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It is done: All the Taquerias of Redwood City

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Dear friends,

One day in the spring of 2008, after devouring every last sushi bar from Millbrae through Cupertino – all 62 of them – Sushi Monster put down his hashi. He looked back on all he had consumed and declared that it was enough.

Two years of $70 nigiri lunches had left Sushi Monster feeling ... spent. He fell into a deep sleep and experienced a vision: a new mission to find an authentic, vibrantly flavorful and interesting lunch that could be had for less than $10. When he awoke as El Taquistador, he knew where he had to go: Redwood City.

And thus, we proudly present ... Ciudad de los Tacos: The Complete Guide to All the Taquerias of Redwood City , v. 1.0.

You'll find the complete set of 48 reviews, with a Google interactive map, at http://www.emeraldlake.com/tacos

The handy clip-and-save cheat sheet:

1) Taqueria El Grullense, 1280 El Camino Real
2) El Grullense Grill, 768 Woodside Rd.
3) La Casita Chilanga No. 2, 761 El Camino Real
4) Jimenez Taqueria, 1798 Broadway
5) Chavez Supermarket, 46 Fifth Ave.
6) Taqueria MexCal, 3215 Middlefield Rd.
7) El Grullense No. 2, 2940 Middlefield Rd.
8) Tacos Delicias, 3252 Middlefield Rd.
9) Rincon Tarasco, 3200 Middlefield Rd.
10) Tacos El Grullo, 2798 Spring St.
11) Taqueria Mar y Tierra, 1475 Broadway
12) Tacos El Grullense No. 1, 1243 Middlefield Rd.
13) Taqueria Apatzingan, 3305 Middlefield Rd.
14) La Casita Chilanga, 2928 Middlefield Rd.
15) La Casita Chilanga No. 3, 995 Fifth Ave.
16) Aguililla Market Taqueria, 3250 Middlefield Rd.
17) Panaderia Michoacan, 2561 El Camino Real
18) La Azteca Mexicatessen, 1531 Main St.
19) El Paisano Carniceria y Mercado, 2856 Middlefield Rd.
20) El Grullense No. 3, 795 Fifth Ave.
21) Mi Hacienda, 895 2nd Ave.
22) Taqueria Mi Rancho, 593 Woodside Rd.
23) Tacos El Camino, 2627 El Camino Real
24) Chavez Supermarket, 775 Arguello St.
25) Apatzingan 2, 739 Chestnut St.
26) Mis Amigos, 828 Fifth Ave.
27) Taqueria Gonzalez, 3194 Middlefield Rd.
28) Mi Pueblito, 3225 Middlefield Rd.
29) Tacos El Grullense E&E, 2401 Middlefield Rd.
30) Chela's Carniceria, 1714 El Camino Real
31) Tacos El Grullense E&E, 999 El Camino Real
32) Rosita's Taco Stop, 1515 Woodside Rd.
33) La Estrellita, 2205 Middlefield Rd.
34) Sancho's, 3207 Oak Knoll Dr.
35) Bravo Taqueria, 980 Woodside Rd.
36) Vega's Market and Grill, 2585 Middlefield Rd.
37) Black Bean Cuisine, 847 Main St.
38) Taqueria El Tulense, 2391 Spring St.
39) Mi Rancho Market, 137 Roosevelt Ave.
40) Arteaga's Starlite Supermarket, 812 Fifth Ave.
41) Mi Rancho, 2505 Middlefield Rd.
42) Los Gallos, 3726 Florence St.
43) Karlita's Taco Place, 512 Woodside Rd.
44) Frida Cocina Mejicana, 820 Veterans Blvd.
45) Naranjo's Taqueria, 2647 Broadway
46) El Jarachito, 3264 Middlefield Rd.
47) Elizabeth Restaurant, 2855 Middlefield Rd.
48) La Fiesta, 314 Arguello St.

Enjoy!

Sushi Monster/El Taquistador
taquistador@emeraldlake.com
http://www.emeraldlake.com/tacos

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  1. I don't want to be the party pooper, but mentioned in the second paragraph of your full report is the disclosure that you *do not eat pork*. That seriously limits the value to me of what otherwise would be a great guide. But then I'm an al pastor dude all the way.

    1. Congratulations on another milestone!

      Good thing you took Porthos's advice and didn't call yourself Burrito Monster, the initials alone would make one wonder if it was as bad coming out as it was going in for the bottom tier....

      1. Great report, I only wish I had the time and pounds (willing to gain that is) to join you on a quest like that.

        Maybe someday you will wake up and want to do Chinese or maybe Xiao Yang do xlb's list for us.

        3 Replies
        1. re: yimster

          Well, it was only about 280-300 tacos, maybe 100 burritos and 50 big combo plates. I would commit to doing Hawaiian plate lunch next, but ... man, the starch factor. I am afraid I would need some medical intervention after my 20th scoop of mac-and-cheese.

          Sushi Monster/Taquistador

          And yes, I think Millbrae dim sum w/KK, XY Porthos and you would be a fine diversion. The only gyoza/shu mai I'm getting these days are the R99 freezer-case variety my kid craves.

          1. re: Sushi Monster

            SM, it's a tough job but someone has to do it. Not in Redwood City, but I would be interested in your take on Taqueria La Bamba in Mountain View. In addition to the standard carnitas, carne asada, lengua, al pastor, etc for the soft tacos, you have to try the green chile and colorado chile. The burritos are gigantic and the pupusas delicious. It'll take at least 2 visitis to try everything.

            Any future dim sum chowdown/sushi face off will have to go down in LA. I'll be back there come August.

            (Btw, some of the Wei-Chun frozen dumplings aren't bad. I just tried one with green bean and pork and it was pretty good. I think it's one of the newer flavors.)

            1. re: Porthos

              P-man, I like La Bamba, but we never really get down there. The Chile Colorado is pretty good at the El Grullense (1280 Middlefield one) and the Tacos el Grullense (on El Camino in Palo Alto)

        2. This is really great - thank you so much for your hard work.

          1. SM, a true labor of love and public service. My hat off to you!

            And I was thrilled to see my beloved El Grullense at the top of the list. Although you give props to the salsa roja, I must say that it's the salsa VERDE which is good enough to make me haul my booty from the East Bay to Redwood City for the fine stuff. Don't pass it up!!

            1. WOW! Sushi Monster/El Taquistador you amaze me. Great list. I never would have guessed there were that many.

              1. It's been brought to my attention that today's food cover in the San Jose Mercury News (10.01.08) included the URL for the complete list of reviews and the map, but that this was omitted from some editions.

                The complete file on Redwood City taquerias, with all 49 reviews plus the Google map, is at

                www.emeraldlake.com/tacos

                Thank you!

                El Taquistador

                1. Dear Taquistador

                  A slightly belated congrats on the RWC taco guide. As a native son of "Climate Best" town, and a 25 year veteran of eastside tacology, I salute you. My Dad's old '78 Chevette with grease stains on the hood and lid salutes you. Since moving out of state several years ago, I don't hit RWC frequently enough, but my taco-scapades have taken me from central Baja to Canuckistan, from Chicago to the Mendo Coast, all of which have offered up taco provender to this maize pilgrim. I will be heading down there soon and plan to use the cheat sheet. I currently have a taco cookbook in pre-production with Sasquatch Books in Seattle. If it does well, I hope to use that as leverage to do a more roots taco book and definitely give some space to Puro Redwoood ese. ?Sabes?

                  Cordially, I remain,

                  Taco Clandestino

                  1. I have a similar feeling about the places as Sushi Monster, I will add that

                    1) Taqueria El Grullense, 1280 El Camino Real

                    We like #2 better. It is cleaner, very similar menu and quality. Also, not freezing in winter.

                    2) El Grullense Grill, 768 Woodside Rd.:

                    for al Pastor, but you have to look at it first. I've had great and terrible at this place. The salsas are almost always very good here, and not as spicy as some places but flavorful. They also have some spicy pickled onions in addition to the carrot/onion/jalapeno mix. Their fish tacos are very good (served with cabbage, chipotle crema, pico de gallo). I've been on a shrimp burrito kick there lately too. Carnitas have a lot of flavor, but very very. Basically can't get in a burrito unless you maybe ask them to drain it a little- will be a mess. We eat here a lot because they take debit cards, lots of tables, pretty clean, very large menu. They even have a bar on one side of the place (I think it is a full bar).

                    7) El Grullense No. 2, 2940 Middlefield Rd.

                    Just a little place- the food is cooked at another location, but the tacos here are always excellent, and their salsa rojo is always very flavorful. Good al pastor. And still very cheap. 1.10 tacos I think.

                    12) Tacos El Grullense No. 1, 1243 Middlefield Rd.

                    Hottest salsa roja of the bunch (n=1)

                    14) La Casita Chilanga, 2928 Middlefield Rd.
                    Just get a torta. They are amazing.

                    18) La Azteca Mexicatessen, 1531 Main St.
                    Friendly service but very meh food.

                    29) Tacos El Grullense E&E, 2401 Middlefield Rd.

                    Good carnitas. Al pastor in a burrito is that crumbly little bits kind- not too greasy and good flavor, but kind of MSGy for some reason. I get a taste for it- maybe that is why.

                    4 Replies
                    1. re: P. Punko

                      "but kind of MSGy for some reason."

                      Probably Maggi.

                      1. re: P. Punko

                        Had only a few minutes before catching a flick at the Redwood City theater, very hungry, opted for Taqueria El Grullense on Middlefield. It really is close. And, as mentioned by P Punko, cold this time of year.

                        Had a wet green al pastor burrito, and it blew my socks off.

                        When I've had or seen green sauces elsewhwere before, I'm not a big fan, don't know why I ordered it that day. 6th sense. Previously, the green sauce has been lightweight versions of tomatilla salsa. Not this puppy. More kick, and a dark roasted taste that I couldn't place, other than actually roasting tomatillas.

                        The Al Pastor was a little fatty in spots, but otherwise fabulous as well. Lots of extra grill taste (cooked fat -> taste, uncooked fat -> yuck, so some inconsistancy on the grill), perfectly complementing the green sauce. Maybe would have been a little dry on its own, but with the green sauce? Perfection!

                        And the price? * SIX DOLLARS * on the menu. Girlfriend liked her horchata in particular - her carnitas burrito was good but a little dry, about like we get at Mi Rancho on Willow.

                        Without a doubt the best price performance in dog's years. For the two of us we got change from a 20, upwards of 2,000 calories, and highly satisfying taste.

                        1. re: bbulkow

                          Thanks for the report. Is this the one just one block South of Main street (near Library)? I still can't get all the El Grullenses straight :) Sis & BIL will be visiting next week so a printout of this thread will definitely be in order.

                          1. re: bbulkow

                            I've now had the green burrito with al pastor three times, and only the first was transcendant. Oh well.

                        2. man i gotta say, my three favorite places in the neighborhood didn't get very good reviews from you.

                          - casita chilanga on middlefield (the shack) - the tortas here can stand up to tortas in DF. the bread they use is not ordinary french rolls, and is far superior to any torta roll you'll find in any other restaurant/bakery in RWC. the owner has them specially made by some bakery that doesn't normally do mexican breads. go there and order any of their tortas (my personal favorites are the milanesa, the pork leg and the black forest ham). i moved away from the bay area almost 5 years ago and i still miss this shack and i always make sure to go there when i'm in town.

                          - arteaga's starlite market - going to a market like this and just ordering tacos (which are admittedly not the best in down -- see below) is somewhat short-sighted. they have a huge assortment of homestyle soups, guisados and potato-filled goodies. the kind of stuff that you don't normally see at restaurants, because restaurants usually just stick to tacos/burritos/etc. just go there and point to the thing which looks LEAST familiar, and you'll be pleasantly suprised. mexicans don't eat tacos at home. mexicans at home eat the stuff that they have at arteaga's.

                          - aguililla market on middlefield - seriously this is the best carne asada i ever had in the bay area. and i mean carne ASADA (grilled), not beef that is cooked on a griddle. if you don't know what i'm talking about, look for the carne asada thread in the los angeles board. the carne asada here is about as good as it gets in the bay area, and is easily as good (if not better) than the consensus favorite in LA. like arteaga's market, they also have several soups and guisados in the steam trays, but they aren't as good as arteaga's.

                          9 Replies
                          1. re: ceviche

                            My reviews of the three Casita Chilangas (including the one in the gas station on Fifth) were consistently positive. Look at their ranks in the bigger picture of ALL of Redwood City. Perhaps you disagree with my case that Casita Chilanga No. 2 on El Camino is the strongest sibling.

                            I agree Aguililla Market's asada is superior. Because they grill it on the spot, by the order. Overall, there are superior products right on that block though -- such as the birria at Apatzingan and the lengua at Taqueria MexCal across the street.

                            I hope you took the time to read the real 40-page file referenced above -- at www.emeraldlake.com/tacos -- NOT just the ranking sheet at the first post in this thread.

                            Thanks,

                            Sushi Monster/El Taquistador

                            1. re: Sushi Monster

                              yeah i noticed that casita chilanga was #3 on your list, i think i just take exception with any list that places any of the grullense locations above aguililla, casita chilanga, apatzingan.

                              1. re: ceviche

                                ceviche- La Casita Chilanga tortas are Mexico City style- Chilanga/o is someone from Mexico City, a Chilango airport car service driver told me. We talked about LCC for about 20 minutes. He says all the fillings and taste are just right, but the bread while very good is just a little off what you would get in Mexico City. They are different from other taqueria places because they are a different style. Once you go to Chilanga, it is hard to go back to other tortas.

                                1. re: P. Punko

                                  P., you're saying that an airport driver in DF had been to la casita chilanga in RWC? if so that amazing. small world!

                                  i totally understand what you're saying about their bread being different (see my post above about them sourcing their bread from a french bakery) from what you'd get in DF. from what i understand, they go to the effort of getting their bread specially made for them in RWC because they weren't happy with the normal teleras (the wide, non-crusty rolls their tortas come on) that every other place in the area uses. so i'm not suprised that their bread is different from other places in RWC - it's different and also better!

                                  1. re: ceviche

                                    haha- my post is tortured that is for sure- my driver lives here, but he is from Mexico City- and somehow we had gotten to talking about things- he was discussing that LCC (not sure which location) has barbacoa on weekends, and I mentioned that I had been there (he was surprised) and then he told me all about the tortas and that he does love their bread, it just isn't "quite the same"- but that they were Mexico City style for sure and that Chilanga/Chilango is the word for someone from Mexico City. I was only getting a ride to the airport because my flight was 5:30 am, so we were talking tortas at 4 am or so. Surprisingly- it was making me hungry even then.

                                    1. re: P. Punko

                                      I have had the barbacoa on Sunday at the Middlefield Road location. Quite a while ago, though.

                                      1. re: P. Punko

                                        P - for the record, casita chilanga is one of my two favorite places in all of RWC. not sure if my posts were difficult to follow on that point or not. love their tortas!!!!

                                        1. re: ceviche

                                          Yeah- the "Tesorito" with pierna (smoked pork leg) is a thing of salty beauty. I don't eat them that often, because I save them for nice, sunny days and I go at lunch. They are almost for when I really need them. They are essentially perfect- extremely satisfying on a lot of levels.

                              2. re: ceviche

                                I ended up at Aguililla Market the other day for a late lunch (vaguely recalled your post) & what a pleasant surprise it was! Spacious, charming with decorative tables, tiled walls, pretty plants & last but not least, *clean*. I asked the very nice woman which was better, al pastor or chorizo & was told they were both good. I settled on the latter as I didn't see a spit. This taco was bursting with flavor! It came with slightly charred chorizo (would have preferred more charring) cut/broken into med. size pieces, fresh salsa (pico de gallo style) & two griddled yellow corn tortillas. Normally, I prefer white corn tortilla but this was not bad. I could really taste the quality and freshness in the ingredients. At $3 per taco, it is a bit more expensive than surrounding neighbors but good size & quite filling. Definitely warrants a return visit.