Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Oaktown Mexican Food

The torta that L brought home for Monday night's dinner inspired this post:

My favorite Mexican spots in Oakland.

With three caveats:
1) This is not based on an exhaustive survey of all the options. I have not spent a huge amount of time in Fruitvale, and someone who has might have some much better tips!
2) Related to #1; this is not a chart of the taco trucks! Others have done that, such as this one, on Chowhound. I used to have a favorite taco truck, but it dissapeared, and I never put in the work to find another one I'd like as much.
3) I don't eat beef. No Carne Asada for me.

My faves:
- La Calaca Loca (Temescal): Good quality, fresh ingredients, light & crispy chips, killer jicama/avocado salad. They've got a tasty breakfast for a good price, too. My one complaint; you have to order chips separtely if you want them, and then you have to take a full basket. Can't I just have a few chips with my taco without paying extra? Please? My favorites: the jicama salad, fish taco, chicken taco especial, chilequiles. Decent guac.
- Los Contaros (Grand Ave/Adams Point + other locations, see loscontaros.com): Again, good quality, fresh ingredients, plus tasty chips. And theirs are included with every order (thank you!). Big menu, beyond your typical burrito joint. Specials on the weekends. My favorites: prawn taco, carnitas tacos, chicken mole burrito. Yummy guac.
- Mariscos La Costa (Fruitvale): Ceviche! Yum yum yum. Tostadas piled high with seafood. Plus avocado. What's not to like? The cocktails are also a yummy option.

Sit-down places, for more than a taco:
- Tamarindo (Old town): Fresh, good quality, tasty, yummy sangria. A bit spendy. But good.
- Dona Tomas (Temescal): Even more spendy, not really better than tamarindo (slightly different spin though; more southern mexico, more... formal?). There are other places I like better at this price-point, but they're not Mexican so they don't make this list.
- Casa Vallarta (Eastlake? By the parkway theater): Don't want to spend all that dough on beans & rice? Come here. This one made the list because it's like the family-style, family-run mexican joints of my childhood in rural CA. Old school, not afraid of the grease but everything is fresh. Makes my mouth water even as I write this!

Just fine for a quick bite, but nothin special:
- Gerardo's (Laurel District): Not worth going out of your way, but if you need a bite & you'r in the Laurel, it's simple and tasty. I wish someone would come teach them how to make more than one burrito/taco at a time... but it's good for a basic meal.
- Baja Taqueria (Piedmont Ave): Tacos as interpreted by white hippies. Nothing special, but fresh.
- El Farolito (Fruitvale): Some people rave about this place. Maybe they're all beef eaters. Their chicken stuff is just ok.

I wouldn't bother:
- Mexicali Rose: Creepy environment, bad quality food. No.
- La Estrellita: Better than mexicali rose, but really the only reason to go here in my opinion is the full bar.

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