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Oct 4, 2003 08:45 PM

mexican restaurants in Sacramento...Carmelita's

  • b

Carmelita's in old Fair Oaks is IMHO the best mexican restaurant in the Sacramento area. we went at 9:00 pm on a Friday night and were told we had to wait for 30 minutes. Surprising for the late hour but we survived with some of the best margaritas in town. After we were seated we were greeted with the obligatory chips and salsa. Fresh, hot chips and two kinds of salsa. Hot, but very tasty. On the menu is the usual mexican fare with many seafood items. Only the menu is the same as the rest, though.
My wife ordered a three item combo and I did the same. Mine came with a beef taco, a tamale and a chicken enchilada. the taco, (my favorite food ever)was delicious with spiced shredded beef and a hard tortilla shell. Pretty standard. the tamale was pork wrapped in corn meal. It was not wrapped however in corn husks. Covered with a spicy red sauce and larger than a tamale at most places it was very good. the chickn enchilada was delicious. Carmelita's does chicken like no one else. Covered in a spicy green sauce and cheese, this is why I come here over all other mexican restaurants.

my wife's dinner had a beef taco, chili relleno and cheese enchilada. the relleno and enchilada, larger than most were both delicious according to my wife.
We have been here many times and every dish is wonderful, the seafood dishes are amazing. The rice and beans accompaniment are very tasty too. Carmelita's is head and shoulders above any mexican sit down casual type place in the Sacrameto area, check them out! As we were leaving people were still coming in for dinner, after 10;00pm!
Also another outlet in downtown Roseville.

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  1. How does it compare to a decent chain like Chevy's? What were prices like? What are number two and three in town? Is the taco shell previously cooked, like you get from Taco Bell, or freshly fried (and is it white corn or yellow corn)? Do they make their own tortillas at all?

    I've been in arguments with a friend from Texas about Mexican-American food lately and am wanting to get more familiar with "the best".


    1. Ick. Really? I've been to Carmelita's a couple of times, and I've sworn to not return. I find the food VERY greasy and lacking taste. Way too much cheese, oil, etc. Definitely not "fresh-mex". And the margaritas are bad. The inside of the restaurant smells bad and the patio looks like it has been in the middle of a remodel for months or years. IMO, the bottom line is that this place is not for food-lovers (or chowhounds).

      Ernesto's has been voted "Best Mexican in Sacramento", in Sacramento magazine and I'm looking forward to trying it. (I have no connection to any restaurants.)

      I've just moved to Sacramento from Chicago, and from what I've found so far, Chicago had better Mexican food coices overall.

      15 Replies
      1. re: David
        Ann Vuletich

        Haven't been to Carmelita's for years, but based on past experience I would tend to agree with you. The food is too greasy and not all that tasty. Two other Mexican places you might want to try are Tres Hermanos, on K St. in Midtown, and Vallejo's, which has a couple of locations. Tres Hermanos has great carnitas and according to my mom anyway, very fresh and tasy fish tacos.

        Tres Hermanas Inc
        2416 K St, Sacramento, CA 95816
        Phone: (916) 443-6919

        1331 O ST,SACRAMENTO,CA,95814
        916 444 - 2837

        1900 4TH ST,SACRAMENTO,CA,95814
        (916) 443 - 8488

        Also, see the thread on this board for a taco crawl on 10/26/03. Would be great if you could join us!

        1. re: Ann Vuletich

          Tres Hermanas is the best authentic Mexican food in Sacramento. Try the Melanesa Asada (thinly breaded steak with different mexican spices). The Camores Mojo de Ajo (shrimp with garlic) is another one of my favorites on the menu.

          1. re: danandheather

            I love Tres Hermanas, but the best authentic in the area it is not. There are plenty of little holes-in-the-wall down Franklin that are far more authentic and as good.

            Puerto Azul in west Sacramento is excellent for seafood, and there are a bunch of new taquerias with an ephasis on shellfish opening on Stockton and Franklin.

            I like Vallejo's - the one on 5th and S - for breakfast, it's decent enough. Ernesto's is overpriced and too noisy. The taco trucks on Northgate are uniformly EXCELLENT.

            Yeah Lui's was never good. I hope the new place is decent. I liked the Japanese place that was in the Ramona before they moved in.

            I really, really like the taqueria on the El Camino bike path - can't remember the name now - will try to remember. It's open very late and was tasty.

          2. re: Ann Vuletich

            I've only eaten at Ernesto's once, and if I recall it wasn't bad, but I do like Tres Hermanas and Vallejo's, even if Vallejo's might be a health code violation.

            For having a ton of Mexican fare in Sacto, very little of it is worth eating. Has anyone ever tried Luis's on Alhambra (puke!).

            1. re: fini

              Luis' on Alhambra has been closed for a couple of years. I had to do a double take on the date of Fini's post since this thread is 4+ years old. But on June 1, 2007, Luis' of Alhambra has been long gone. That said, there is a Luis' Jr on 6th and J Street that seems to have improved upon the nasty Luis' of Alhambra experience. Its not the best Mex in Sacto by any means, but it is not as gross as the original Luis. Also, they have Very Strong Margaritas.

          3. re: David

            Hmm... I thought I posted a response to this already but is seems to have gotten lost is Cyberspace. Anyway...

            Ernesto's food really isn't spicy or flavorful enough to say it's great, but it's at least not terrible. My girlfriend is somewhat fond of the enchiladas verdes. Expect long waits, decent margaritas.

            Honestly, I think in the downtown area you're a little better off at Taco Loco. It's a casual (order at the counter and wait for your number) California Fresh-Mex place. The fish tacos aren't too bad, they use shark and cabbage. I like what they mistakenly call "al pastor," though it's really a stewed pork dish, but it's pretty good. Dos Equis on tap, both the Lager and Amber. 2326 J Street.


            1. re: David

              I think Chicago's population is a little bigger than Sacramento's. Better comparison would be the Bay Area or LA. Also, isn't Chicago's emphasis -- at least in my experience it is -- more on the authentic Mexican rather than the Mexican-American with Bayless and his alums leading the way?

              You can get some decent stuff in Sacramento, but a lot of it is going to aim towards the large poor Mexican population, taquerias and the like.

              1. re: Nick

                Wow how did this thread get back on top? Anyways as an update, Carmelitas in Fair Oaks has been remodeled. It is gorgeous now.

                BTW, been to Ernesto's and Tres Hermanos many times. Ernesto's is not my favorite. Tres Hermanos is pretty good but not in my neighborhood.

                1. re: bennyboy1

                  Xochimilco is still my favorite in Sacto, with Caballo Blanco and Vallejos (the 4th and S one) close seconds. Zocalo is also good, but more upscale. Better than Ernestos, but I think both restaurants are owned by the same people.

                  1. re: jennyo

                    Where is Xochimilco? What do you like there?

                    1. re: hewn

                      There were, only the one on Auburn near Madison. Great menudo!
                      The basic beans and tortillas are so good.

                      1. re: jennyfur

                        I have driven by that place a million times.... never tried it... moved away... damn!

                    2. re: bennyboy1

                      Anyone have feedback on El Novillero? I haven't been there in years, but I know a bunch of people who still think it's the best in town.

                      Went to Vallejo's a few weeks ago and liked my meal. It was something unique to the restaurant, and I can't remember what it was called. It was like a sandwich made with tortillas. Good, but not great. The nachos are big enough to feed two people.

                      1. re: mixmastermidori

                        for some reason i don't like the way they prepare the food at novillero. it basically all comes down to personal preference. some people like certain cooking styles and others don't. If i had to pick good places, i would go with caballo blanco, los jarritos, island tacos (even burritos are good), and la fiesta on 65th and folsom (not of the la favorita chain).and for tortas i like the new place on mlk and fruitridge i think its called alimentos (algo?) which cooks d.f. style . the best tacos i've had here were from taco trucks that no longer exist. i'm also not a fan of the la favorita/girabaldi chain b/c their food seems so bland and not fresh. well just my 10 cents!

                2. I have been to Carmelitas since it was refurbished, and I couldn't even finish my order and did not want it packed to go. I really like Colina de Oro in Plymouth, CA; it sure isn't a pretty place, but the food is pleasing. Having moved up here from the Los Angeles area, I tend to make comparisons of Mexican restaurants and should not do so because we had the greatest in East LA and elsewhere in town.

                  3 Replies
                  1. re: goodfeeder

                    I agree with goodfeeder. We tried Carmelita's in old Roseville and did not care for the food at all. Everything was a bit blah. Since then, we've discovered La Rosa Blanca on Fulton Ave (about a mile from Watt, across from the Honda dealership). Food is fantastic, lots of flavor in the beans and green sauces, best chicken enchiladas verdes I've had in the area (and believe me we've tried a LOT of places!). Really haven't had anything bad there in the three or four times we've been. Wish they'd open one closer to us up here in Rocklin. Family owned, been in the area for a very long time, service was great. I'd highly recommend area Mexican food fans to give it a try.

                    1. re: SpencerLV

                      Gotta disagree about La Rosa Blanca. Just got home from dinner there. The chips were good, the salsa OK. From there, it was down hill. I've had better guacamole out of a plastic container from Safeway. The food had no seasoning and no character. You'd expect Mexican food like this in an assisted living center. Go to Taco Bell instead. Better yet, go to Three Sisters on Folsom Blvd. Best and most authentic we've found since coming home to Sacramento.

                      1. re: Big Steve

                        I totally agree on that. I have been there many times over the years and I have never been pleased. What is funny though, is that i can remember exactly how the food tasted the first time I ever went there. And it tastes the same now.

                        Always someone says let's try this and off we go.

                  2. Hey, if you want the opinion of a guy who comes from a hardcore-mexican-cooking family, you gotta try Casa Ramos restaurant on Sunrise Blvd across from the mall. It's the closest to True Authentic Mexican cooking that I've had anywhere in Sacramento. The spices and tastes come close to my mom's cooking. They are awesome. Their margaritas are amazing too. (oh, and the complimentary chips and salsa will have you asking for more)