I love Mexican food. I grew up in San Diego and lived in LA for 3 years. While in LA, I ventured out to some pretty sketchy areas in East LA and South Central to go to authentic taco shops. Some of them had security guards, like El Nayarita. But never in all those experiences did I feel as awkward as I did last night when I wandered into this place around 1:30 am.
It was a full-on Mexican fiesta, full of drunk laborers with buckets full of Coronas. I could definitely feel the stares, being as I was the only gringo in the restaurant. Then some guy cut in line and ordered up another bucket and looked at me and said “oh sorry.” Then he asks me if I speak Spanish. Awkward. The only other time I’ve had someone try to test my Spanish was in Rosarito, where local thugs will prey on tourists who don’t speak Spanish, try to get them off the main drag with the lure of a mota purchase, and then beat them up and take their money.
So yeah, super creepy.
Then the guy offered to pay for my burrito. WHAT? At this point I felt like I was living in an episode of the Twilight Zone and just needed to GTFO ASAP.
Despite the awkwardness, the al pastor super burrito I ordered was pretty damn good. They do the al pastor on a meat spit and shave it off, the way you get it at taco shops in Mexico. There was a good balance of meat/rice/beans, plenty of chopped onion, and a generous amount of cheese. The red salsa was flavorful and had a good amount of kick. After a long night out bar hopping in San Francisco, this is exactly what I needed.
I just think I’ll avoid returning at the 1-2 am hour.
Taqueria El Nayarita
660 E 3rd Ave
San Mateo, CA 94401
I like tacos. This blog is about them. But I also love all kinds of other Mexican food. This time, I brought the love back to the tacos. I’ve been going to Taqueria El Sabor for about 2 years now. It’s super good. Their enchiladas are amazing, their burritos are amazing. Yet until recently I had never bothered to order tacos there. It was time to make a change.
Out of the three tacos, the pollo asado was definitely the standout, which is ironic because it was the taco I though I would like the least. My experience with pollo asado is that it can be really hit-or-miss, so it’s always a nice surprise to find a place where it’s a hit. The carnitas taco was also very respectable, but the meat could have used just a little bit more char/flavor. The carne asada taco was a bit below my expectations. The meat just a bit tough and lacked as much flavor I had hoped. Maybe it was just an off-day for the carne asada on the day I went. I’d say I’d give it another try, but the pollo asado taco was so good that I can’t imagine ordering anything else the next time I go.
So for you California transplants (aka Washifornians) missing a taste of some good south-of-the-border style food, proceed directly to Taqueria El Sabor. Get some!
I had been defeated by Taqueria la Raza twice before due to their not being open on Sundays and my not remembering. I wasn’t going to let that deter me, and on a recent Saturday I finally caught them when they were open. It’s a non-descript little shop in a strip mall in Lynnwood. You wouldn’t think much of it by driving by. But when you walk in you’re immediately greeted by a small front seating area with a couple tables.
Upon these tables sit multiple bottles of delicious-looking salsas.
Then there’s a long narrow kitchen area with all kinds of barstools.
Looks pretty good, right? The next thing my eyes hit after all those crazy salsas was their menu, which had all the Mexican classics that you’d expect. Burritos, tacos, enchiladas, chimichangas, etc. Personally I’m a huge enchilada fan, so I decided to use that as my litmus test. The chicken enchiladas verdes (green sauce) looked like the way to go, and when they arrived at my table it was time to put all those salsas to use. I’d say the result came out looking pretty nice.
The enchiladas were really, really good. Some of the best I’ve had in the Northwest. The chicken was cooked just right, the salsa had amazing flavor, the rice was just like you get it in San Diego, and the beans…oh man, the beans! These refried beans were like nothing else I’ve ever had. The consistency was slightly runny, but not too runny, but the beans having a slightly more “intact” feel than your typical refried beans. But the really great part was it had bits of what I think were slightly burnt carnitas ends mixed in. Pure genius! These beans certainly didn’t have a healthy feel, but to heck with it, they tasted a-ma-zing. I still have dreams about those beans and the smokey, rich, savory flavor the carnitas lent to them.
Well done, Taqueria la Raza, well done.