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Molcajete
Lalo’s

If you’ve never ordered Lalo’s attention-grabbing molcajete, you’re in for a very tasty surprise. A traditional molcajete—a stone mortar often used to grind spices and prepare guacamole and salsas—is placed upside down directly on top of a fiery burner. When the molcajete is blazing hot, it’s filled with beef, chicken, chorizo and Oaxaca cheese, topped with a long strip of tender cactus and grilled green onion and brought, loudly sizzling and impressively smoking, to the table. The fanfare is great fun, and the molcajete, served with feisty salsa, tortillas and Lalo’s excellent beans, is delicious. 5063 24th St., Sacramento; (916) 736-2389

Carne Asada

Taqueria Davis

A true meaty pleasure, this dish will leave you stuffed and smiling. Ball tip steak is sliced, grilled, then diced, generously piled on the plate and doused with a vivacious tomatillo sauce. Accompanied by cheese-laden refried beans and rice, the meat can be devoured alone or piled into a warm flour tortilla. Chewy, flavorful and scrumptious, it’s a particularly appealing choice on a nippy, gray day. 505 ½ L St., Davis; (530) 758-8453; taqueriadavis.info

Los Huaraches del Salto del Agua
Rudy’s Gourmet Mexican

This whimsical dish is named for the popular Mexican sandal, the huarache. Similar in shape and size to the footwear (the dish easily can feed two), the huarache is a long, oval masa patty that’s grilled to crispy deliciousness, then spread with refried beans, vibrant green salsa and crumbly queso fresco cheese. I like my huarache smothered with Rudy’s outstanding chunky chile verde, but you also can choose carne asada or grilled chicken breast. 6011 Stanford Ranch Road, Rocklin; (916) 435-4050

Shrimp Tacos
El Pueblo Cocina Mexicana

You’ll relish the wonderful texture and refreshing zip of these tacos, full of just-barely charred peachy-pink crustaceans and delightfully crunchy fresh cabbage. Black tiger shrimp are marinated in butter, garlic and achiote before grilling, then stuffed in tortillas and swathed in a zesty salsa of avocado, fresh lime juice, jalapeño, cilantro and olive oil. Grab a pile of napkins: The taco juices are guaranteed to run down your arms as you devour the dish. 6608 Folsom Auburn Road, Folsom; (916) 987-5797; elpueblofolsom.com

Cochinita Pibil
Palenque Cocina Mexicana

A staple on Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula, traditional cochinita pibil calls for the roasting of a whole suckling pig. At Palenque, pork is marinated in orange juice, vinegar and achiote paste, which contributes a rich, earthy flavor. The meat is then slow-cooked in banana leaves to an incredible moistness. It’s served with curtido—pickled red onions—and a side of fiery habanero salsa for those who can take the heat. 2598 Alta Arden Expressway, Sacramento; (916) 483-1751


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