Many years ago, I lived briefly in Delano. The highlight of my time there was the availability of great Mexican food at several small, family owned places…lunches with my colleagues were often a delicious adventure….I remember those lunches so fondly that, when I moved back to the Central Valley a few years ago, to Merced, I was sure I’d find lots of great Mexican restaurants. Alas, it hasn’t been the case…I’ve had to go as far afield as Fresno to find truly good Mexican food.
Still, now that I live in the Valley I find myself on the 99 fairly often, heading to or from LA for work or to visit World’s Cutest Granddaughter. On several trips, we’ve pulled off the freeway at Delano, as I’ve convinced hubby that even though it has been over thirty years, those good places must still exist.
We haven’t had much luck, partly because hubby isn’t in to spending a lot of time on the chase. However, on my latest trip this past Sunday, the hunt finally paid off.
La Perla Tapatia is a small place with a crowded parking lot, just a few blocks off of the freeway. I sat in a comfortable aging booth, and was immediately brought a chipotle sauce (can’t comment on that one since I am not a chipotle fan) and an excellent, hot salsa fresca, with nicely done chips. Strong well-made ice tea followed very shortly. Things were looking up. Ambiance was almost non-existent, although a well-made home video was playing on a big screen. I overheard the hostess, who is apparently the owner, tell another patron that the video was taken at a rodeo and fiesta in her home town, a small town in Jalisco (no surprise there, given the name of the place…).
The menu is fairly limited and heavy on the seafood options. Chilaquiles and other breakfast items are served until 11:30 a.mm.. First up was caldo de pollo. I was hoping for caldo de res, but alas they were out. No worries. The chicken soup was darn near perfect: a huge bowl with full, flavorful broth, chunks of chayote, zucchini, potato and carrot, all cooked to just the right doneness, with lovely herbs. Rice, cilantro, chopped onions and lemon slices came on the side to doctor it up, not that it needed it. Best of all, large pieces of tender and flavorful chicken, still on the bone. No, actually, that was the second best part: my soup came with three large, hand-made tortillas that were fresh and hot. I asked my server who made them, she smiled and answered, ‘the cook’. The real deal. All this was $6.95, an outstanding value.
But I didn’t stop there: had to try the tacos ($1.50 each IIRC) so I had one each of carnitas and lengua. Both meats came on house-made tacos (smaller than the ones that came with my soup) and just as fresh. Hubby wasn’t with me trip, but he’d have appreciated that neither meat was overly salted. (as carnitas unfortunately often are). The lengua was juicy, the carnitas were crisp and porky; both tacos came with cilantro and onions, and of course I added on more of the salsa.
Total for my meal, which truly was enough for two people, with tip, was about $13. Yes, La Perla is definitely a gem. Oh, and by the way, there is some construction coming up on the Five. La Perla and 99 may be just the antidote.
La Perla Tapatia
1230 High St, Delano, CA 93215