What's better than dining at a three star Michelin restaurant? Not a whole lot. But discoering a new favorite taco shop that'll satisfy your needs for 1/10 the price of the French Laundry isn't bad either.
Last week I had plans to visit the East Bay Restaurant Supply store to do some browsing and maybe pick up a few items with my roommate from freshmen year and long time buddy Tim. Before we went though there was an important matter that needed to be resolved. Where were we going to go for lunch? My stomach said it could go for pizza but Cheeseboard was closed and Zachary's was a bit heavy for my needs. Furthermore, I really felt like trying something new. I suggested Bay Wolf or Dopo but Tim shrugged them off. "Naw man, I got a better idea. Let's go to Fruitvale baby!" Awwww yeah.
I don't know why it took me so long to make my first trip out there, especially given the dismal Mexican food scene in the immediate Berkeley area. Anyway, I was very excited for my first Fruitvale taco. Tim promised that it would rival even those of SoCal. Standing in line I was confronted with a wonderful dilemma: I didn't know what to get because everything looked good.
I love it when this happens because quite often everything is good.
I decided to get three tacos, one of al pastor, one of carne asada and a third with carnitas. I also ordered a strawberry agua fresca to wash it all down. We snacked on the complimentary chips and salsa as we waited. Free chips and salsa are key in my book for a good taqueria.
The tacos arrived, dressed liberally with a red chili sauce and a sprinkling of cilantro and onion, along with limes and radishes on the side. I took my first bite and immediately experienced the fresh flavor explosion that for me characterizes good Mexican food.
All three of the tacos were absolutely delicious but I have to agree with Tim (pictured above as he devours his tacos) that the al pastor, or bbq pork taco, was the winner. I was thinking about my next visit to Taqueria San Jose even before we had left. I still haven't come to a conclusion as to what I will order though. The shrimp super burrito sounds really good but I'm tempted to try out their more adventurous tacos de cabeza or tacos de lengua. Normally I would be skeptical but with the quality of the three tacos I had and with the turnover rate at the restaurant I feel pretty safe ordering these out of the ordinary items. I'll be sure to let you know how it goes when I make it back as long as I don't get sidetracked by the many other taquerias in the area. That might not be a bad thing though. I've always considered hunting out the best taco shop in a given area to be a noble quest and applaud the foodies who have such stamina and determination.
Taqueria San Jose
3433 International Boulevard
Oakland, CA 94601