Richmond: La Estrella - Tasty, terrific, taqueria serving “un alambre sin puas”
An alambre is sort of the Mexican version of a Philly cheese steak filling … with bacon … can’t go wrong with that.
At La Estrella it is tender slices of steak, oozy cheese, chopped grilled onions, sliced bacon and red and green peppers mixed together. What is Spanish for ‘yum’?
It comes with standard Spanish rice, smooth refried beans, and warm tortillas. There is a salsa station with salsa fresca, creamy green salsa, a thin spicy salsa plus pickled carrots and jalapenos
Alambre means ‘wire’ and there are different versions of this dish. The owner’s family is from Jalisco and said in that region people joke with the name of the dish. When they order one, they tend to say "Un Alambre sin puas”. That means "a barbed wire without the sharp pointed twisted wires."
The guess by the owner’s dad is that the combo looks like tangled wires. After trying I have my own theory. The cheese, like cheese on a hot pizza or lasagna, has melty strands … wires.
Here’s a picture from the website. If the larger image doesn’t work, then the second link is the thumbnail
More on alambre on the General Board.
I was surprised and happy to see how La Estella has transformed itself since it opened in 2005 and when I first wrote about it in this post (scroll down).
The restaurant has expanded its menu and there are photos above the counter of the dishes. The mojarra (whole fried fish) looks great. They also plate very nicely, like the four tacos one customer ordered.
It is one of the few places that serves menudo every day. Breakfast is served all day. There is a vegetarian menu. In addition to aqua frescas, there is a cooler with a better than average selection of bottled beer.
Here’s the website which in addition to having the menu and photos of the food, has a nice view of the front of the shop.
There’s a pretty mural on the wall, and the inside is pleasant … as is the staff.
It is across the street from the McDonald’s on Macdonald.
Three years ago I would have made a bet that this place would last less than a year. It was good, but just another taco shop that was the same as so many others.
They have blossomed beautifully into a pleasant refuge from the sometimes dark Richmond streets. Estrella is a tiny star, but it shines brightly.
325 23rd St, Richmond, CA 94804
Last Monday, on your recommendation, wife and I had lunch there. It's not a bad little place at all. (That means we liked it, but you're right: it's just another pretty good taco joint--one among dozens in the area.) Many thanks for calling our attention to La Estrella. And having menudo available every day is a BIG plus. How is the menudo? Have you tried it?
We had the alambre. While I would not have described it as a Mexican version of philly cheese steak filling, it was very tasty and certainly unusual. My minor complaint would be that the large quantity of fried smoked bacon overwhelmed everything else, especially the few pieces of steak.
I'm sure the owner is right about it being ubiquitous in Jalisco, but I've sure never run across anything like it there. In my experiences eating in Mexico, dishes that contain smoked (American style) bacon (other than as a breakfast side order in tourist restaurants) are very few, if any.
Most American visitors to Mexico know "alambre" from high-speed internet connections. WiFi in Spanish is "inalambrico" and when used without the "in" it refers to an Ethernet cable offering a high-speed "wired" Internet connection.
I tried a few tacos last week. The tacos have generous fillings and are $1.25 for meat, $2 for fish.
The best so far is the red chili beef which is like a spicy version of carnitas. The shredded (not grilled) chicken has nice pieces of chicken. Fish is chopped up, not battered fish.
The chips can be skipped as they are the bagged version that is sort of like Fritos.
Is the menu more than two pages? Their link to the second page is kind of funny, but it is there.
Their website is rather primitive. The menu they post is a scan/PDF file of the restaurant's printed fold-out menu that they have at the counter and you can take away (in case you want to order takeout). The website says:
Click here for a printable menu (2)
To see the first "page" you click "Click here for a printable menu." To see the second "page" you click "(2)."
As far as I could tell, their printed menu (and the scanned on-line PDF files) includes just about everything that's on their Picture Board. (And the printed menu has 6 pages because it's on an 8½ x 11 piece of paper folded in thirds and printed on both sides.)