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Aug 5, 2007 04:18 PM

Richmond - Cazuelas Grill – Serious posole and tortilla greatness at Hilltop Mall

Not only are these the best tortillas and posole in the Bay Area … I’ll bet they are the best in California.

I haven’t been to La Texanita in Santa Rosa yet but if the food there beats this I’d be astounded.

A friend was in serious need of a sympathetic ear, so three days away from the finish of my $3 a day eating plan, I needed to take a day off to meet with her. Someone recently gave me a tip about Cazuelas emailing ... "Some friends swear the pozole is to die for."

No kidding … seriously … no kidding.

The deep red broth was flecked with chile and herbs. There were huge tender pieces of pork with just a touch of fat. Even the fat was a gastronomic wonder that was almost like delicate bone marrow.

I despaired at adding the crisp cabbage, stellar fresh radishes, perfect chopped white onions to this masterpiece. Could perfection be improved … oh yeah,

This held up to the additions and even the little red dish of hot sauce upped the deliciousness. A shake of dried oregano and a squeeze of lime made that dish all that it could be.

The house-made corn tortillas are the best I’ve had in my life … anywhere … Mexico or the US … thick and golden with browned grill marks … words fail me.

The tangy ruby-red Jamaica was very good. My friend had the horchata and didn’t say much about it, but was diverted from her blues by the lovely-looking caldo de res which had a big piece of corn on the cob. It was good enough to make her comment on how good it was despite the misery she was caught up in.

The Caldo 7 Mares at the next table had beautiful king crab legs. The menu says it also has manila clams, black mussels, octopus, shrimp, fish and scallops. It looked delicious.

The only thing I haven’t made up my mind about was the chips. They looked bagged but had a nice delicate texture, air bubbles and a good corn taste. I asked if they used these chips for the chilaquiles and the owner said an emphatic “No, of course not”. So I’m thinking that chilaquiles fans might find some goodness here, but that is just a guess based on the excellence of my lunch.

Great salsa too … great. One thick, saucy red salsa that was assertively spicy and a green fresh tomatillo where the heat kicked in after a bit. My lips tingled a while after lunch.

There was also a salsa bar where they had three other delicious looking salsas and the best looking pickled carrots and jalapenos that I’ve ever seen.

The restaurant seems like it was once a Burger King and they sort of went with the color scheme while personalizing and Mexicanizing the place.

There is still the large front take out counter and a few booths with orange formica table tops and chairs bolted to the brown tile floor. However there are also wooden chairs and tables added to the mix. The yellow wall complements the fiesta ware in colors of orange, yellow, red and green.

Papel picado flags in cantelope and baby blue cover the ceiling with ‘Bien Venidos a Cazualas Grill cut out in the paper. There is some Mexican folk art and pottery on the walls and a colorful Oaxacan rooster roosting on the front counter.

The only odd thing I couldn’t figure out were the number cards on the table. They seemed unnecessary because there is table service and only take-out orders are placed at the front counter. Service was a little confused. We were asked for our order before someone gave us a menu. Then three people asked us what our order was. Everyone was very nice though, just scattered.

It is easy to find, located across from 24 Hour Fitness which is visible from the parking lot.

BTW, I am kind of fantasizing about the handmade corn tortilla quesadilla. Oh ... and they make their own chorizo.

Thank you good Dr. for the excellent tip.

Previous inquiry about Cazuelas with more info about the menu.

Cazuelas Grill
2138 Hilltop Mall Rd, San Pablo, CA 94806

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    1. Thanks for the review. I don't go by Hilltop or that far up I-80 very often but if I do it sounds like a very worthy stop. Any place that makes it own chorizo has to be okay. Any chance to taste other items?

      1 Reply
      1. re: ML8000

        Definately. I'm thinking maybe breakfast later in the week or checking it out on the weekend to see if they really do make goat birrea ... if it is as good as the posole that would really be something.

      2. Try the tortilla soup with chicharrones. It's one of the best soups of any kind I've ever had.

        1. I would be the one who directed the Dr. toward the place. I am a native of the area and have been going there since they opened. It has been one of my local secrets.

          My first experience with pozole was homemade. My first trip to Cazuelas was on a Saturday. I took a chance and ordered the pozole to go. (You get about a quart on to go orders.) The man behind the register asked me, "How do you know pozole?" I explained how I had had it at a friend's house for a Pasada. He then explained how his mother-in-law made it fresh for each weekend. I was sold then. If mama was making it, it had to be good.

          There were a number of years during which I would stop in at least once a month to pick up dinner to go. They are still in my cellphone directory.

          The chile rellenos are fantastic -- although my mother will argue that she makes better. But I am a huge fan of the carnitas. They are cooked perfectly. And if you order the plate, they come with the wonderful handmade corn tortillas. I have even sat there waiting for my order only to see the cook slapping masa between her hands and then grilling up my tortillas.

          Just a heads up. My mother has ordered the birria in the past and was not pleased. This is the only item on the menu that we have found to be less than acceptable.

          2 Replies
          1. re: Dagny

            My deepest gratitude to you for sharing your secret. Did you have the goat or beef birrea?

            What's with that salsa bar? They give you the red and green. Can you just wander over and select your own?

            1. re: rworange

              Can't wait to try. Drive by there often (on 80 into the east bay) so will definitely make a stop very soon!

          2. Forget La Texanita... if the tortillas are better than seductive version at El Rey Pakal... then you are really on to something.

            1 Reply
            1. re: Eat_Nopal

              There you go. I've had El Rey Pakal tortillas. Not even close. Cazuelas are way better.