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
322 Broadway St, King City, CA 93930
re: Melanie Wong
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.
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: