Best Mex

Posted on February 10, 2012

Shrimp tacos from El Pueblo in Folsom
Shrimp tacos from El Pueblo in Folsom Photography by Rachel Valley

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We Sacramentans love Mexican food. And why not? The region is a treasure trove of excellent Mexican cuisine, served at upscale restaurants and humble taco trucks alike. We decided to go in search of the best Mexican food we could find, tasting countless tacos, enchiladas and more from Woodland to Rocklin. (It’s a tough job, but someone has to do it.) Here are 10 of our favorite local Mexican dishes.

Cabeza Taco
El Abajeño Tacos

Simplicity can be beautiful, and that’s certainly the case at this little taqueria, whose straightforward street tacos are some of the most stunning I’ve ever tasted. Don’t miss the succulent cabeza taco: Ridiculously moist cabeza (the muscles of the head of a cow) is sprinkled with white onion and cilantro and piled on the freshest corn tortilla you’ll ever meet. It’s fabulous. 109 Atkinson St., Roseville; (916) 784-3535


Enchiladas Suizas
Ernesto’s Mexican Food

Enchiladas appear on practically every Mexican restaurant menu, and they’re often uninspiring. But these are a knockout, thanks to the electrifying green sauce that smothers the dish. Prepared with tomatillos, cilantro, garlic, onions and peppers, the green salsa is tasty enough to spoon up and gobble on its own. The plump enchiladas—you can choose cheese, chicken, shrimp or a combination of the three—are artfully drizzled with Mexican cream. They taste even better with Ernesto’s signature Top Shelf margarita. 1901 16th St., Sacramento; (916) 441-5850; ernestosmexicanfood.com


Carnitas Plate
Maria’s Cantina

You can find terrific carnitas throughout the region, but Maria’s version is particularly tantalizing. Leave your calorie counter at home: The pork is simmered in lard seasoned with fresh oranges and Coca-Cola. It’s satisfyingly tender with crispy-crackly edges. Drenched in porky flavor, this dish will satisfy even the most ravenous carnivore. Make sure to ask for the signature pinto beans, flecked with (what else?) bacon. 306 Sixth St.,Wood-land; (530) 402-1540; marias-cantina.com

Chile Relleno de Queso
Tequila Museo Mayahuel
Delicate and light as a cloud, Mayahuel’s chile relleno is one of the restaurant’s finest dishes. A roasted poblano pepper is stuffed with slightly salty panela cheese, then dipped in batter and fried to a captivating fluffiness. Napped with a bright, uncomplicated tomato sauce and zigzagged with sour cream, the dish offers a zesty circus of flavors and textures. While you’re at it, order an artisanal tequila or a handcrafted mango margarita, a house specialty. 1200 K St., Sacramento; (916) 441-7200; tequilamuseo.com



Camarones y Calamares a la Parilla
Centro Cocina Mexicana

For this enticing, light appetizer, chefs marinate Monterey Bay squid and shrimp in olive oil, serrano chilies and oregano, then quickly grill the meat, infusing it with a deliciously smoky flavor. Arranged prettily on a wide banana leaf, the squid and shrimp are strewn with pickled red onions and served with cabbage slaw enlivened with fresh lime juice. For extra crunch, pile the seafood on top of corn chips. 2730 J St., Sacramento; (916) 442-2552; paragarys.com


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