La Gloria is a grocery store, bakery and super-taqueria all rolled into one, and is located off of Oxnard boulevard. By the way, when facing the front of La Gloria, go to the door on the right, that will take you into their restaurant. Unless you need a new Scooby Doo pinata then go through the left door.
As I went up to the counter to order my tacos, I looked in awe through the glass in front of the heating trays loaded with wonderful and various fillings that I could have chosen from: Carnitas, Carne Asada, Al Pastor, Birria, Cabeza De Chivo, Patitas de Puerco, Bisteka Mexicana, Carne De Res, Papas con Chorizo and, in a come back of sorts, Chicharones en Salsa Verde! That was nice to see after the crap I made Josh eat at Mercado Guadalajara a few days ago. I'm not going to elaborate further on all of these items I listed because then this post would be waaaaay to long. Just google this stuff and you'll be fine.
Okay, I went simple since I was so overwhelmed (yes, that means Pastor, Carnitas and Asada) and headed outside to the pretty little courtyard located in between the restaurant and grocery store.
All of the tacos came topped with the standard items, and the salsa roja that was on all three was very tasty. Not a ton of heat but enough that you'll notice it in your taco. Very nice consistency, not to watery but not paste-like either.
Carne Asada, it was similar to Lalo's execution in that it had the taste of Asada but too rubbery in texture. To much connective bits abound that made for difficult chewing, not really tender. The cuts here were small but that didn't help at all like I thought it would have at Lalo's. All in all it was okay, just not a super star taco.
Carnitas was totally delicious, it came already shredded and was just falling apart with every bite. Great depth of flavor, fatty and greasy but in a good way. Salsa was a nice compliment too.
But the star of this trio was by far the Al Pastor. Finally, real (almost) Al Pastor! Man this was so good, it had the pineapple chunks in there and the pork tasted like it had been cooking for some time which in turn made the meat so very tender. With a great mix of chili flavor through out, the flavor profile of this taco fit the bill in the authenticity department. If the salsa was a little hotter this would be total perfection in my mind.
Obviously, I have to come back to La Gloria to try a bunch of other things (plus bring Josh with me) but that will have to wait till some other time.
Even though the carne asada was a weak point I'm giving this place high marks just because of that kick ass Al Pastor. Do yourself a favor and check La Gloria out, it may help if you bring a Spanish speaking person with you though. 4/5 strars.
La Gloria De Oxnard
430 South Oxnard Boulevard
Oxnard, Ca 93030
Tuesday, November 23, 2010
Today, Josh and I again were short for time. As it happens, Josh was in Ventura (and I in Camarillo) so we both decided to meet there for tacos. So many places to choose from but we ended up going with Lalo’s on Ventura avenue.
If you simply go off of the reviews on Yelp, you would think that this place was the best in Ventura. It definitely has many devoted fans and I’m obviously aware of what’s at stake here. Which is to say nothing since only like, 3 people read this blog. But I know that Lalo’s is a treasure, a jewel, blah, blah, blah…….it’s been around. They have a good reputation and that’s not easy to achieve with so many Latinos in this area.
So, Josh and I meet up and order our tacos at the walk up counter when I noticed that they have a great special on the menu. For $3.75 you get 3 tacos, and judging by the size of the tacos it’s really a pretty good deal. They were not the palm size ones you may get at other taquerias. The tacos came topped with cilantro, onions, and what seemed to me as a heat neutral salsa roja. It had some nice flavor but only average spiciness.
In any case, the tacos:
Carnitas, hands down the best I’ve had since I started this blog. Big deep fried morsels of pork with crispiness on the outside and tender succulent innards that fell apart in shreds. Maybe “innards” was not the word I was looking for but none the less, it was pretty damn good. A little greasy with some pieces of fat (although mine didn’t have much fat, Josh’s included one huge cut of it) but just delicious.
Al Pastor, well, since Josh and I decided that this is now “Ventura County Pastor” it was very good in that vein. The pork cuts were smallish and tender, again, that ancho chili flavor was predominant in my pastor (with no pineapple to be found) but I’m now accepting this as normal around here. Solid taco in my opinion though, I enjoyed it.
Carne Asada, seems like they nailed down the flavor of asada but the texture left much to be desired. Too rubbery and hard to chew on, finer/smaller pieces of steak may solve this issue or maybe Josh and I just got the crappy cuts of the flap meat. We both agreed on the flaws here.
The Salsa was barely there on all of these, and what I mean is that the heat did not stand out at all. Again, a good flavor but with a very mild spice.
"Carnitas - probably one of the best Carnitas taco's I've had. the meat was tender, it tasted good, but I think it could have had more taste personally. This by far was the best taco I had today".
"Al Pastor - again this seems to fit with the Ventura style. Very sloppy joe bbq flavor like, I'm just not used to this style personally. No pineapple taste, the chili seems to be a different type then I'm used to and it doesn't seem to be slow cooked at all giving it that marinated flavor I'm used to".
"Carne Asada - I wanted to like this, it was tasty, it was charred well, it had great hope, but the fat was just too much in the end. The meat had too much chunky fat and ligaments making i really chewy like beef jerky".
"The salsa had a good flavor, but was kind of lost in the taco. It was good, but I like some kick, it wasn't hot at all".
One of the things that Josh and I talked about after lunch is that even though I shouldn't "water down" my review or adjust my rating system (entirely in my head by the way) I should maybe give extra credit for a job well done? I don't know.
The thing is, I liked Lalo's and I know that Josh did too, its just that we have not been blown away by anyone (Well, for me Don Gabys is still pretty fracking awesome and pretty much the standard around these parts) and its getting to be a bit of a grind to keep writing the same thing as far the common theme among many of these taquerias. That is that alot of these tacos are starting to resemble one another in their flaws, the same screw ups for the same tacos keeps happening. I've had some good stuff but not across the board kick ass-ness. I know, I know, I sound like a broken record.
Like I've written in the past, Don Gabys truck is still the best around, no one has knocked that guy off of his perch yet.
But again, myself (and Josh) do this because we love tacos, dammit. So, we must continue.
Lalo's is pretty good by the way. 3/5 stars
1580 North Ventura Avenue
Ventura, Ca 93001
Monday, November 22, 2010
For today's taco excursion, I met up with Josh at Mercado Guadalajara #2 in Newbury Park. We wanted to go back in to Oxnard but because of some tough time constraints for both of us we ended up in Newbury Park. This post may officially wrap up what I think are the only taquerias with decent tasting tacos in NP. Its a small town so that wasn't to difficult to conclude. There are a few others that are here, but I'm not sure they're worth the time. I may hit up The Three Amigos at some point but I have a lot of other places that I need to get to in other towns before I go there, but I digress........
Mercado Guadalajara is nice little Mexican grocer that also happens to be next to a Mexican restaurant called Letty's (not worth the time, trust me) in a tiny strip mall off of Hillcrest Drive. I've eaten a burrito at Guadalajara once before and thought it was pretty good. But when you strip away all the goodies loaded in a burrito, and eat its bare soul (the meat) topped only with onions and cilantro..........is it any good? Hopefully, it is.
Once inside the market, Josh and I got in line and ordered our tacos. One of the things you need to know about this place is that there is no menu. They have several meat options (and other delicious looking fillings) that you can choose from. So you have to let the dude cooking up the food know exactly what it is you want. He'll ask you what you'd like none the less but be prepared to start rattling off the specifics.
One of the things that I noticed in the preparation of the tacos was that they do not put any of the meat on the plancha (griddle). All of the different verities of meat sit in warming trays then are chopped up and served. This in itself is not uncommon its just a difference in technique or theory. I'm not a fan of doing it this way but we'll see what the final verdict is.
I got four tacos: Carnitas, Carne Asada, Al Pastor and Chicharones (fried pork rinds). I love, love, love chicharones and have not had them in awile, so I was looking forward to eating a taco filled with them. Josh ordered the same four as I.
There was 3 different salsas to choose from for topping; looked like a verde a roja and something else that I couldn’t really figure out. The mystery salsa was red in color and appeared a bit watery. In any case, I went with the roja that was more distinguishable (and extremely thick, almost paste like) and was the one being dished out the most.
The only places to sit were the tables outside, but those were wet from the rain so Josh and I headed to my piece o’ crap Xterra to eat there.
Tacos: Chicharones tasted like flavorless slop; seriously, these were not crispy in any way just complete mush and no Chicharones taste. I’m not even sure what kind of sauce they were cooked in but it definitely was not the standard chili verde sauce.
Carne Asada had some decent depth of flavor as far as tasting like steak ranchero but it was totally underwhelming.
Carnitas were dry, but the super thick salsa roja almost covered up this flaw; indeed- it’s pretty much all I tasted. And that salsa had some heat to it that lasted a long time as you ate on. Inconclusive-
Al Pastor was more from what Josh calls “Texas BBQ place”. Seriously, they bathe these babies in Ancho chilies and then serve them up. The pork was tender and the taco itself wasn’t bad at all you just have to know that this is not an authentic pastor flavor. Josh has mentioned already a few times that maybe it’s the style of the Ventura county region. He may be on to something, especially at the eateries that have been around for a long time locally.
One more thing before Josh gives his take, that salsa roja was an absolute beast! I liked it but it totally overwhelmed the tacos till it was all you could taste. The dude topping our tacos with the sauce did a horrible job in distributing it evenly along the top of the taco. So some spots had a shit load and other areas bone dry.
Here is what Josh thinks:
“whatever you told me to get (Chicharones) - tasted like mushed bread in soup, it was just mush”
“Carnitas - no flavor, dry, not that interesting”
“Asada - the red salsa overpowered this taco if it had any flavor it was lost due to the salsa roja which was super thick, I kind of actually liked it, but the taco did nothing”
“Al Pastor - this was just like the other place, very sloppy joe like, nothing like what I’m used to for pastor, no chili flavor or pineapple at all. I'm beginning to wonder if Ventura pastor is different than the spit with the pineapple and chili powder that I’ve grown used to? “
In any case, not the best. 2.5/5 stars
Mercado Guadalajara #2
2454 West Hillcrest Drive
Newbury Park, Ca 91320
Tuesday, November 9, 2010
I decided to stay very local for today's post. It was a lazy Sunday (for me) and my sister and brother in law had stopped in to town for a visit. When it came time to figure out were to eat, El Sancho Loco Taqueria in Newbury Park is the first place I thought of since I hadn't eaten there yet. And again, it was local.
El Sancho Loco opened up just this year and occupies a building that was once a Taco Bell. And like every other place I've been to, good things have been said to me about the food there.
The first thing I notice when I walk in, is that the layout of the place has not been changed. The tables and trash receptacles are all in the same spot that they were in when this place was a Taco Bell. Kinda funny.
The menu was varied and had many selections; Sopes, Menudo and Tamales from Friday through Sunday and also Huaraches. It was a regular who's who of Mexican lunch time fare. Not that this hasn't been done before or isn't available at some other taqueria that I've visited but it was nice to see in a place like Newbury Park.
Anyways, after I ordered my tacos (Asada, Al Pastor, Buche) I started to chat with who I think may be the owner. He was a real friendly type and I got a good vibe just speaking to him about his business. I could tell that he really cared about the food that he was putting out and it definitely gave me a feeling of wanting to support a place like this. In any case, him being cool (and giving my brother-in-law and I free drinks) won't have any bearing on my opinion of his tacos.
|Tacos are $1.50 each.|
Anyways, the Asada was real good. It was a textbook carne asada; cut into very small pieces, tender no rubbery or tough texture, nice depth of flavor (from a solid asada/ranchero marinade) and with a slight char, excellent. It would make someone eating a carne asada burrito from here very happy.
Buche was not that good. it had a very rubbery and slippery texture to it that would have been better if chopped in to finer pieces. also, it lacked that flavor of pork that makes buche so awesome.
The Al Pastor was also real good. Much like the asada, it was solid and very close to an authentic execution. It had some crispy bits and some good char, it was tender and pretty tasty too. My only complaint would be that the flavors were not bold enough. I could taste that they were there but it was too subtle for my palate. Also, to kick this taco up a notch, they should include a few cuts of pineapple.
All the tacos came topped with cilantro and onions but you have to top them with the salsa yourself. These tacos are on the small-ish side so the $1.50 price tag seemed a bit cheeky. Although if you go in on Tuesday or Thursday they go for $1.00.
The salsas were good; the verde was exceptional and it had some other grilled/blackened chilies in the there with the usual tamatillos to give a smokey accent. Great taste. The salsa roja was solid but it did not have the distinctive smoke flavor. Also, the heat did not slowly build but rather it came on very fast and snapped in my mouth.
The tortillas are all hand made to order and taste good. You may want to eat your tacos quickly after the plate hits the table though because once the tortillas start to cool they're not as good.
El Sancho Loco has a very good (taco) future. As long as they continually strive to get better the skies the limit for this new little taqeuria. 3/5 stars
El Sancho Loco Taqueria
2271 Michael Drive
Newbury Park, Ca 91320
Monday, November 8, 2010
Welp, after the total debacle that was Super Taco, Josh and I walked to the nearest taqueria, which ended up being another freaking El Taco De Mexico. Apparently, there are several of these in Oxnard and in Ventura, that have no relation to one another.
We wanted to go to Taqueria Mi Tierra but it was closed. I'm not sure what the deal was but they actually might be out of business.
As we walked up to Taco De Mexico, we both noticed the long line. The place was definitely busy, but was it any good?
I ordered 2 tacos: Al Pastor and Carnitas, Josh Ordered three: Carnitas, Pastor and Asada.
My Carnitas was decent, it was succulent and shredded, not falling apart but tender. Like I said, it was decent. Flavor you ask? none to really speak of.
The Al Pastor was really strong on the chili flavor which is usually ancho chile (dried Pablano chilies). The meat was kinda tender but not really. This was not a real pastor flavor and the cilantro, onions and salsa roja that all our tacos came topped with didn't do anything to cover up these flaws. After the crap that Josh and I had just eaten, it seemed really good in comparison, but so would have Cantina Tacos from Taco Bell.
I can't over emphasize enough how bad the tacos at Super Taco were. I swear the filling in all the tacos tasted like what I imagine Soylent Green (its made out of people!) must have tasted like.
"Pastor: the pastor was very red chili powder heavy but it mostly just tasted and had the consistency of a sloppy joe. It was more of a BBQ thing then anything like the al pastor I've had before, more like a taco from a BBQ Texas place"
"Asada: just there, the flavors were way better then the first place we tried, but that's like saying watered down vodka by 1/2 water 1/2 vodka tastes better then 3/4 water 1/4 vodka, both aren't favorable"
"Carnitas: dry, nothing memorable"
"Not even their salsa cups could save these taco's, they were like eating a restaurants new attempt at making tacos, not like an authentic taco stand"
Josh said a lot of other negative things but I'm trying to keep this blog some what clean. He mentioned that one of his tacos from El Taco De Mexico tasted like "un-marinated mushed tofu" which really blows if your the one trying to scarf it down.
In any case, El Taco De Mexico Was okay, but I'm going to have to give a low score. The meat in these tacos didn't shine at all. They were acceptable tacos but not totally enjoyable. Super Taco was just plan bad; I would need someone to pay me in order to eat there again.
El Taco De Mexico on 5th street may be known more for its Tortas and Burritos but their tacos seem to be an after thought though. 1.5/5 stars.
El Taco De Mexico
210 East 5th Street
Oxnard, CA 93030
Friday, November 5, 2010
For today’s post I’m back in Oxnard again trying to find the holy grail of tacos. This time I brought my friend Josh along (who I’m also in a band with ) he will probably start acting as a sort of correspondent for this blog. I value Josh’s opinion greatly when it comes to tacos and I also thought he may be able to give a different perspective, especially since I’ve been encountering so much crap lately.
Josh gets to eat a lot of good tacos (and great Mexican food for that matter) since he works in LA and goes right to all the good the stuff that’s out there. At this point, his pallet may be much more advanced than mine, so to speak. Let’s face it, most of what I’ve blogged about has been a disappointment. Still, I’m optimistic since I’ve just started and there is so much more left to go.
I also feel that I’m on a collision course with Taqueria El Tapatio #2 in Oxnard. It’s been mentioned to me already more than once and its possible that they may in fact end up wearing the top crown in Oxnard. Until then though, I’ve got to see if something else will turn up in my tour of the “Nard”.
Josh and I headed to Super Taco off of 5th street in Oxnard. Most of what I have heard about this place is that it’s really dirty, which doesn’t bother me since I only care about how good their tacos are. I've been to many "dirty" places in my time and could care less about something like that.
As we approach the order window I notice they also have Chicharrones (pork rinds) on their menu, which I personally love. The only problem was that I noticed the hand written sign with this information after I placed my order (Al Pastor, Buche and Carne Asada by the way) so I was too late.
Josh ordered Carnitas, Al Pastor and Carne Asada with cilantro, onions and salsa roja, as did I.
My tacos: Carne Asada was garbage. I'm serious, it was that bad. All I tasted was their watery crappy salsa, some cilantro and a whole lotta corn tortilla but no steak flavor whatsoever.
In fact, I don't think its worth describing the Pastor or the Buche I had because they were both totally terrible. Mushy and flavorless, it was a real pain in the ass to finish eating them.
Anyhow, here's what Josh said:
"All the taco's tasted the same, like nothing but tortilla, once I thought I tasted something smokey but it went away fast"
"Carnitas: I had to eat through 3/4 of the taco before I got to the actual meat, it was all just white chunks of fat with no flavor"
"Asada - what the hell was that?"
"Pastor, really fine, not dry, but no flavor, it was very easy to eat which would be acceptable to me if it actually tasted like anything. I seriously couldn't even taste the salsa or the onions"
I think you get the picture here, all in all the place sucked. I'm done here. 0.5/5 stars.
154 East 5th Street
Oxnard, Ca 93030
Tuesday, November 2, 2010
After realizing that the last few places that I have eaten at have yielded less than 3 stars, I started thinking that maybe I've been to harsh in my judgement. I was thinking that my standards (totally easily attainable by the way) may be out of whack with whats out there in this great county and maybe to rigid. I do enjoy tacos after all, so whats the big deal?
I started thinking, that even though, a guy hauling a lunch wagon with a piece of crap utility van and selling tacos out of it, some how has kicked everyone else's collective ass in making delicious tacos that I should none the less recalibrate the way I judge a good taco because apparently its just to damn hard to make a tasty taco around here. We're taking about tacos.........tacos, how freaking hard is that to nail??
But after I went to Establos Meat Market, i decided to stay on course.
I've been here before and thought their tacos were good not great the last time I was there. Establos is a Carniceria (Meat Market/Butcher) and is located off of Ventura boulevard in Camarillo. Most importantly though, its also a Mexican specific grocer with a taqueria located inside.
The menu at Esablos is very extensive with many options. I've never made mention of price at all the places I've visited but in my opinion anything over $1.50 is way to expensive for a taco. So at $1.00 a piece, it definitely adds some incentive to try a few different tacos.
Even though I could have chosen from: Asada, Pastor, Carnitas, Alambre, Buche, Pollo, Cabeza, Lengua, Chorizo and Tripas, I just went with the usual (Asada, Pastor, Carnitas) plus Chorizo.
No condiments or salsa area here but the tacos come topped with cilantro, onions and spicy salsa roja. They also include a grilled Serrano chili plus some cuts of limes and radishes on the side.
After getting my order and realizing that there was no place to sit, I headed out to my car to eat there.
Carne Asada, was chopped very fine with a few larger chucks that were very tough to chew on. The taco was solid though, it had a classic steak ranchero flavor and was piping hot too. But most importantly, for me, it had a a nice crispy char from the plancha, which I love. The salsa roja on top was a solid compliment.
The Chorizo was nice and greasy (but not too greasy) with a clean overall flavor for chorizo so the grease was not running all over the place. Totally solid.
Carnitas was good too. Greasy, crispy tiny chopped bits of pork that made this taco delicious.
Al Pastor was really good! a shocking turn of events. No Trompo to be located on the premises but no matter, the flavor was clean, and the spices that I was looking for were their too. I'm looking for a strong chili / pineapple flavor with crispy bits of pork. It had all that with the pork flavor really standing out on its own. It was not totally traditional but was very enjoyable.
All of these tacos were delicious and enjoyable to eat. They were nice and small and could be devoured in a bite or two. all of the meat was chopped fine, much like El Taco De Mexico in Oxnard, but these had so much more flavor. I could have easily had four more, but held off .......... for now. 3.5/5 stars
Esablos Meat Market
2633 Ventura Blvd
Camarillo, CA 93010