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Jun 22, 2007 12:27 PM

Taqueria El Sombrero #2 (Piner Rd in Santa Rosa)

I hit this humble taqueria in the industrial part of SR during lunch hours yesterday. It didn't look all to promising but I had to try it due to its proximity to the indoor soccer facility. Well... never judge a book by its cover!

The place was packed as the result of some good cooking. The decor is disastrous as it has no sense of identify whatsover but is clean & comfortable and the menu is pretty boring and basic.

I had a Cabeza taco ($2), very small Guacamole ($1), side of beans ($1) and Pacifico Clara ($2) they provided complimentary Chips with Pico de Gallo & Tomatillo-Arbol salsa.

> Chips... thin & fresh. Not flavorful, not bland... perfect for their sacrificial duty of transporting salsa.
> Pico de Gallo... good not great but a tastt way to have some lycopene.
> Roasted Tomatillo-Arbol salsa... very good slightly sweet, sour & spicy with no b.s. ingredients like vinegar, cumin or black pepper just a solid, authentic salsa.

> Cabeza taco was just sublime. A generous amount of perfectly cooked, very beefy Cabeza on standard factory corn tortillas, substantial amount of onions, cilantro & tomatillo-arbol salsa. Each but was a well balanced, butter-textured bliss.

> Guacamole was good but not great.

> Refried Beans were okay... had a little off flavor that was easily corrected by drowning them in salsa. Quite a large portion of soluble fiber goodness for $1

Nothing special... not a destination worthy place at all.... but better than it looks. If you are in the area... the Cabeza tacos must be had.

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  1. I love your posts Nopal. Great review....I'm in that area from time to time looking for something cheap and tasty, so I'll have to try it.

    1 Reply
    1. Thanks. Do you have any Bay Area places where you like the refried beans? I find them 99 percent skipable at most places ... though I did have some good smooth silky RFB lately though I'm blanking on where that was.

      1 Reply
      1. re: rworange

        Few places seem to put much effort in RFB. And while I am sick & tired that we don't get a variety of bean preperations out of NOB Mexican eateries... I still eat them every time... for me mediocre RFB are better than no RFB... I eat them out of custom and for the the health benefits.

        Trying to think back... I cannot recall any noteworthy preparations but I will keep on the lookout for you.

      2. The office I work at is incredibly close so I went for a lunch a few weeks ago. I went with the intention of eating cabeza tacos, but when I asked for suggestions from the woman working there, she seemed to steer me away from the cabeza and said she would choose to eat the lengua (tongue) instead. I thought to order one chancy taco that I wasn't sure if I'd like and one carnitas taco to sustain myself with just in case. I found the carnitas taco enjoyable and not too greasy at all. The chunks of tongue, on the other hand, I found extremely difficult to eat. It was mushy and mostly flavorless except for a terrible aftertaste of what I connect to old meat. My experience with tongue is limited to slices of it used for yakiniku, so it's possible that I just happen to not enjoy lengua tacos, but I know I won't be ordering it from Taqueria El Sombrero #2 any time soon. I'd be interested to say what an expert on the subject (I'm looking at you, Eat_Nopal) would say about it.

        3 Replies
        1. re: LikeFrogButOOOH

          Tongue is challenging.... not everyone knows how to cook it correctly... and I rarely order it in U.S. taquerias. Back in Mexico... there are specific taco stands that specialize in Tongue (and maybe two more cuts).... they get the fresh stuff and dispense anywhere from 10 to 30 whole beef tongues in an evening. At those places its an absolute delicacy.

          Tongue is tough so it has to be cooked slow & long... but people who know what they are doing will roast it after poaching it... so you get a buttery texture in the center with all the glorious browning on the surface.

          Regarding the Cabeza tacos... she may have known something about them on that given day regarding freshness... I will give it another try the next time I am around and let you know.

          1. re: Eat_Nopal

            This is exactly why I need to take a culinary tour of Mexico, to actually eat at something like a taco stand specializing in unique meats. The tongue was very soft and showed carmelization on the outside so it's very possible that they followed the method you described. However, the final product didn't seem to be a particularly fresh or tasty one.

            I thought the same thing and decided not to push it with the cabeza taco.

            Thanks, I'd love to get some more input about the tacos there.

            1. re: LikeFrogButOOOH

              Grilled for yakiniku renders a much firmer and chewier texture than the braised and buttery soft tongue typically found at a taqueria.

        2. El Sombrero #2 is actually one of the best places to get tacos al pastor... Sometimes I get a to go styrofoam container packed to the brim with the stuff. I make tacos at home and if I got some left over meat i'll mix it into fried beans. The only bad part is that it's a bit greasy when I get just the meat. But that's honestly the last thing on my mind.

          If you go there you gotta get marinated pork.

          5 Replies
          1. re: Urzu

            "El Sombrero #2 is actually one of the best places to get tacos al pastor"

            That is not saying much... I have yet to encounter (or even hear of) proper Al Pastor in the North Bay (vertical rotisserie... pineapple on top etc.,)

            1. re: Eat_Nopal

              I hesitate to make this recommendation, but Juanita Juanita on Arnold Drive in Sonoma has a vertical spit to make Al Pastor. I don't think there is a pineapple slice, though. Many people seem addicted to their version.

              JJ is not authentic (they are a Cal-Mex place). Small, clean but funky, not cheap, no credit cards, most food served with attitude by Cathy (the owner) or Cathy (the long time employee). But, they have the following attributes that keep me going there on a casual basis:
              It is 5 minutes down the road from my house/office and they have a patio
              Great homemade chips, pretty good tomatillo salsa
              Very good frijoles de olla (yes they are pintos)
              Very good house-made chorizo (at least it tastes house-made to me)

              My usual order is "Beans con todo" (I told you it isn't authentic). This is a big bowl of frijoles do olla with a salad on top. You can add meat (I usually opt for the chorizo if I am not planning on eating again that day). Great with prev. mentioned home-made chips.

              1. re: dkenworthy

                JJ sounds promising... having a Pastora (Vertical Spit) is the most important thing... the Pineapple is just what seals the deal... so that is a great first step.

                Frijoles de Olla... but Pintos instead of some more interesting variety.. I can live with that.

                House-made Chorizo... sounds good to me (its probably one of the local market's version if you don't see them string links all over the walls)

                When you say Salad on top of meats... do you mean like onions, radishes, cilantro etc., (perfectly normal in Mex)... or do you mean Lettuce, Tomatoes etc., (that would be slightly weird... although there are regional bean dishes similar to Pozole but using beans instead... where you are served a brothy bowl of beans & then a plate of shredded cabbage, lettuce, onions, dried oregano, limes etc.,... I eat like that at home quite frequently myself.

                1. re: Eat_Nopal

                  The beans are a little brothy, but not so much that you need a spoon to eat them. Yes, I mean salad -- lettuce, green onions, a drizzle of sour cream, some chunks of guacamole, pickled jalapeno (I can't make a tilda) slices. No dressing, though, beyond the drizzle of sour cream.

                  The chorizo is in chunks, browned, and I am not sure that it was ever in casings. I like it because it isn't as greasy as some of the real deal I have had from the local carnicerias, which I have a little bit of a hard time digesting.

                  I told you it isn't authentic! And the service/attitude is def. a local issue, I have friends who boycott Juanita Juanita, but every once in a while I just need a big bowl of comfort, and let everything else slide.

              2. re: Eat_Nopal

                I lived in Jalisco for about 5 years, so I know exactly what you mean. But I'm hardly in a position to get up and go to Mexico at my stomachs whim.

                I wish I still lived next to the border because of that...

            2. Last year when I was on jury duty in Santa Rosa, I asked the bailiff where he recommended for lunch, and he sent me to Taqueria El Sombrero #2. I went and had, no kidding, the best chili relleno I have ever eaten! I've gone back several times since and it's always been just as good. Trouble is, I've never ordered anything else because the chili relleno was just so good I had to have it. I agree that the refried beans were fine but not wonderful. Never have noticed any "off" flavor, but maybe I've just been lucky. I'll be watching this thread for more of Eat Nopal's RFB recommendations, because I LOVE RFB, even when they're mediocre. btw, my husband and I also really like La Palapa, not too far away from Taqueria El Sombrero #2, on Lewis Road near Mendocino Ave.