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Coalinga, CA

george osner | | Nov 21, 1999 07:00 PM

When traveling in the San Joaquin valley, if I don't have any particular recommendations, I look for a promising Mexican spot. These don't always pan out, but I've had a lot of "hits" overall. This weekend we were in Coalinga (short for Coaling Station A--it's a railroad town) for an event known as WHAMOBASS--a 35-year tradition for hot air balloonists, the longest-continuously-run hot air event in the world, and huge fun.

Friday night, at loose end, we stopped by the little coffee house downtown for a cuppa & asked if they had any dinner recommendations. When the response was a wan "I guess you could go to Perko's" I knew we were in trouble (Perko's is a Denny's clone). I shifted gears and asked if she preferred any of the Mexican places in town, she brightened perceptibly and said "oh! yes--Cazuela's," and proceeded to give me directions.

Cazuela's is a very small spot, maybe 12 tables, located in a strip mall on the south end of town (I think THE strip mall in Coalinga, it's not a big place). My test dish for Mexican is the chile relleno. I'm happy to report that mine was fluffy and succulent, with real Mexican cheese oozing from the fresh pepper. The rice and beans were standard, the tortilla chips were a bit greasy for my taste. I enjoyed it and I expect we'll return next time we're in Coalinga.

As for Saturday's the next message!