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Best Mexican for Sacramento, CA?

I've lived in Sacramento for a while, but haven't yet found any Mexican restaurant (other than taquerias) that comes close to what I'd get in Mexico (or even L.A.).

These are the places I like, so far - but these aren't real restaurants:
- Taqueria / Cocina Garibaldi (Alta Arden & Howe) - tacos & mariscos
- Carniceria Lopez (Manzanita) - tacos, tamales, huaraches... (actually a meat market)

I've been to the usual: Ernestos, Tres Hermanas, Centro Cocina, Adalberto's... I didn't go to Zocalo because it was too noisy - but if the food is worth it, I might give it a try. None of them has really become a favorite, although I tend to lean toward Tres Hermanas out of this list. Franklin boulevard is a bit far, since I'm on the north end of town - and there is a large Mexican community around El Superior Market on Northgate.

My solution for now has been to cook it myself - El Superior supermarket has most of the ingredients (and a take out section) and there are enough carnicerias around to get good meat cut Mexican style. But sometimes I'm lazy and just want to go out, give someone money and get good food.

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  1. Looks like you have hit the big ones. I am curious, what kind of Mexican are you looking for? First off, you will never get exactly what you want - I still miss my favorite Mexican places from Arizona. Second, Franklin is probably king in the region. If you are looking for taquerias, La Favorita on Fruitridge and Franklin is excellent. Los Jarritos on Broadway is also very good. Don't judge Sacramento by Ernesto's and Centro! Zocalo is OK, but my heart lies with Tres Hermanas - although that may not be what you are looking for. I would guess that LA Mexican is more Baja compared to the other regions (i.e. Sonoran, Oaxacan, Yucatan). You are not going to find much good stuff in Natomas.

    13 Replies
    1. re: Sacto_Damkier

      I'd like to find other regional styles - puebla, oaxaca, central... and L.A. has other regional styles than Baja/NorteƱo, at least in East L.A.

      I found a good place for Mariscos yesterday - Las Islas (on the web, it's uniformly La Sislas), 2236 Northgate. I think their sign says something else, along with "100% Nayarit". They have a large outdoor patio, a somewhat confusing menu (since a lot of things are crossed out or erased), and may not speak English (we spoke Spanish). When we went, for a Saturday lunch, there were musicians everywhere, at least three groups serenading tables.

      We were the only non-Mexicans there, and it was just like being in Mexico sitting on a large patio.

      The portions are generous, and there are several family style dishes - we tried a "molcajete", mainly with shrimp, octopus and crab in a seafood broth, brought to the table in (what else) a red-hot molcajete. Other people had mojarra frita (tilapia), crab and shrimp.

      This is (I think) in North Sacramento, near Northgate and Arden - not in Natomas. The neighborhood has other Mexican restaurants, La Superior market, and a lot of businesses whose signs are all in Spanish.

      1. re: salutlemonde

        I agree - seems like you've already explored all the greats. Carniceria Lopez and La Fiesta (in East Sac, part of the La Favorita group) are my two favorites for tacos (the adovada at Lopez is amazing). I also like Tres Hermanas, especially that creamy cilantro dressing, which may not be authentic but which I crave from 3000 miles away. Don't bother with Zocalo - the place is more meat market than anything else. I'm excited to try Las Islas the next time I'm home in Sacramento! I think the best Mexican food I've had in the area has been at my friend Miguel's place when he decides to barbecue... it's amazing.

        1. re: salutlemonde

          Not being a big fan of mariscos, I am probably not a good authority on them in Sacramento. I would guess that Sacramento would not have as great variety as coastal cities due to the seafood sitting on a truck most of the day heading to the Valley. This is what I find with seafood in general in Sacramento - with a few exceptions. Good luck in your quest!

          1. re: Sacto_Damkier

            Thanks for the help!

            I'll have to get over to La Fiesta - it's one I haven't tried.

            Actually the crab at Las Islas tasted better than at a fancy hotel in the Pismo Beach area. The crab in Pismo tasted like it sat on a boat, got frozen, shipped, sat around in a warehouse, shipped again, defrosted and fed to us.

            BTW, we boxed what was left of the "Molcajete", and it was enough for another lunch for two.

            The best birria was at our neighbors' wedding, so the best Mexican food here might all be home cooked.

            I'd guess the best place for seafood in Sacramento would be 55 Degrees since Luc is kind of a fanatic about freshness (OK, it's not Mexican). But that's another post, someday...

            1. re: salutlemonde

              Definetely La Fiesta which is owned by the same folks as La Favorita, I believe. They have awesome shrimp cocktail and ceviche not to mention the agua frescas.

              1. re: missb

                I tried La Fiesta today - the placed looked very familiar. When I saw the menu and the way everyone was dressed in soccer shirts, I knew why: the same people run Taqueria Garibaldi! La Fiesta might have been a little bit better than Garibaldi, but then I was starving. The difference in any case would be very slight.

                It looks like the mariachis don't play at La Fiesta, either - but their cards were on the counter for anyone who might want to hire them for a party.

                I had three tacos: al pastor, carnitas and pollo asado. They didn't have buche on the menu, as they now do at Garibaldi. The carnitas was fried crispy on one side, the pastor good as always and the pollo probably the best I've had in Sacramento.

                I could have had a beer, but the agua de melon looked more interesting - and was.

                They have the same mariscos as Garibaldi, too - and shrimp tacos, which I didn't get because they were hand written on another board that I didn't see until I was leaving. Something for next time, I guess.

                So, now I have an alternate to Garibaldi if I'm near McKinley Park. I hear they have a restaurant in Roseville now, too.

                -----
                La Fiesta Taqueria
                1105 Alhambra Blvd, Sacramento, CA 95816

              2. re: salutlemonde

                I love La Fiesta as well. Ponchos is great for carnitas..I like the one on Franklin and 12th.

                There is a place in a little strip mall on Stockton..by Tru Value Hardware and right now the name excapes me. Great menudo...fabulous breakfasts. Busy place with mostly Mexicans eating there. It starts with an A. Alberts? It is family run by Mexicans. I can't believe I cannot remember the name. Brain fart.

                1. re: melly

                  I'll add Ponchos to my list - along with La Fiesta - thanks!
                  (and the place on Stockton, if I can find someplace near TrueValue)

                  1. re: melly

                    melly, I think you mean Alonzo's. I liked their breakfast a lot--they have both American diner breakfast and Mexican breakfast fare. Good pozole.

                    If you are ever in East Sac, the tacos at Island Tacos, that teeny-tiny little standalone building on Folsom at about 50th St are good.

                    Anyone know of any great taco trucks?

                    1. re: katew

                      Funny. Now that you mention it, I don't even remember seeing a taco truck in Sacramento, not even on the freeway.

                      1. re: katew

                        That is it. Alonzo's. I've had the pazole as well. Fabulous. I do like the tacos at the tiny spot in the parking lot by Ulta beauty supply. I tried it just because of you Kate.

                        1. re: katew

                          so awesome that you called out Island Tacos - that place is a real gem.

                          another good thing to know about La Fiesta, if you love fish tacos as much as I do, is that they ALWAYS have them even though the last time I was there they were not a menu item. you just go and order them and they always have them. lovely. i also love those spicy carrots marinated with jalapeno rounds over at the salsa bar.

                          1. re: katew

                            There is a great Taco truck on Elk Grove Blvd. Used to by by the Y-Not Club and behind the feed store on the East end towards Sunrise Blvd.

                            There is another on Elkhorn by the Fwy (I 5).

                            And there is another one on Watt Avenue towards Fruitridge.

                            Not sure, but there used to be a few on Franlkin between 12th ave and Fruitridge...

                2. El Novillero, 12th street exit off 99. Head towards City College, but take the first left at the light. down about a mile on the right. It has a huge following because its so dam good. I met people in San Diego who knew of it. Met lots of sac folks who call it the best. I cal it the best I ever had. Lobe dat place maan.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: dakkome

                    Thanks - I think I've heard El Novillero, too. Another one to try!

                  2. Las Islitas update / more information

                    I went back with some friends, this time on a weekday. Only one old guy with a guitar, not crawling with musicians.

                    Our waitress spoke fluent English, and since there were more of us, we had a better sampling of what they offer.

                    You automatically get a bowl of ceviche at the table, along with fresh limes, totopos (but made from whole round small tortillas), saltine crackers, a bottle of salsa huichol (from Nayarit) and a bottle of Tapatio.

                    I noticed a lot of people having mojarra frita, and the last time I was there, the guy at the table next to ours said it was great. It was. A nice spice mix, crispy on the outside, moist on the inside, served with a green salsa that was just right.

                    My wife had Caldo 7 Mares - king crab, a clam, shrimp, fish and octopus. This is generally not my favorite dish for mariscos, but I admit hers was good.

                    Our friend had one of the shrimp dishes - I'm not sure which one, since he just pointed to the picture on the menu and we were too busy eating to ask which shrimp plate it was. They had mojo de ajo, cucaracha (chipotle - have to try that sometime), and three more that I forgot.

                    They don't bring the bill - whenever you're ready, you go up to the cashier's and pay there. Everything is relaxed and it seems like you can just hang out as long as you want.

                    I didn't see anything but mariscos on the menu. There could have been something I missed, but they really do concentrate on seafood.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: salutlemonde

                      You know, this place sounds good....where in Sacramento is it??

                    2. You really need to take a trip to south sacramento. If you want fast service and great quality mexican food with out the long lines and rediculous lines and fancy prices than i recomend LA Favorita mexcan taqueria on florin Rd across frm where the old mall... great food and great service always look forward going there becuse i know i will always come out satisfied. another great maxican place would have to be Super Taco on mack rd. also in south sacramento... but since your in the north part of Sacramento i would recomend this nice lillte place call Lucy's taqueria on 2217 MARCONI AVE taste is very authentic alsmot as if you driving thru mexico

                      1. I now live north of Sacramento, but grew up in East L.A. and worked in Santa Ana thus I have experienced much in the way of Mexican food.

                        For those who want an authentic Mexican food experience in Sacramento I would recommend Lalo's Restaurant. Why no one on C.H. has mentioned Lalo is beyond me. Don't go if you are looking for refried beans, hard tacos, chips, and sombreros hanging on the wall. What you will find is a place packed with Mexican families (especially on the weekends} .

                        Most people there seem to order the consume which comes in large bowls along with a leafy herb which I have yet to identify. After the consume the most popular dish seems to be the barbacoa, grilled lamb done in the style of Estila Hildalgo.

                        I saw a few people eating the mojajete which consists of beef, chorizo, chicken, and chile in a broth.

                        The place is noisy and can get jammed. I found the servers to be attentive and very polite even if somewhat limited in English. If you can speak some Spanish it would be an advantage.

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: hungerpains

                          how is patron? what's good? we're going to jimmy buffett fan club meeting there this weekend so not our choice. my husband is hispanic so nothing's ever as good as his mother made. i love all mexican food from taco bell to chipotle to the real stuff!

                          1. re: hungerpains

                            Thanks for the tip! I hope to check it out soon...

                            Adding a link.

                            -----
                            Lalo's Restaurant
                            5063 24th St, Sacramento, CA 95822