Sunday, August 1, 2010

Los Tarascos

This one is long overdue.

I suspect with a great degree of accuracy that you don't know about Los Tarascos. It hasn't been around very long (less than 2 years, I believe), and although it sits on Haley Street it's not in the most visible location, and I've never heard anyone mention it to me (and I tend to get a lot of 'talk' about the Mexican food in this town). Even when it opened up, I said "Great, I'll have to check it out." And it took me a year before I ever got there.......and what set me back was that on the surface it is primarily a Mexican bakery, and lover of most all things Mexican that I am, I've never been a lover of the Mexican pastry.

But the official name is Los Tarascos Mexican Bakery and Deli. Keep that in mind....the operative word being deli.

When I went in here for the first time a while back it was on a lark, passing by my old breakfast burrito standby of Lito's (also on Haley) to check out the new kid on the block further up the street. Walked in the door to find a small operation with an even smaller seating area (1 table and a few bar stools at the window), a kitchen in full view with a couple guys working like mad on dough and pastries, and another kitchen area where the 'deli' takes place. The interior is typical of something you might even find in Mexico, in fact you could easily forget you're a mere 4 blocks from stacks of super overpriced bad food on State Street. There's some bad art on the wall, always a good friend Jesus claims that any true Mexican restaurant requires at least one piece of bad art to maintain authenticity. These guys take it one step farther and have one of the worst pieces of art I've ever seen displayed proudly as the logo on the front page of their take-out menu...pure genius. The menu itself is interesting to say the least. In addition to the many racks of pastries, they offer fancy salads, burritos, breakfast burritos and sandwiches, a bunch of fruit-drink concoctions, and tortas.

What they don't have is beer.

For me, normally it's the kiss of death if a place doesn't serve beer and I'd just as likely rave about a dry restaurant as I would the latest rendition of the Thunder From Down Under all nude male revue in Vegas. A couple places slide by the radar on the beer front.....Lilly's Tacos is one, La Colmena is another. Los Tarascos just made the list and ranks high, and it's probably a good thing they don't serve beer here because there's a chance that I might not ever leave.

First off, let's talk about the breakfast burrito.

$3.95 - eggs (fried), potatoes, and a choice of ham, bacon, or turkey. Comes with a fine salsa.

You read that right. $3.95. And it RULES. It might seem blasphemous to say so, but to me, the mother of all breakfast burritos has always been at The Cantina in Isla Vista. And I like this one better, and it's almost half the price. The fried egg (not scrambled) is a work of pure genius that I have to say that I haven't seen anyone else try. And it works so's just unbelievably good. I've always been getting it with ham, which is high quality deli slices of swine layered just thick enough. This burrito is out of this world good and it's been seriously cutting into my consumption of Lito's breakfast burritos, which I still stand by as a most excellent burro....but at $2.50 more. And the thing about that two bones-fiddy is, you DO get more food for it, but at 8:30am I don't even want that much food. The Los Tarascos burrito is the right size, the right price, the right everything. EPIC.

Now, let's move to the torta. $6.50

In addition to the "bad art" tip, Jesus always told me was that the best tortas come from the bakeries because it's all about the bread. And he's right. That's why you see lines at the Mexican bakeries every morning at 6:00am with working class people getting their lunch for the afternoon. But there's more to a great torta than the bread and these guys at Los Tarascos have figured it out. Not only is the bread straight up delicious, it's grilled nicely with cheese, tomato and your choice of meat (lots of them and I don't have the menu in front of me right now), along with a small salad on the side. The best torta I've had so far is the chicken, which might have been the finest torta I've ever had.

Yes, that's true....this one place, Los Tarascos, has in the short course of a few months taken over first place accolades in two of the primary categories of my diet. Can you imagine if they served beer?


  1. Hmmm.... I will need to look into this very soon.

  2. Discovered this place a few years back while I was working at Village Pool Supply (2 blocks down Haley). Your review is dead on. Roast beef sandwich on torta bread = godlike. Not sure if you'll see this comment on an old post, but they recently opened up a new location somewhere off Calle Real, and it's supposed to have a full kitchen as well. Haven't tried it out yet, but next time I'm in the area I'll be checking it out

  3. Yeah, I'd heard about the Goleta location and haven't made it out there yet either.

    Just read yesterday on The Restaurant Guy page that they are expanding their already fabulous menu at the downtown location as well. Can't wait.