Thursday, April 23, 1998
Taquerias might not be as well-known in other parts of the country, but around California they've become a mainstay in the gimme-something-good-and-make-it-snappy food scene. And there are probably just as many styles of taquerias as there are varying flavors within indigenous caf society, one would hope. Taquerias are also something that just seem to run in the Fonseca family. Jose Fonseca used to make his living selling tacos on the streets of Mexico City, the same as his four brothers. Since coming north to America, three of the brothers have succeeded in opening the doors to their own businesses, with the whole family of husbands, wives and children pitching in to open taqueria number three, Mi Casita, almost two months ago. They now put their own twist on this brand of fast Mexican food and bring a little more variety to the Cannery Row bill of fare.
Juanita Fonseca introduces everyone, her parents, Jose and Rosa, and cousins Delores and Hector, all wearing red polo shirts that identify them as part of the Mi Casita team. The sharp uniforms, polished wooden floor and brightly lit dining area with the big overhead menu board seem to indicate burger-and-fry type American fast food--until one looks closer to discover menu choices that reveal regional, authentic Jalisco-style Mexican dishes, things they probably still haven''t heard tell of yet back in the Midwest.
An interesting selection of grilled, roasted and braised meats is what this regional style of cooking is about, with interesting choices like lengua and cabesa (beef tongue and beef cheeks, respectively, to gringos), that set this menu apart. Jose Fonseca makes a special green sauce from tomatillos, chiles and garlic to serve over these delicacies that won''t appeal to everyone, but makes a delicious alternatives to more predictable fare.
Another style of chile verde, made from green peppers, flavors the stewed pork. Roasted pork carnitas and Mexican-style barbecued pork or chicken is also popular. Grilled beef and chicken make up the rest of the meat items, which can be enjoyed a number of ways--as a sandwich, or torta, as a quesadilla, inside a burrito or as an enchilada or soft taco.
Fajitas are much in demand, as are the complete dinners served with a choice of meat accompanied by beans and rice.
Other distinctive items on Mi Casita''s menu are the burrito ranchero, filled with sliced steak that has been cooked with tomatoes, onions, bell peppers and mushrooms; and shrimp, or camarones, offered in the same style or sauted with garlic. Shrimp also appears as a salad, as does fresh octopus. Along with fresh red and green salsas and pico de gallo, Jose also makes chorizo, the spicy Mexican sausage.
There is little left here by way of a reminder for those that might remember this spot as the spot of what was formerly The Club House, the jazz club from a lifetime past. As business grows, so will plans to open an additional dining room in the downstairs part of the building.
Die-hard taqueria aficionados may find something familiar about the menu, however, especially if they''ve done some taste-testing in the Salinas area. Los Gallos Taqueria in the Santa Rita Plaza is owned and operated by Fonseca brother, Israel. The many members of the enterprising Fonseca family may now be found at both venues, as they go about introducing the Central Coast to the pleasures particular to their native cuisine and the increasing presence of the taqueria contingency.