Fighting The Curse: Las Cuatas in Vallejo
Las Cuatas (I couldnt find an exact translation online, but from my quick research, my best guess is that it means The Children) has a tough road to hoe. This location, next to the Best Western Hotel near Six Flags Marine World, has been pretty cursed. It has seen several restaurants try to set up shop and fail over the years, including the original tenant, fast-food giant Burger King. Maybe one main indication of why so many have failed can be seen in the thick plastic boxes that cover the window portals for the now unused drive-thru lane left over from the BK tenancy days, the result of too many robbery attempts.
Nevertheless, you cant fault people for wanting to give it a go, and thus begets Las Cuatas, which has been open up here just over a month under owner and chef Juana Flores. I didnt meet Juana during my visit, but I could see her buzzing about the kitchen alternatively cooking and directing the staff.
Menu is pretty standard - the usual assortment of tacos (both soft and hard, which I gather means crispy), burritos, enchiladas, tortas, fajitas, etc., and some weekend only items (menudo, birria, pozole, and tamales.) Carnitas, pollo, asada, chile verde, and spiced pork (for whatever reason, they list this as carne enchilada instead of pastor) make up your meat selections; a vegetarian burrito ($4.95) is also available. Specials are also available - this weekends specials included albondigas and costillos de puerco in red sauce.
The interior reflects its fast-food beginnings, but the plastic molded furniture has been replaced by wooden chairs and tables adorned with flower vases.
The chips and salsa (a green tangy and vinegary version) were average - I pretty much left those uneaten, because the carnitas plate ($8.95) I ordered came out pretty quickly (service seemed to be fairly quick overall.) Along with the carnitas, the plate had good portions each of the beans, rice, and shredded lettuce & tomatoes. Jalapeños, radish slices and a lime were also included. Taste and quality wise, everything on the dish was at or above the norm for this type of place, especially the carnitas, which were very juicy and tasty with good porkiness.
The exterior of the building advertised home-made tortillas (maiz or flour), and these arrived shortly after my carnitas plate. These tortillas (three total), which arrived in a basket warm with grill markings, were very good tasting...and very BIG. I imagine they use these tortillas to make their regular, if not super-sized, burritos, and I actually pondered eating my plate burrito-style myself (I compromised and wrapped up a portion of my carnitas in each of the tortillas and ate the rest of the ingredients with my fork along with it.)
I also ordered a chicken tamale ($2 ea/$18 doz) on the side, which arrived with a coating of green sauce and crema. It was a little bit past its fresh from the steamer stage, but it was decent enough.
The tamarindo agua fresca ($1.75) I also ordered was on the watery side. They also have sodas and the like, but I didnt spy any Mexican-produced counterparts in the fridge.
Prices are right where they should be for this fare IMO, with pretty much everything on the menu under $10. Sit-down, takeout and catering services are available; all payments are done at the counter. No issues with service to report either.
This place has no real culinary competition nearby, Mexican or otherwise, save for a Carl's Jr. across from Marine World (though I did notice a sign for another as-of-yet unopened Mexican restaurant grill and bakery a couple blocks up the street.) They may have an uphill struggle ahead of them (if they could get some of the Marine World crowd to notice them, it would help greatly), but if the first sampling is any indication, they might end up lasting longer than many of their previous tenants. I definitely wouldnt mind going back.
Las Cuatas Mexican Restaurant
1598 Fairgrounds Drive
Vallejo, CA 94589
Nice report. Glad to see another tamale expert being born on the board.
Those hard tacos are called, I think, durados. Given the way Taco Bell has bastardized the hard taco shell, too often these get overlooked.
If they are making their own tortillas, then this might be good to try. I had some amazing durado tacos in SOCAL. There's a place on 23rd Street in Richmond, which I hate for various reason, but it makes an excellent dorado. Blanking on the name though.
Did you get the flour tortillas? Usually those are the larger size.
Well it sounds like a good place to keep in mind when people are looking for food near Marine World. Sheesh. Tough location if Burger King couldn't make it NEXT to an amusement park.
Given my current diet, I can only keep it in the back of my mind. What can I say though, the lure of fried clams elsewere was too much.
Hey rw - good to see you :) Thanks for the information on dorados. When I saw "hard", I was thinking of something like Nick's Crispy Tacos - not having been there, are those two different beasts altogether?
As far as the tortillas (which were flour BTW), what I've gotten from restos I've been to are are the five or so soft taco-sized tortillas in that round container. I guess I've simply never been to a restaurant that's given burrito-sized tortillas before (not to mention grilled ones to boot.)