Taco Max is a little joint at the Coddingtown Mall (first spotted by Kare Raisu). Now I know you don't see this at malls everyday... Arturo - the guy working the grill (and taking orders, waiting tables & cashiering)... is the owner's brother and a CIA NY graduate!
The story is that he imigrated from the Cuernavaca area to New York in the 80's, went to culinary school, moved up the Manhattan scene... went to Miami to open up some Mexican restaurants for others... ended up owning his own place named.... Taco Max, and lost the business when a gas main shut his restaurant down for months.
He ended up moving to Santa Rosa to join his ill mother, and brother who wanted to get into the restaurant business. He is now working it for his brother until he can get enough investors together to open up an Alta Cocina restaurant. His food is obviously, uncommonly well & lovingly executed for mall food. Based on his recommendations, I had:
> Cochinita Pibil Taco... tender, earthy pork, with marinated red onion-habanero relish
> Fish Al Pastor Taco... nice pan-seared fish in an achiote rub, with grilled pineapple & a killer green salsa (simply jalapenos, olive oil & salt)
> Chicken Vegetable soup... big tender pieces of chicken breasts, chopped chayotes, carrots, celery, brocoli, new potatoes, corn kernels & herbs in a light-green broth.
Everything was very good (not perfect... pre-fab tortillas etc.,)... the Flan was absolutely outstanding. Flan Napolitano Cuernavaca style... which is like a hybrid of Flan & Cheesecake. The best part is this guy is so flexible... his standing offer is to do custom meals if he is given enough lead time.... including Tortitas de Huazontle etc., The great thing about what he does... is that he is deeply dialed in with the local farmers & has daily specials whenever he get his hands on local, seasonal produce (he offers a salad of locally grown lettuce with his cilantro-serrano dressing)... also makes his own Cesar dressing etc.,
While the food I had wasn't perfect... you can tell he really loves cooking & he is doing his part to inform consumers & be more than your typical Cal-Mex taqueria. When I was there... a middle aged white man showed up for some carnitas tacos... then Arturo explained to him that the Cochinita was the best pork dish he had available... to which the customer was very willing to try.
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