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Huevos Rancheros Search Continues: El Norteno and Mijita Report (long)....

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Huevos Rancheros Search Continues: El Norteno and Mijita Report (long)....

susancinsf | Apr 23, 2005 04:57 PM

I had a few mornings to myself, so decided to go out on the never ending quest for good huevos rancheros...For those of you who are obsessed, as I am, here are the two latest entries, both of which, I am sorry to say, turned out to be disappointments. Two very different places, two very different versions, both came close, but ultimately didn't make the cut. My report follows:

Friday morning, had the day off work, time to head to El Norteno, which Patrick had endorsed several times as having an authentic version. Finally navigated around the light rail construction, and found the place on Third Street in the Bayview. You can't park on Third these days, but on a Friday am no problem finding street parking around the corner.

El Norteno is a cavernous but low key place, mostly a taqueria, but with a few breakfast choices that apparently are available all day. You place your order at the counter and the friendly staff bring it to you. I liked the vibe very much.

I ordered an orange juice and the huevos. The counter person turned to the cook behind her to ask if there was 'jugo de naranja' (they do speak English as well). He smiled a yes, pulled some oranges out of a sack under the counter, and started running them through a hand squeezer right in front of me. You gotta love it.

Other drink options include Mexican sodas and beer. Negro Modelo is $3 per bottle.

The jugo was brought out promptly, a generous serving, along with a good size order of chips and salsa. Chips tasted fresh, if just a bit greasy, and home made. The red salsa served with them was made with canned tomatos, but you could see the pieces of cilantro and chunks of jalapeno. They used real jalapenos: this was the spiciest salsa I've had in a Mexican restaurant in a long time. More bonus points, on top of the ones they already racked up for the fresh squeezed juice....I also saw a very good (and fresh) looking salsa verde going out to some of the other tables, so if you prefer that just ask...

The eggs came out promptly, on a plate with some very good Mexican rice, average beans and four excellent, fresh corn tortillas. Unfortunately, the eggs themselves didn't quite make it. Yes, they were sunny side up, cooked to perfection on grilled tortillas, but they were totally covered with chopped, raw pieces of tomato, raw bell pepper and rather harsh (also raw) onion. These weren't small pieces either: about the size you would see in a stir-fry. After I scrapped them off there wasn't much of the rather plain tomato sauce underneath..

Sigh. So close, yet not there. I wouldn't go back for the huevos, but I will go back on the strength of the juice, salsa, and friendly servers, and try one of the tacos de lengua or al pastor next time. Or, given that this place is only ten minutes from my home, perhaps I will try the eggs again and ask for them 'sin veduras'...

Total cost for my meal with tax and tip was something like $8 (the huevos themselves were $5, an indisputable bargain if you like raw vegetables).

Saturday morning: had an errand to run near the Ferry Building for some last minute Passover preparations. It is unusual for me to be out there early, but there I was, early enough that there wasn't a line at Mijita. I was debating whether to give them a shot, when I saw someone picking up their huevos and they sure looked like the real thing....so, I ordered the huevos and a hot chocolate, and fortunately remembered to also order a side of tortillas (one of several aspects of Mijita I find annoying is that tortillas are extra. Those four, which would have come as a matter of course with a breakfast at any little cafe in Mexico or the Mission, were 90 cents). (at Mijita everything except salsa is extra).

Picked up the eggs when they called my number a minute or two later. Tbey certainly looked beautiful: beans on the side, eggs perfectly fried sunnyside up, lots of thick, smoky red sauce, and no vegetables...I took my first bite with great anticipation...

and they were cold! Not just not steaming hot, but cold! There was cheese underneath the eggs on the tortillas, and it was starting to congeal. Even the beans on the side were only lukewarm. So disappointing, because actually in all other respects these were amazing close to the huevos of my dreams (and of any little cafe on the plaza in Morelia): the sauce was certainly tasty, the eggs were cooked right, the tortillas were very good....(even the hot chocolate was fairly good, and at least it was hot).

Well, I was amazed: how could fried eggs made while I waited be cold? I didn't wait forever for my order. So why? Was it the sauce? Something else? Since Mijita has an open kitchen, I decided to investigate.

And quickly realized the reason. As I watched a cook making the eggs, he first put the tortillas on the grill while another cook started frying the eggs in a saute pan. So far, so good. Then, cook number one reached into the fridge, pulled out some slices of white cheese, and put them right on the tortillas. Almost immediately, as soon as the eggs were done, cook number two put the tortillas with cheese on a plate, and topped them with the eggs and then with sauce.

Mystery solved. Clearly, the cheese was so cold to start with that it cooled the entire dish. The cheese certainly wasn't melted by the time the eggs were put on top....

Now, there were many pots bubbling on the back of the stove, so why the beans were lukewarm, that I can't explain.

Total cost for my eggs, extra tortillas, and hot chocolate was about $13.

This experience reflects my general annoyance with Mijita. Clearly, they understand what certain dishes should be, and they use tasty ingredients. Both the huevos and the albondigas, so elusive elsewhere, could really be worth the extra price tag, if only they paid attention to the basics: serve hot food hot (last time I had albondigas there it was also sort of lukewarm), clean out the darn salsa squirt bottles if you insist on using bottles (mine was blocked and I couldn't get salsa out without spilling all over me), serve food with tortillas on the side, don't nickle and dime the customer when you charge those prices...

You get the idea...

Nonetheless, I have to admit, I might give those Mijita huevos another change, by going early, and specifying that I want them without cheese. As such, they might come close to being what I've been looking for...

One more side note on one of my other current quest (Chilaquiles): they don't have them on the menu at El Norteno (a pity) and I wouldn't order them at Mijita. True, the chilaquiles at Mijita are made without eggs, but they use very crisp tortilla chips. As I've said before, chilaquiles are *not* nachos....

Anyway, the quest continues....

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