Peer inside a Sacramento-area taqueria during lunch or dinner. You’ll see customers digging into staples such as burritos, tacos, nachos and enchiladas while slightly harder-to-pronounce menu items remain somewhat neglected by comparison.
Whether through preference, ignorance or stubbornness, many people stick to their guns when dining at local taquerias. Menu items like sopes, barbacoa and pozole don’t always get the recognition they deserve from customers who didn’t grow up eating them, workers at simple Mexican restaurants around town said.
Here’s what else to order at seven taquerias around Sacramento, as told by the people working there.
Taqueria Santos Laguna (6727 Folsom Blvd.)
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What to order: Huarache
What it is: Beans, pico de gallo, guacamole, sour cream and the customer’s choice of meat piled onto what is essentially a plate of fried masa, or corn dough. It’s commonly found as street food around Mexico City but can be hard to find in American cities without a sizable Hispanic influence.
What they say: “If you like sopes, it’s like that, just bigger. Huarache, in English, means ‘sandal,’ so it’s basically a long sope.” — cashier Guillermo Gutierrez.
Lalo’s Restaurant (5063 24th St.)
What to order: Molcajete
What it is: A medley of meat and vegetables cooked and served in a four-legged stone bowl. Lalo’s comes with chicken, steak, chorizo, onion, cactus, cheese and salsa, plus rice and beans on the side.
What they say: “We put steak, chicken, we put chorizo, some cheese, onions and salsa in a big rock (bowl). ... I think the salsa’s really good. Some other restaurants will use shrimp or another kind of chorizo.” — server Maria Bacilio.
Roberta’s Cocina Mexicana (5635 Freeport Blvd.)
What to order: Menudo
What it is: Sometimes referred to as “Mexican hangover soup,” menudo is a red bowl of hominy, tripe and a somewhat spicy broth. Roberta’s serves menudo seven days per week, unlike the many other restaurants that treat it as a weekend special.
What they say: “I just think it’s the taste (that makes it special). Everything that goes into it is fresh ingredients, it comes with handmade (corn) tortillas and, I don’t know, it’s just made with a lot of love for the business.” — server Sophia Vasquez.
Alejandro’s Taqueria (911 K St.)
What to order: Camarones Rancheros
What it is: Shrimp cooked in a sauce of tomatoes, onions, bell peppers, jalapenos and orange juice. Alejandro’s also sells camarones a la diabla, shrimp made with chile de arbol peppers, and camarones al ajo cooked in a garlic sauce.
What they say: “(Orange juice) gives it a bit of a distinguishable taste. ... It’s kind of sweet and tangy.” — manager Luis Barrera.
La Fiesta Alteña (1105 Alhambra Blvd. in Sacramento, 1008 E. Bidwell St. in Folsom, 1563 Eureka Blvd. in Roseville)
What to order: Tres Mares Caldo
What it is: Hot soup with octopus, fish, shrimp, cauliflower, broccoli and peppers. This seafood stew can take at least 15 minutes to prepare, enough to scare off some lunchtime diners in need of a quick bite.
What they say: “It’s kind of like a hot pot. We put the veggies first in the oil, cook them, and then mix the fish and shrimp and octopus in with salsa.” — manager Blanca Palomino.
Los Inmortales Taqueria Cocina Mexican (3131 Fruitridge Road)
What to order: Alambre
What it is: This fajita-like dish boasts steak, bacon, bell peppers, shrimp and cheese as main ingredients and is often cooked on skewers or on a griddle. Rice, beans, guacamole, sour cream, salsa and tortillas all come on the side at Los Inmortales.
What they say: “People say they’re special because they don’t see them anywhere else. The meat has a lot to do with it.” — manager Jeoeanny Contreras.
Taqueria Espinoza (3671 Franklin Blvd.)
What to order: Birria de Borrego
What it is: This hot red soup is similar to the more widely-seen goat birria, only it’s made with lamb — a fattier, softer meat. It’s served during the weekend and comes with rice and beans as well as a house salsa made from red jalapenos.
What they say: “The lamb has a different taste than the goat. ... We just put the cilantro and onion on the side, and we have this spicy salsa as well.“ — owner Laura Martinez.