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Sep 2, 2007 11:45 AM

Taqueria El Grullense, Salinas

The most popular taco truck in Salinas is probably Tacos El Grullense, parked on Kern during the day ( ). Starting out with this catering truck, the owner, Juan Medina, then opened a sit-down taqueria in the Alisal district.


A couple weeks ago, I gave it a try with my mom and dad. You order and pick-up at the counter. The menu is priced the same as the truck and offers several additional options.

Overhead menu -

El Grullense is part of the Steps to a Healthier Salinas health promotion program and displays
a photo gallery of its healthier dishes.

Photo menu of healthier dishes -

These are eligible for a 10% discount (download coupon here, ).

The delicious aguas frescas, $1.50, are housemade, prepared fresh and from scratch each day, meaning that the tamarind starts from pods, not powdered mix. They have less sugar than the norm. We tried the tamarindo, which had more intense flavor and pulpy bits, and the horchata.

Aguas frescas -

The spicy tostada de ceviche, $2.50, topped with avocado slices, was superlative. Flecked with shredded carrots and coarse ground black pepper, the pieces of fish have an initial firmness to the bite then sink into softness at the near-raw core. Even the corn tostadita has a special taste to it.

Tostada de ceviche -

My dad had the chile relleno plate. For $6.50, you get TWO, plus rice, beans, and salad, and hot tortillas. These are prepped to order. The egg omelet-like batter was very light and fluffy. The soft and mild roasted peppers were filled with oozy Monterey jack cheese. Freshly cooked ranchero sauce was a bit weak due to underripe tomatoes, but overall this was a terrific chile relleno and a bargain to boot.

Chile relleno plate -

The tomato rice deserves a special mention, as it was wet, near soupy actually. The toasted grains of rice were swollen with great flavor. Steeped with jalapeño, this had quite a kick and a delicious lift from lime juice.

We had ordered the plate with whole beans. When the counter lady realized she had served refritos topped with cheese instead, she gave us an extra order of the whole beans. A little undersalted, the firm beans were somewhat simple, flavored with a bit of onion.

Whole beans -

Mom had a pair of tacos, $1.25 each. These were very good, but didn’t quite have the pizzazz of the truck’s product. Same kind of tortillas, but not fried quite as much, or maybe I prefer to add my own condiments at the truck.

Carnitas taco and cabeza taco -

All in all, a very satisfactory lunch, and a good spot for an inexpensive sit-down meal with the parents.

Taqueria El Grullense
976 Acosta Plaza, Salinas, CA 93905

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    1. If that's what makes you happy, then you should definitely come on down to Salinas. I've been to several restaurants lately that have frijoles de olla. Now we're seeing Peruano beans more often. Also a darker bean about the same size or a little smaller than pintos, what type is that? The cotija can be hard to come by, but your other criteria are quite common. When I take a seat in a restaurant or taqueria (vs. ordering at a truck), I can almost always count on made-to-order tortillas. And, I've found one truck that makes them by hand too.

      1. re: Melanie Wong

        Also a darker bean about the same size or a little smaller than pintos, what type is that?

        Where did my post go? Anyway... its probably either the elusive Flor de Mayo or Bayo beans (the actual run of the mill bean used in Mexico.... pintos are more of Southwest thing).

        1. re: Eat_Nopal

          Thanks! I'm wondering where your post ended up too, but at least I got to read it and respond.

          I've mentioned before how good the beans are in Salinas, at Mexican places and other restaurants too, e.g., ranch beans at barbecues. The rice is usually good too at the mom and pop places. Funny thing is, the rice has almost always been of the green or yellow style around here, but in the last six months, it seems almost everywhere I go in Salinas has tomato rice (red), so I guess that's not true anymore.

          I was tickled when "osho" posted in the SF Bay Area board on how bad the Mexican food in San Francisco is compared to Salinas. It pleased me to have independent corroboration. The food is simple here in Salinas, but usually made to order, and if prepped ahead, made in small batches so that the taste is fresher and closer to homemade.

          1. re: Melanie Wong

            "The food is simple here, but usually made to order, and if prepped ahead, made in small batches so that the taste is fresher and closer to homemade."

            That is key... Italian, French & California cuisine are very simple but freshness & quality of ingredients make them good... and that is often overlooked at many California Mex-Mex places with big menus & no identity.

            As much as I like Barbacoa, Mixotes & Moles... those are celebration foods... I would rather eat beans on a daily basis. For lunch today I made a simple Guiso of Calabacitas with carmelized onions, chipotle adobo & yerba buena (spearmint?) and a wedge of grilled Fresco, some corn tortillas... and it was the type of simply delicious fare that is so notoriously absent.

            1. re: Eat_Nopal

              Wanted to mention that I asked a grower of specialty beans in Sonoma County about flor de mayo. They said they had tried it once but didn't get a good crop, but they'll try again and also the flor de junio.

              I'm still trying to hit Mayra's on a day when she's making calabacitas. Maybe I need to bring my own and have her cook them. I've been stewing zucchini in the mexican style a lot recently to use up the garden's bounty, and it always a hit.

              1. re: Melanie Wong

                Thanks Melanie.... was that Rancho Gordo, Quetzal Farms or somebody else?

                1. re: Eat_Nopal

                  Sorry for the late, late reply! I've been sampling the various beans from Tierra Vegetables in Santa Rosa. I owe the SF Bay Area board a post about this.

                  Tierra Vegetables
                  651 Airport Blvd, Santa Rosa, CA 95403

            2. re: Melanie Wong

              Melanie, thanks for the cross-corroboration (at the risk of having invented a word).

              For the record, we sometimes drive straight to Salinas from SF for our Mexican food fix. And needless to say, we always pack some more for the next day or two !

              The key is simplicity and fresh local ingredients and simple prep!

              1. re: osho

                Hey, osho, good to see you here. Bumping up this thread, I see that I owe Sr. Nopal an answer.

                You need to tell us about the places you've been dining on camarones ala diabla in Salinas
                It's not a dish that I've ordered often though I did at one spot that did a terrific version that I need to post about.

                On my way into town this afternoon, I passed Grullense and notice that it has a banner flying where it can be seen from the street. It's tucked into the far corner of a small strip mall and not visible otherwise. Hope it's not suffering for business, as it would be a big loss. This is the closest taqueria to the big soccer field off of Laurel Drive and I've sent a number of friends from the Bay Area who have kids in play-off games here. They've all raved about it.