La Valentina Mexican - Long Branch
Had been driving past this place for some time and finally decided to check it out. In recent years these little taquerrias serving the local Mexican communities have sprung up all over. In my area they are ubiquitous in Freehold, Red Bank and Long Branch. Generally they are small grocery stores or bodegas with a stove & griddle in the back that serve prepared foods for their customers. Sometimes they expand the food preparation until the retail grocery portion of their business is eclipsed.
This is definitely not the case at La Victoria on Broadway in Long Branch. This busy bodega that occupies a couple storefronts a block or so west of the no-mans land at the east end of Broadway. The front end sells all manner of groceries, produce and dry goods, while the restaurant in the back has expanded to more than a dozen tables and a full kitchen which is in full view of the dining area. There is a rear entrance to the restaurant that opens onto a municipal parking lot off of Memorial Dr.
I was there early on a Wednesday evening in mid December. The place had a couple tables occupied when I arrived, and 4 or 5 more were taken while I was there. They also were doing a brisk takeout business. Soon after being seated a basket of tortilla chips and a couple bowls of salsa were placed on the table with the menu. The salsas were smoother than those served at most Tex-Mex places but more in keeping with those served at the local authentic Mexican places that now outnumber them. The verde salsa spiked with tomatillo, cilantro & lime had a particularly impressive kick!
I ordered the Coctel de Camerone and Tacos al Pastore. One should not confuse the Coctel de Camerones to the American appetizer shrimp cocktail. In place of the standard sauce of catsup & horseradish is a sauce more akin to gazpacho, with chunks of avocado, cilantro and red onion in a spicy tomato base. This is mixed with chopped butterflied shrimp along with a few butterflied shrimp on the sides. It is served with saltines and wedges of lime. Heavenly!
The tacos are made using house made tortillas that held up really well to the ample filling of spicy sauteed pork with diced red onion and pineapple. There are over a dozen other fillings available such as beef tongue, pork skin, choriso, goat and chicken. Tacos are served with grilled jalapenos, green onions and sliced cucumber. I asked for extra grilled jalapenos so I could add some to each of the tacos.
This is a great addition to our dining scene, though to be honest due to my inability to speak decent Spanish I was not able to find out how long they've been there. Still, La Valenina is well worth checking out to quell any Mexican food jones you may be suffering!
Travelling solo I had an opportunity before my gig to have dinner last night at La Valentina as per my buddy =Mark suggested and I was sure glad I did. This cozy little gem in Long Branch has some excellent Mexican food. Although so many items to choose I ordered the same thing that Mark did
Coctel de Camerone and Tacos al Pastore. (Pictured)...simply put DELICIOUS!! The Mex Shrimp cocktail was one of the best I ever has anywhere. Served in a Giant Goblet & Loaded with Shrimp, Avocado, Cilantro, etc,..sooooooo gooood! Service was friendly & informative, atmosphere for being in the back of a grocery store was colorful, cozy, like being in a small Mexican cafe,...lol....the homemade Salsa picante & Tomatillo sauces was fresh and added a great heat compliment to my Pork Tacos as did the grilled jalapeno & long green onion included on the side, washed it down with a big glass of homemade "Jamaica juice". The Tortilla was grilled perfectly also yum! & the price is right!....... If in the area give La Valentina a try, they are open 8:AM to 9:30PM 7 days a week...Enjoy!