Finding Tacos Moreno in Santa Cruz closed, then getting no answer when I tried to called Fiesta Tepa-Sahuayo, we decided to cruise Watsonville to see what might still be serving lunch. We got off the highway at Freedom Boulevard to take the scenic route south.
As we approached Corralitos, my dad said that there used to be more orchards and some interesting antique shops here. I'd not been in this area since I was a child. The collectibles shop on the corner where you'd turn to go up to Corralitos Market was already closed. But the "Open" red neon sign was on at El Azteca. A large sign on the door offered Christmas tamales for $15/dozen. The grill outside was shiny clean and not in use. The staff told us they didn't expect any customers today so didn't fire it up.
The chile relleno was the pick of our lunch orders. My dad had his on the lunch special (available every day) for $4.95 with rice and beans. I had the combo plate of a chile relleno with a tamale. Hearing the sound of eggs being whisked in the kitchen let me know these were made to order. My dad liked the large, thick pepper shell. The eggy batter was very fluffy and light and had a crispy browned edge, just the way I like it, and not too much cheese in the stuffing. While mild, the sauce was flavorful and I'll bet it's even better during tomato season.
The other interesting dish was William's chile verde plate. Here it's made with beef rather than pork. The brown sauce was not spicy hot, but had a lot of complexity and mild roasted chili flavors. It looked more like a good German brown sauce. The flour tortillas brushed with butter served with it were wonderful. Our waiter told me they came from La Rosa, a local producer.
My cheese and jalapeno tamale was just okay. The masa was oversalted and too stiff. The rice and beans were an afterthought. My mom's carnitas taco and ground beef taco were just fair.
Not a destination, but I'll be thinking about El Azteca's chile relleno for my next pass through this area.
El Azteca Mexican Restaurant
2904 Freedom Blvd
Corralitos, CA 95076