by Terrance Mc Arthur
Our roving food critic Terrance Mc Arthur continues his search for great food in Sanger and the surrounding communities. Check out more Great Food Search here!
Consider the lowly taco!
I grew up on my mother’s Anglo tacos: greasy hamburger crumbles in a break-apart tortilla shell, with shredded cheddar cheese, lettuce, and ketchup on top. I know, that’s as far from a true taco as anyone can get, but I want you to understand my starting point for this Great Food Search journey into the world of the taqueria. A taqueria can be a restaurant, or it can be little more than a kitchen, a food truck without wheels. I sampled tacos from several points along the spectrum, and I had a pretty good time of it.
Ortega’s Taqueria, 1339 I Street, Reedley:
Recently moved into a bigger location, Ortega’s now has a large dining area, and I understand that they actually have food trucks that ply the Valley. I consider it the Burger King of taquerias—Have it your way. Order tacos, and you are presented with the meat of your choice on a hand-sized, two-ply, corn tortilla. To the right is a salad bar of fixin’s: chopped onions, cilantro, and your choice of salsas. I tried the asada (beef) and the pastor (pork) tacos ($1.25). They were tender, not greasy, and tasty. They have dinners with rice and beans, but the tacos are the stars, low-priced and high-caliber.
Now housed in what was a liquor store at Greenwood and Jensen, it’s less than half a mile from my home. Why haven’t I been here before? Taqueria Morales doesn’t have a lot of space, but the place is all about the food. I ordered asada and pastor tacos ($1.50)…and then I saw, hiding in plain sight on the menu, camarones (shrimp, $1.75). How could I resist? These tacos came fully-decorated with chunks of onion, shreds of lettuce, cilantro, and a hearty slice of radish on the double-layer tortillas. The salsa was syrupy (in a good way), and there were happy lime slices for the squeezing. The beef and pork were chunky, with a friendly spiciness, and the shrimp was a welcome change of pace, not mushy and not dry. It didn’t fry my taste buds, but it made them sit up and say “What was that?” Velasco’s, 641 Academy Ave., Sanger:
On a nobody-wants-to-cook day, we went to Velascos Mexican restaurant, and I decided to try their tacos, along with my favorite Mexican dish, chile relleno. I had shredded beef tacos ($1.99 on the a la carte menu). The meat was tender and full-flavored, ready to break out of the glistening tortillas, with onions, lettuce and multiple cheeses.
Sofia’s California Cuisine, 1028 N St, (at 11th St.), Sanger:
I’ve already written about how much I like this restaurant, but I hadn’t tried their Sanger Tacos ($9.95 dinner). From the avocado accent to the flash-fried tortillas that plumped up like a puffer fish but didn’t disintegrate at first bite, this was classy cuisine. The lettuce was the good stuff, not pale and limp.
The customers. Each one of these places has great food, and I’d be happy to go back.
• Ortega’s: great price and the do-it-yourself style.
• Morales: good price, spicy fun, good to grab and go
• Velasco’s: family atmosphere, tasty, loved the hot shredded beef
• Sofia’s: fantastic service, politely elegant décor, and tasty food
Have fun, and keep eating (within reason).