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Hwy 101 co-opted; need help with new taco plan!

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Thanks to Melanie, we were warned that getting to Santa Rosa and Healdsburg this w'end is likely to be fraught. Since I'm craving Mexican, I'm thinking a return to Fruitvale is in order.

Could be my horrendous searching skills, but I couldn't find a crawl thread since mine here: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/5620...

Short notice, I know, but I'd appreciate any updates, intel or new places you love by Friday so I can plot strategy. We will have wheels this time. Many thanks!

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  1. El Huarache Azteca for fresh masa items and smoked lamb

    Mariscos La Costa

    Fruitvale's arguably better without a car, the bridge returning to SF can get horribly backed up on weekends, especially if you don't have a FasTrak transponder.

    If you do have a car, don't miss Jalisco Cafe, and as long as you're down there, you should hit Ba Le for the main challenger to Saigon Sandwich for #1 banh mi.

    Also nearby: Mithapheap (formerly Sontepheap), Lao Market, Pho An Sen.

    Since you'll have a car, if it's Saturday, I suggest a visit to Fusebox on the way back to SF. Then you're set up to get on the Grand Ave. approach to the bridge, which is usually the least backed-up.

    1. This is the most recent crawl I know of: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/7287...

      I think Robert's recommendations are good.

      23 Replies
      1. re: Ruth Lafler

        I knew I'd seen a more recent crawl, dammit! Thanks, Ruth for that link and Robert for additions -- still haven't had a banh mi in the Bay Area.

        Going for Burmese in East Bay that night so may not need to worry too much re bridge traffic, plus we may opt to BART over to save the back and forth earlier in the day too.

        Scrambled to put this together so apologies if I cocked it up and I realize the geog order may be screwed up too (praying that I'll have time to add addresses and that my data package works in Fruitvale!). Oh how I miss the restaurant database on CH...

        Any further suggestions/deletions etc welcomed!

        El Novillo - split 1 carnitas 1 tripa taco
        El Ojo de Agua for 1 agua fresca, 1 atole bring paper cups to split
        Any fruit cart on International for corn; ask for it
        Check out panaderias on the way up Fruitvale
        Tamales Acapulco split red chili tinted tamales and cilantro salsa verde 1680 Fruitvale Ave, 2 blocks north of E 14th St (International Blvd) am only
        La Gran Chiquita Taqueria split moranga
        El Oasis dessert raspado, escamocha ("fruit salad")
        Mi Pueblo Food Center on High Street to browse, watch the tortillas come out of the machine, if it's still there
        Cross back over High St. to El Grullo and get a carnitas taco.
        Walk back down to International to 42nd. If El Gordo is open, get an al pastor taco and a suardero taco.
        Continue back down International to El Huarache Azteca for fresh masa sope, smoked lamb
        Chaac-Mool deli for cochinita, carnitas serranas, milanesa in the style of Jalisco, mixiotes Chilango style
        Taco Grill by BART station; daily special dish (to go?)
        Nieves Cinco de Mayo for ice cream/raspado in Fruitvale Public Mkt nr BART; maybe a churro from the outside vendor there

        other:
        Mi Grullense skip Al Pastor, carne asada better
        Sinaloa very good carnitas, literally dripping with lard. Fish tacos are good (nicely browned) on the rear truck, other seafood choices goo but it is
        several blks down Int'l away from other trucks.
        Otaez has a taqueria side, good cabeza and grilled chicken; they also have fish tacos, not nearly as browned as Sinaloa's, more moist; Azteca soup, whole fried fish is good
        Taqueria San Jose has its ups and downs, but I still like their Al Pastor and terrific tomatillo salsa.
        La Torta Loca. a counter in the side of a laundromat in the 3400 block of International, great pambazos (the traditional filling is chorizo and potato, but they'll do it with tinga if you ask) wide range of vegetarian options (nopales, squash blossom, mushrooms, peppers, etc.), Ruth liked huarache 2010
        Pipirin Taco Stand on 34th Ave and Farnam St, good barbacoa and pierna tacos, use steamed tortillas; consomme has nice depth of flavor and quite the kick to it.
        Jalisco Cafe
        Ba Le for the main challenger to Saigon Sandwich for #1 banh mi
        Mithapheap (formerly Sontepheap), Lao Market, Pho An Sen.
        Fusebox on the way back to SF

        1. re: grayelf

          it's a different style of cooking than the places you've listed, and the ingredients are high quality, so expect higher prices as well -- El Nido, not very far from the Fruitvale district.

          1. re: moto

            Nido's slightly upscale compared with your typical Fruitvale dive (still very bare-bones). The flavors are closer to what I've had in Mexico than anywhere else I've been. Full bar, excellent cocktails, limited but well-curated selections of wine and beer. I haven't been to any of the similar places in SF to compare, but it's in a class by itself in the East Bay (and I say that as a big fan of Comal).

            http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/886109

            But the street scene in Fruitvale feels almost like you've been teleported to Mexico.

            1. re: Robert Lauriston

              for us the overall experience at Comal was lacking (relative to price of course, with many options for Mexican-calif food around) and we have not returned. el Nido seems to have better focused cooking overall, an instance perhaps when smaller is better.

              1. re: moto

                Would that everything at Comal were as consistently great as the fish tacos, corn, and tripe, but it also has a great wine list and is open late.

          2. re: grayelf

            If you want to compare/contrast different styles of carnitas, the decadent roasted version at Casa Jimenez is my current favorite. They're served with excellent, fat, piping-hot tortillas.

            (Everything else on the menu is just OK, in my experience.)

            Here's a nice report:
            http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/849344

            1. re: grayelf

              That's an ambitious quantity of food.

              Going from SF to the East Bay for Burmese makes no sense to me.

              1. re: Robert Lauriston

                I think she meant Lao, since she loves Cafe Vientiene.

                1. re: Ruth Lafler

                  That makes more sense, and is a good reason to bother with a car.

              2. re: grayelf

                Mi Pueblo is still there and still makes fresh tortillas. El Ojo de Agua has moved and is no longer on that route. Yeah, the geography is a little wonky:

                El Novillo - split 1 carnitas 1 tripas taco
                Any fruit cart on International for corn; ask for it
                Check out panaderias on the way up Fruitvale
                Tamales Acapulco split red chili tinted tamales and cilantro salsa verde 1680 Fruitvale Ave, 2 blocks north of E 14th St (International Blvd) am only

                Once you've gone up Fruitvale these are no longer in your path since they are both on International:
                La Gran Chiquita Taqueria split moranga
                El Oasis dessert raspado, escamocha ("fruit salad"). They are on your route back to BART from High St.

                If you want to make the walk up Fruitvale to the next major street, which is Foothill (actually a good idea, since it walks off some food), then you can walk down Foothill to High Street.

                On Foothill:
                Lupita's cart for pupusas (get one and split)

                Maybe some birria from the hole-in-the-wall Taqueria Campos (3659 Foothill Blvd) or some ceviche from the truck next to the Hell's Angels HQ (I've forgotten the name)

                Then:
                Mi Pueblo Food Center on High Street to browse, watch the tortillas come out of the machine, if it's still there
                Cross back over High St. to El Grullo and get a carnitas taco.
                Walk back down to International to 42nd. If El Gordo is open, get an al pastor taco and a suardero taco.

                Continue back down International to El Huarache Azteca for fresh masa sope, smoked lamb

                Chaac-Mool is no more

                Taco Grill by BART station; daily special dish (to go?)
                Nieves Cinco de Mayo for ice cream/raspado in Fruitvale Public Mkt nr BART; maybe a churro from the outside vendor there

                Finally, if you haven't been to La Torta Loca, then you really need to make a stop there. Get a pambazo and ask for it with tinga.

                1. re: Ruth Lafler

                  Ruth's plan is geographically sound, and I have to second trying the tinga on something from La Torta Loca and a soup at Taqueria Campos. I stop by Mi Pueblo frequently for groceries, but don't necessarily think it's worth going out of your way for (especially without a car)--it is a large supermarket with a Mexican focus.

                  The "other" suggestions are also good, (though the spelling should be corrected to Pho Ao Sen.) I didn't want to dissuade you from Rangoon SuperStars in your initial thread, as I haven't been there, but it has gotten some meh reviews. And, since you are known for your love of Vientian Cafe, I would suggest a rice ball salad crawl, or collection while you are in the Fruitvale-proximal area, especially if you are in car. Soukh Savanh (Intl & 20th Ave) served me my favorite nam khao, but is inconsistent, and often out of many of the Lao menu items. Their nam khao was the first time I'd noticed toasted/fried coconut in the mix, though after that revelation, I've noticed it in some other versions. (I think Champa Garden, 8th Ave and 21st St., but my memory is a bit fuzzy on this. Champa Garden has less of the sour sausage in it than most.) Chai Thai (Intl & 6th Ave) and Sticky Rice Cafe (Intl & 28th Ave) also produce good versions. Vientian Cafe's version is great, and was previously my favorite. In my memory, it has more inherent sour flavor than many of the other versions--I know I've had to add a lot more lime to Champa and Souk Savanh's versions.

                  1. re: ...tm...

                    Thanks for the "second" on Taqueria Campos -- I've only had the birria from there, but it was exemplary, and the place is a bit of an experience.

                    1. re: Ruth Lafler

                      J Birdsall tweeted this photo of tripe soup at Taqueria Campos in Oakland.
                      https://twitter.com/John_Birdsall/sta...

                      But he's also promoting Richmond for Mexican food. Since rworange left us, we've not heard much on that front. What's new?
                      https://twitter.com/John_Birdsall/sta...

                      1. re: Melanie Wong

                        Yeah, I don't get up that way anymore, either. I wonder if they still have the illegal churro vendors (so much better than the legal ones!).

                    2. re: ...tm...

                      I did a search and didn't see any reviews of Rangoon Superstars on the board. We did end up having dinner there and it was quite enjoyable. Grayelf had the fabulous idea of ordering the tea leaf salad with the lettuce on the side, which they were happy to do.

                      I'll start a separate thread for the report.

                      1. re: Ruth Lafler

                        Right here,
                        http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/915998

                        1. re: Ruth Lafler

                          There's a topic on Rangoon Super Stars (I guess the search isn't smart enough to find it without the space) with several reports:

                          http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/915998

                          1. re: Robert Lauriston

                            Ah, thanks. Yes indeed, not smart enough to find it without the spaces.

                            1. re: Ruth Lafler

                              Would still be good to read your opinions.

                              1. re: Melanie Wong

                                I was waiting because I thought grayelf might include it in her trip report. I guess we can both chime in on the existing thread.

                          2. re: Ruth Lafler

                            I got the idea to ask for the lettuce separately a few years ago when we went to Burma Superstar and I read reports that it was lettuce-heavy. Asking for less lettuce seemed fraught (how much less?) so I requested it on the side and voila.

                            Just came home last night (wah) and will post ASAP on our snacking adventures but happy to chime in re RSuperstars on the thread below...

                      2. re: grayelf

                        I realize that grayelf is planning on a visit to the Fruitvale District on a weekend, but those interested in the delicious carnitas at Cafe Jalisco should be aware that it is only open 3 days a week: Friday (9am - 5 pm) and Saturday/Sunday (8 am - 5 pm).

                        Cafe Jalisco
                        1721 International Blvd
                        Oakland, CA
                        (510) 436-8696

                        1. re: zippo

                          Thanks for all the thoughtful responses. We'll have to wing it a bit but this thread is going to be a huge help. Here's a list with addresses and phone numbers to save others the trouble (I took out Ojo de Agua and Chaac Mool but haven't added in the new stuff yet, as the airport is beckoning!)

                          Fruitvale 2008 http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/5620...
                          2010: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/7287...

                          El Novillo Guadalajara Restaurant parking lot 1001 Fruitvale Blvd (510) 533-7294 elagavero.com/TACOTRUCK.html split 1 carnitas 1 tripa taco
                          Any fruit cart on International for corn; ask for it
                          Check out panaderias on the way up Fruitvale
                          Tamales Acapulco 1680 Fruitvale Ave, 2 blocks north of E 14th St (International Blvd) (between 16th St & 17th St) (510) 610-0199split red chili tinted tamales and cilantro salsa verde am only
                          La Gran Chiquita 3503 International Blvd nr 35th (510) 533-6484 split moranga taco
                          El Oasis 36 12 International Blvd nr 36th (510) 437-1695 dessert raspado, escamocha ("fruit salad"
                          )Mi Pueblo Food Center 1630 High Street to browse, watch the tortillas come out of the machine, if it's still there
                          Cross back over High St. to El Grullo International Blvd & 27th Ave and get a carnitas taco.
                          Walk back down to International to 42nd. If El Gordo is open, get an al pastor taco and a suardero taco 4201 International.
                          Continue back down International to El Huarache Azteca 3842 International Blvd (510) 533-2395 for fresh masa sope, smoked lamb
                          Taco Grill by BART station; daily special dish 3340 East 12th btwn 33rd and 34th (510) 534-3752
                          Nieves Cinco de Mayo for ice cream/raspado maybe a churro from the outside vendor there Fruitvale Public Market 3340 E 12th St Ste 2 (510) 533-6296
                          other:
                          Mi Grullense 1301 30th Ave nr International no phone skip Al Pastor, carne asada better
                          Sinaloa 2138 International Blvd nr 22nd (510) 535-1206 very good carnitas, literally dripping with lard. Fish tacos are good (nicely browned) on the rear truck, other seafood choices good but it is
                          several blks down Int'l away from other trucks.
                          Otaez 3872 International Blvd at 38th (510) 536-0909has a taqueria side, good cabeza and grilled chicken; they also have fish tacos, not nearly as browned as Sinaloa's, more moist; Azteca soup, whole fried fish is good
                          Taqueria San Jose 3433 International Blvd (510) 533-5748 has its ups and downs, but I still like their Al Pastor and terrific tomatillo salsa.
                          related to one in San Rafael
                          La Torta Loca. a counter in the side of a laundromat 3419 International, (510) 532-7105 great pambazos (the traditional filling is chorizo and potato, but they'll do it with tinga if you ask) wide range of vegetarian options (nopales, squash blossom, mushrooms, peppers, etc.), Ruth reccs huarache here 2010
                          Pipirin Taco Stand 34th Ave and Farnam St in parking lot, good barbacoa and pierna tacos, use steamed tortillas; consomme has nice depth of flavor and quite the kick to it. no phone
                          Jalisco Cafe 1721 International Blvd (510) 436-8696
                          Banh Mi Ba Le 1909 International Blvd (510) 261-9800 for the main challenger to Saigon Sandwich for #1 banh mi
                          Mithapheap Market (formerly Sontepheap) 1400 14th Ave nr International Blvd (510) 436-3826
                          Lao Market 1619 International Blvd (510) 536-5888
                          Pho Ao Sen. 1139 E 12th St nr 12th Ave (510) 835-5588