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Taco Tuesday: Deliciously messy food-truck tacos topped with asada steak, cheese and sour cream

ElTacoDeOro

The Super Tacos at El Taco de Oro food truck in Sunnyvale.

A fire in October shut down my favorite taco stop, Mercado La Torre in Sunnyvale, and I’ve been sad ever since. I had my first taste of the restaurant’s delicious street tacos when I first came to visit California in the early 90s. I hope the owners are able to reopen, but in the meantime, I’m on the search for the next best taco.

My search brought me to a food truck that I see all the time in front of my neighborhood Safeway on 789 E. El Camino Real in Sunnyvale: El Taco de Oro. Based in Alviso, the business offers tacos (of course), as well as burritos, tortas, quesadillas and much more.

Dish of Choice

I decided to go with two Super Tacos, which came on two corn tortillas each, onions, cilantro, cheese and sour cream. I chose asada (steak), but customers can also choose pastor (pork), cabeza (beef head or cheek), or pollo asado (grilled chicken). My meal came out to less than $4, including tax.

The Taste

Getting only two tacos was a tease. The asada was tender and had a great savory marinade. It was very juicy, so be prepared to get juices down your chin. Despite this, the soft corn tortilla was sturdy and didn’t fall apart.

The taco had a nice dressing of cilantro throughout and an good amount of sour cream. The generous portion of cheese tasted fresh and mild. I was afraid to eat the slices of pepper on the side because they smelled super spicy. The zest of lime gave the taco an extra zip in flavor.

I enjoyed the tacos so much that I went back two days later.

More Details

For more information about El Taco de Oro, including the full menu and hours, visit the business’ Facebook page.

 
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Posted by on December 15, 2015 in Mexican, tacos

 

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Chimichanga with chorizo, creamy sauce and fresh guacamole brings back childhood memories

SpeedysTacosChorizo

Close-up of the Chimichanga special with chorizo at Speedy’s Tacos in Sunnyvale.

Chimichanga is one of those dishes that brings back childhood memories of my family regularly visiting a local Mexican restaurant less than a mile from our Metro Detroit home.

I remember the anticipation of cutting into that crispy fried tortilla and getting to the meaty, cheesy center. I savored every bite but could barely ever get through the whole dish, which was about the size of my head. It was all the deliciousness of a burrito, only deep-fried.

SpeedysTacos

The Chimichanga special with chorizo at Speedy’s Tacos in Sunnyvale.

Those fond memories came to mind when I arrived at Speedy’s Tacos, a family-owned restaurant that opened its doors this year at the corner of E. Duane Ave. and San Rafael St. in Sunnyvale.

With Chimichanga as one of the daily specials, I decided on a chimichanga with chorizo, a spicy sausage. The dish came with a side of rice and guacamole and cost about $10. These days, you spend almost that much on a fast-food combo.

The Taste

The chimichanga special was a satisfying dish that I could only get through halfway. The tortilla was thick and had that nice crunch on the outside, but it wasn’t greasy.

I like the creamy, pumpkin-colored sauce that surrounded the chimichanga. The texture and taste reminded me of enjococado sauce, a yogurt- or sour cream-based sauce that I tried for the first time this year at another local Mexican restaurant. (Related: Shrimp enchiladas smothered in creamy enjococado sauce)

The chorizo was crumbly and tender, with a mild, smoky spiciness. The guacamole was thick, fresh and a great complement to the savory chorizo. It was a good-sized meal for what I paid.

SpeedysTacosCloseup

The Chimichanga special with chorizo at Speedy’s Tacos in Sunnyvale.

Other Details

Speedy’s Tacos is a casual restaurant where customers order at the counter, and the waitstaff brings the food to your table. The restaurant has a patio area to enjoy your meal on those warmer days.

Speedy’s Tacos offers an array of meats for its tacos, including fish, shrimp, al pastor and carne asada. Vegetable tacos are also available. The menu also boasts taquitos, tortas, burritos, tamales and several a la carte items.

Speedy’s Tacos is located at 929 E. Duane Ave. Hours are 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 2 to 8 p.m. Sunday. For more information, call (408) 685-2791 or visit www.speedystacos.com.

 
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Posted by on November 20, 2015 in comfort food, Mexican

 

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Bacon, carnitas and pork rinds atop pillowy tortillas stand out at Mountain View’s Cocina Central

The 3 Piggy's Tacos at Cocina Central in MountainView.

The 3 Piggy’s Tacos at Cocina Central in Mountain View.

When you’re craving authentic Mexican cuisine in the Bay Area, you don’t have to travel very far. Chances are there will be a taqueria within a mile from where you stand.

So I’m always looking for a Mexican restaurant that offers a unique twist to the cuisine.

I really enjoyed the tortillas used for the tacos at Cocina Central in Mountain View. The tortillas tasted like soft, thick pillows and filled me up fast despite their small size.

Dish of Choice

I chose the 3 Piggy’s Tacos, three tacos topped with carnitas (shredded pork), bacon and chicharon (pork rinds), along with avocado sauce, pico de gallo and cheese. The tacos came with a side of brown rice and beans served with cilantro lime and cojita, a cheese that reminded me of a taste and texture similar to parmesan.

I also ordered the Margarita Central, made with blanco tequila, lime, agave and sea salt. I split complimentary chips and salsa with my parents. My portion of the meal came out to about $23 before tax.

The 3 Piggy's Tacos at Cocina Central in Mountain View.

The 3 Piggy’s Tacos at Cocina Central in Mountain View.

The Taste

Despite being traditionally salty meats, the bacon and pork rinds did not overdo it on the sodium front. The bacon was cooked at that well-balanced point between crispy and tender, the pork rinds added a unique texture and crunch, and they both complemented the shredded pork. The cheese melted perfectly on the tortilla, creating a thick layer that stretched out to the edges.

The look of the chips threw me off because they looked like Doritos. They tasted nothing like Doritos, however. They tasted fresh and crisp, coated in a smoky, peppery seasoning. The restaurant gave us a small bowl of chips at a time, but they gave us a refill when we asked. The salsa had a good helping of cilantro and a subtle heat that gradually grew as I ate.

I could definitely taste the tequila in the margarita, which was a good thing. I hate it when you get a drink and all you taste is the syrup and mix. It wasn’t a heavy drink and was quite refreshing for a hot, summer day.

Other Details

I was satisfied with the meal, but the service at Cocina Central was lacking that night. They brought us to a dirty table, so we had to wait awkwardly in the aisle while someone cleaned it off. We had to ask for silverware and water a few times, and a gentleman (who I assumed was the manager) brought the check before we finished our meal. What if we wanted dessert? The service was a bit slow, despite not being a full house.

However, what the staff lacked in service, they made up for in friendliness. They were not rude at all. They just seemed a bit overwhelmed. I’m thinking they must have had a rush of customers before we got there. I think once they work out the kinks in the service, Cocina Central could be a great restaurant on all fronts.

Cocina Central is located at 2590 W. El Camino Real, Suite 13 in Mountain View. For more information, call (650) 397-5996 or visit www.cocinacentral.co.

 
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Posted by on July 14, 2015 in Cal-Mex, food, Mexican, tacos

 

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Shrimp enchiladas smothered in creamy enjococado sauce a delight at Mountain View’s Agave Mexican Bistro

Enchiladas de Camaron with enjococado sauce at Agave Mexican Bistro in Mountain View.

Enchiladas de Camaron with enjococado sauce at Agave Mexican Bistro in Mountain View.

In my humble opinion, Mountain View has one of the best downtown districts in the Silicon Valley area when it comes to dining.

Visitors who stroll down Castro Street have more than 50 eateries to choose from to satisfy their appetite, with cuisine ranging from Indian to French, to Italian to Korean, and so much more.

Close-up of the enjococado sauce over the Enchiladas de Camaron at Agave Mexican Bistro in Mountain View.

Close-up of the enjococado sauce over the Enchiladas de Camaron at Agave Mexican Bistro in Mountain View.

My dad wanted to take me and my stepmom out to dinner, and our Saturday night excursion led us to Agave Mexican Bistro. Alexandro Garcia, a Mexico native who brings his family’s favorite recipes to his cooking, owns the restaurant and three others in the Bay Area with Susan Garcia, according to the restaurant’s website. Agave is known for combining traditional Mexican flavors with a health-conscious “California-style of cooking,” according to its website.

Dish of Choice

I love when I can combine two of my favorite foods – seafood and Mexican – in one dish. I chose the Enchiladas de Camaron, tortillas filled with bay shrimp and cheese, and smothered in your choice of enjococado (a yogurt- or sour cream-based sauce), green or red sauce. I chose the enjococado sauce, and the meal came with black beans and rice. With a hibiscus mojito, my portion of the meal came out to $26.

The Calamari at Agave Mexican Bistro in Mountain View.

The Calamari at Agave Mexican Bistro in Mountain View.

With my parents, I split the fried calamari, which came with a side of chipotle aioli. The appetizer cost $10.

The Taste

I’m happy that I went with the enjococado sauce (I had to Google it before I ordered). The sauce was creamy and savory, and there was a generous amount of cheese and shrimp in each bite. The enchiladas were tender, and they didn’t taste like they were made with regular flour tortillas. They taste like a hybrid of a noodle and moist cornmeal in texture. They were delicious. The chopped nuts on top added a toasty flavor and interesting texture to the dish.

The Hibiscus Mojito at Agave Mexican Bistro in Mountain View.

The Hibiscus Mojito at Agave Mexican Bistro in Mountain View.

The hibiscus mojito was refreshing and light, not too strong or overloaded with sugar. I also enjoyed the mint and citrus flavors. This will be my go-to drink on my next visit.

The calamari was solid, but it didn’t wow me. The meat was lightly breaded, but I wish there was a bit more seasoning. The aioli was mild in flavor and light in texture. I was hoping for more heat.

Other Details

We received great service at Agave, which has a modern yet laid-back, homey feel. Our waitress was very nice and courteous, and she came back frequently to make sure we had everything we needed. It’s always a good feeling when you get great service and a great meal. Unfortunately, those things don’t always go together, but Agave covered both fronts.

Agave Mexican Bistro is located at 194 Castro Street in Mountain View. For hours and more information, call (650) 969-6767, or visit agaveca.com or www.facebook.com/AgaveCA.

 
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Posted by on June 2, 2015 in Cal-Mex, Mexican, seafood

 

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Pulled pork waffle & Indian-style tacos highlight trip to Moveable Feast’s SJ Taco Festival

Paneer Crazy Tacos at San Jose/Bay Area's Got Curry?

Paneer Crazy Tacos at San Jose/Bay Area’s Got Curry?

There are three types of food that I will never get tired of: Seafood, Indian food and tacos. So when I found out that Moveable Feast was hosting a festival dedicated to the latter, I knew I had to go.

The company hosted the 4th annual San Jose Taco Festival of Innovation at the city’s History Park, Saturday, May 23 through Sunday, May 24. The festival brought a fleet of food trucks from around the greater Bay area that introduced their own twist on the traditional Mexican dish. The great thing about the festival: All the plates were $6 or less, so you could get full for a reasonable price.

Waffle Amore, San Jose

My first stop at the taco festival was Waffle Amore, which is focused on bringing “the taste of authentic Liege and Brussels waffles” to its customers, according to the food truck’s website. Its toppings include Belgian chocolate hot fudge, maple bacon butter and Speculoos, a type of shortcrust biscuit.

I went for the savory side of the menu and ordered The Porkwich, a crisp waffle sandwich with pulled pork, braised with spices and topped with BBQ sauce and Waffle Amore’s own crunchy Granny Smith Apple fennel cabbage slaw.

The Porkwich at San Jose's Waffle Amore.

The Porkwich at San Jose’s Waffle Amore.

The food truck was generous with the pulled pork, which was tender and moist. The BBQ sauce was sweet and tangy and was a great complement to the slaw, which had a nice crunch and subtle apple flavor. Best of all, the waffle was soft in the middle but crispy on the outside. I didn’t necessarily think “taco” as I ate the dish, but I was not disappointed.

For more information about Waffle Amore, call (408) 645-5351 or visit waffleamore.com and www.facebook.com/WaffleAmore.

Got Curry?, Bay Area/San Jose

After Waffle Amore, I headed over to Got Curry?, a Bay Area food truck that specializes in Indian-Mexican fusion, according to its Facebook page. I was happy to see two of my favorite cuisines coming together. My eyes automatically went to the Paneer Crazy Tacos, soft tortillas topped with cheese cubes, topped with tikka masala sauce, rice, onions, bell peppers and Indian spices.

My tacos did not come with bell peppers, but they were dressed with cilantro, which I think was better anyway. The tikka masala sauce was creamy, and the aioli brought extra spice and tang to the dish. The paneer tasted fresh and had a soft texture, while the cilantro and onions added the taste of a traditional taco.

Despite their small size, these tacos were filling, and I was debating on if I could make a trip to another food truck. It was a great value for $6. For more information about Got Curry?, call (510) 501-5022 or visit www.facebook.com/gotcurry.

Treatbot, San Jose

I wanted to grab a fish taco, but I knew I would be too full for dessert. And I really wanted an ice cream taco.

The Ice Cream Taco at San Jose's Treatbot.

The Ice Cream Taco at San Jose’s Treatbot.

My third and final stop was Treatbot, which specializes in ice cream and karaoke. I ordered the ice cream taco, a waffle cone in the shape of a taco and filled with two scoops of ice cream. Customers could choose from Mexican Chocolate, Pineapple Mojito Sorbet, and Eastside Horchata, a rice milk-flavored ice cream infused with cinnamon. I went with a scoop of Mexican Chocolate and Eastside Horchata.

The ice cream was rich and creamy without being overly sweet. I loved the strong cinnamon flavor in the Eastside Horchata. The Mexican Chocolate was also tasty, but I didn’t see what made it different from regular chocolate. I was expecting the flavor of Mexican hot chocolate, which is flavored with cinnamon and the spicy kick of chili pepper.

I really enjoyed the waffle part of the taco, which was subtly sweet and crisp. I’ve been on a waffle kick lately.

I would like to try some of the other flavors on Treatbot’s regular menu, including The 408 (caramel ice cream with fudge and Oreo cookies) and Macapuno (coconut ice cream with coconut chunks).

For more information about Treatbot, call (408) 548-7328 or visit Treatbot.com or www.facebook.com/Treatbot.

 
 

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Surf and turf, made-from-scratch ice cream highlight nostalgic Santa Cruz trip

A beautiful, sunny and warm day at Santa Cruz Beach.

A beautiful, sunny and warm day at Santa Cruz Beach.

I have nothing but good memories when I think of Santa Cruz.

The view of the boardwalk and its festive carnival rides, shops and restaurants remind me of my childhood summer trips to California and leave me feeling jubilant and nostalgic. After a couple of mentally exhausting weeks, I was ready to make the hour trip down to Santa Cruz’s sandy beaches.

A group of sea lions sunbathing near the Santa Cruz Wharf.

A group of sea lions sunbathing near the Santa Cruz Wharf.

Saturday’s trip was perfect, from the 70-degree, slightly breezy weather to the shiny blue-green waters to the sounds of sea lions sunbathing and swimming near the wharf. During our day of sun and relaxation, we also got a chance to try some local cuisine at Olitas Cantina & Grille on the wharf and The Penny Ice Creamery in downtown Santa Cruz.

Olitas Cantina & Grille

The first thing that popped out to me about the Mexican restaurant is the awesome panoramic view of the Monterey Bay. I always enjoy having a meal with a beautiful view. I also liked the interior of the restaurant,which features a custom-made Hawaiian Koa wood bar and Honduran mahogany furniture and accents, according to its website.

I also enjoyed the unique offerings on the menu, which included free range duck “carnitas” tacos, Maine lobster quesadilla and ahi tuna tostada stack, which looked like a sculpture and too pretty to eat.

The Surf & Turf Quesadilla at Olitas Cantina & Grille in Santa Cruz.

The Surf & Turf Quesadilla at Olitas Cantina & Grille in Santa Cruz.

I ordered the Surf & Turf Quesadilla, which was made with shredded cheese, carne asada and Maine lobster and served with a lobster dipping sauce. Although Surf & Turf is a very common entree, putting the steak and seafood together into a quesadilla is a unique twist that I wanted to try. The dish cost $22.

The carne asada and lobster were tender and worked in sync. The chef did not skimp on the helpings of meat, and I enjoyed a good helping of steak and seafood in each bite. The quesadilla was made with plenty of cheese, which I enjoyed because I am a cheese fiend.

The peppers brought freshness to the savory dish. The dipping sauce was very buttery, but it worked well with the lobster. Do not eat this dish if you’re worried about calorie intake.

The Surf & Turf Quesadilla at Olitas Cantina & Grille in Santa Cruz.

The Surf & Turf Quesadilla at Olitas Cantina & Grille in Santa Cruz.

Olitas Cantina & Grille is located at 49B Municipal Wharf. The restaurant and bar offers different specials and events during the week, including a happy hour Monday through Friday and Live Jazz Wednesdays. Olitas opens every day at noon. For more information, call (831) 458-9393 or visit www.olitassantacruz.com.

The Penny Ice Creamery

This quaint ice cream shop is situated in downtown Santa Cruz, inside a 90-year-old Spanish Colonial Revival building, according to its website.

Open for business since 2010, The Penny Ice Creamery is focused on serving made-from-scratch, in-house ice cream, featuring locally farmed and organic ingredients with no artificial flavors or preservatives.

A single waffle cone of Burnt Cinnamon ice cream at The Penny Ice Creamery in Santa Cruz.

A single waffle cone of Burnt Cinnamon ice cream at The Penny Ice Creamery in Santa Cruz.

Some of the creamery’s unique flavors include Lime Shortbread, Tahitian Vanilla Bean and Dark Chocolate Sorbet. Some of the ladies ordered an ice cream cone with toasted marshmallow on top. I’m not a big marshmallow fan, but those cones looked delicious.

The shop had a steady stream of customers coming through, and I got the impression that it has become a popular staple in the Santa Cruz community.

I ordered a single waffle cone of the Burnt Cinnamon ice cream, which cost about $4. The flavor reminded me of creme brulee and Cinnamon Toast Crunch cereal combined. It was a great, fresh flavor, and I liked that the ice cream wasn’t overly sweet or rich. When I’m back in Santa Cruz, I will be stopping at The Penny Ice Creamery again.

The shop is located at 913 Cedar St. and is open daily from noon to 11 p.m. For more information, call (831) 204-2523 or visit thepennyicecreamery.com.

 
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Posted by on May 3, 2015 in ice cream, Mexican, seafood

 

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Chipotle sauce spices up bland chicken tacos at Sonoma Chicken Coop in San Jose

The Soft Chicken Tacos at Sonoma Chicken Coop in downtown San Jose's San Pedro Square.

The Soft Chicken Tacos at Sonoma Chicken Coop in downtown San Jose’s San Pedro Square.

To celebrate Valentine’s Day — or Anti-Valentine’s Day depending on your perspective on the holiday — a fellow single friend and I went out on the town. We decided to venture to downtown San Jose’s San Pedro Square, which offers an eclectic array of restaurants, pubs, and live-event venues. We wanted to grab a bite to eat, so we stopped at Sonoma Chicken Coop, a casual dining restaurant known for its rotisserie chicken.

Dish of Choice

Originally, I was going to choose the steak tacos, but the restaurant is known for its chicken. So I chose the soft chicken tacos, which came with a choice of three corn or flour tortillas. I chose the flour tortillas, which came with shredded chicken, cabbage and cheddar cheese. The entrée also came with a side each of chipotle sauce, salsa and guacamole. With a glass of water, my bill was about $12, including tax.

The Taste

The chicken tacos were not as flavorful as I would have liked. In fact, they were pretty bland. Although the chicken was somewhat tender, it was not as juicy as I had hoped, and there was no seasoning. The dish’s saving grace was its chipotle sauce, which was like an aioli, only a bit thinner. It added a great spice and zest to the chicken.

I did enjoy the fact that they used cabbage instead of lettuce. It had a nice crunch and more flavor than iceberg lettuce. The tacos definitely needed a side dish, such as rice or black beans. That would have added more heartiness and presentation.

I don’t want to judge the entire restaurant based on this one dish. My friend ordered the 1/4 chicken entrée, which looked succulent and full of flavor. I think I’ll choose that entrée next time.

The Ambiance

Sonoma Chicken Coop is a casual restaurant with a modern feel, where customers go up to the counter to order and pick up their food. I enjoyed their outdoor seating area at the San Pedro Square location, which was rustic and woodsy. There was a small bar outside for guests to enjoy a cocktail, a nice fireplace and plenty of seating for a special event such as a birthday or anniversary. Sonoma Chicken Coop in San Pedro Square is a nice place to stop for a bite to eat and a cocktail before venturing out for the rest of the night.

Other Details

Sonoma Chicken Coop is located at 31 N. Market St. in San Jose’s San Pedro Square and has three other San Jose locations as well as restaurants in Campbell and Parsippany, New Jersey. For hours and more information, call the San Pedro Square location at (408) 287-4098 or visit www.sonomachicken.com.

 
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Posted by on February 16, 2015 in Cal-Mex, chicken, Mexican, tacos

 

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