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Mar 3, 2012 02:24 AM

Estilo D. F. at Huarache King (King City)

In June, I was back in King City to meet up with two friends from the Bay Area. Raising money for AIDS/LifeCycle, they were camped in King City for the night. I picked them up at the park and whisked them off to downtown King City to search for dinner. Our find of the night was Huarache King.

Owned by a family from Mexico City (México Distrito Federal aka D. F.), Huarache King offers dishes from many different regions prepared in D. F. restaurant style. The windows were plastered with photos of the specials, and it took us some time to glance over the extensive menu as well. We ordered four items to share.

Enchiladas Poblanas, small, $6.49 – The printed menu lists a larger plate for a higher price. But a smaller size (and price) depicted on a poster was plenty to share serving up two small enchiladas with a dab of refritos, tomato-rice and salad. The mole Poblana was truly excellent, more complex and less sweet than the version found at SF’s La Torta Gorda and less fruity as well as spicier than LA’s La Casita Mexicana. Darker in hue than either of those, the nearly black mole showed more of the toasty sesame and roasted nut richness of flavor with a duskiness as deep as the color. Moderate in heat level and sweetness, the multi-dimensional saucing finished with a trace note of bitter blackened chiles.

Pambazo de choripapas, $4.99 – This Guanajuato specialty gets an extra measure of refinement at Huarache King. Caramelized a bit, the choripapas, shorthand for chorizo and potatoes, filling gained more flavor and rendered more fat. Similar to a French dip, the bread was lightly moistened with chili sauce, nearly greaseless in this instance rather than the typical oily red staining of chorizo fat, and then browned a bit to firm up the crust. A good version, quite tasty, even if the bread was too fresh and soon disintegrated. This is a sandwich to tackle with a fork and knife.

Torta Milanesa, $5.99 – My favorite of the night, and just from the appearance I could tell it would be wonderful. The cut sides of the telera roll were toasted, and the beautifully breaded and browned Milanesa beef cutlet was clearly fried to order and not warmed over. Here’s what the torta looked like head on.

The crispy iceberg lettuce component was torn leaves, not shredded. Tomato slices and pickled jalapeño chiles propped up the fresh lettuce. Shown in profile, here’s a side view.

However, the genius behind a great torta is best displayed in cross-section to see the proportions, balance, and structural integrity that contribute to the gestalt. The Huarache King folks know how to build a torta, carefully layering just the right amounts in the optimal sequence. A thick smear of refried beans, crunchy-crusted pounded-tender beef cutlet, juicy tomato slices, pickled jalapeño peppers, crisp lettuce, and slabs of buttery ripe avocado. The soft telera bread was exceptional with a heavy and moist crumb. But a torta is greater than the sum of its parts and the whole shebang delivered in spades.

Huarache de suadero, $4.99 - The biggest huarache I've ever been served, indeed, the size of a man’s sandal and filled with refried beans as well as spread with a layer of refritos. Oddly, what should have been the specialty of the house, the huarache was not a shining example from this King. The masa was toughened, as if made in advance and then reheated. The suadero or beef rib meat was leaner here and softer than typical. The huarache did give us the chance to taste-test the red and green salsas. I liked one more than the other, but the details have faded from memory.

Because Huarache King charges for chips, we declined to order any, saving ourselves some mindless calories as well as money. I remarked to my dining companions that this and some other features appeared to show the silent hand of the Monterey County Health Department’s on-going initiative to work with family restaurants like this to serve healthier options. The choice of a smaller portion size, refritos cooked without lard, reduced fat, and taking chips off the table were the clues I found here. The one outlier was the licuado-like strawberry agua fresca that turned out to include creamer and too much sugar. While I’m not ready to give up lard entirely in my refried beans, our meal was very satisfying and delicious overall, as well as relatively guilt-free. The quality of cooking is high at Huarache King and I’d love to return.

Huarache King mention

Huarache King 322 Broadway St King City

AIDS/LifeCycle 11

Huarache King
322 Broadway St, King City, CA 93930

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  1. Thanks for the report, Melanie. You didn't happen to notice if there were quesadillas estilo D.F. by any chance?

    5 Replies
    1. re: susancinsf

      Too long ago for me to remember, sorry. But I suspect if it did have them, I might have ordered one. But it might not have been described as DF style on the menu, and I would have overlooked it.

      1. re: Melanie Wong

        Thanks guys, this makes me want to make a slow drag with multiple stops tween PR and beautiful DT Salinas.

        1. re: PolarBear

          Not sure about Paso Robles to Salinas, but you could certainly make a slow drag in downtown King City. Yesterday I hit town at 5:55pm, a little early for the appointed time to meet my friend. So I decided to drive slowly down and up Broadway to see what was new before picking him up. Like 15 mph, and I only had to pull over once to let another car pass me.

          I'll mention that Huarache King looked a little different. All the photos of various menu items that were in the window were gone, as well as the discount offers. There was a special posted on the front door, on a simple printed page is large type offering costillas en salsa roja. I didn't have time to go in, but just wanted to give a head's up that the menu might have changed.

      2. re: susancinsf

        susan, could you define the above style? thanks

        1. re: toodie jane

          sort of like an empanada, with thick masa (not a tortilla). Usually the masa is formed by hand, then stuffed with cheese, or cheese and squash blossoms, or whatever, and then either deep fried or girdled.

          Here is an old thread where I discuss the style with my sister Janet and a few other hounds. The stuff of my dreams:

      3. Melanie, My guardian angel of roadtrips...

        We will be roadtripping to Ventura next week and looking for a lunch spot within an hour south of Salinas. Easy access to 101. Last time we made this trip we had great tortas at La Plaza Bakery in Soledad.

        Any other great fast-ish recommendations along this corridor. I think we'd be equally at home with a great banh mi or torta. Huarache King looks like a great spot. Any other suggestions?

        3 Replies
        1. re: edgrimley

          Hi ed, I was in King City last month for my annual pilgrimage. It's been two years now since the meal at Huarache King that I posted about above. I did look in thinking that we'd go there again, but we opted for Sinaloense instead. HK no longer has the pictures of specials posted in the window, don't know if anything else has changed. Also wanted to mention that HK has a side dining room with much more seating that could accommodate big groups.

          Here are links to the three places I've been in King City more recently:
          El Sinaloense

          El Lugarcito


          I also noticed that more of the small grocery stores are offering prepared food. So if it's a take-out taco or torta you want, then follow your nose down Broadway. And don't miss getting a paleta at La Michoacana, as there are none in San Francisco. Santa Maria also has a paleteria, but I find La Michoacana's a little bit better.

          On the way down to KC, I did a slow drive through Greenfield to the north to see if there was anything new. I didn't see anything, if that saves you the trouble, and so many vacant storefronts. Greenfield also has La Plaza though the conventional wisdom is that Soledad is the king of the small chain.

          Then for a second lunch or perhaps on your return drive, don't miss SLOCo Pasty in San Luis Obispo. It's less than a mile off 101. Also offering a specialty that we don't have in SF, and so good.

          1. re: Melanie Wong

            Thank you so much for taking the time to provide such a great response. I really appreciate it.

            1. re: edgrimley

              Please do report back on where you end up, as it's no fun being a lone voice here.

        2. We visited Huarache King based on the recommendation here. There were posters for specials in the window. No mention of tortas at this time.

          We went for the enchiladas poblanas and were subsequently ruined for all other mole. Sauce had a great balance of sweet/rich/spice and complexity. My buddy abandonded his shrimp fajitas and I had to fend him off.

          Thanks for the excellent tip as always Melanie.

          And the Paleteria is not to be missed. If you are driving 101 in this region, it's worth going the 2 minutes off the highway. Over two dozen different ice cream and agua-based varieties. I was intrigued by the ones with chile and intend to go back and try them next time.

          1 Reply
          1. re: edgrimley

            Delighted to have an update on Huarache King, and so glad King City worked out for you.

            I'd read your post earlier today, and ordered pollo en mole for dinner tonight under the influence. But alas, not nearly as good as HK's.

          2. King City is nothing short of amazing for Mexican food of several varieties, all of them authentic. Thanks to Melanie for the reports.