After receiving a tip from a local restaurant, we went to La Bamba in Richmond for lunch yesterday. It's right off I-80 at the San Pablo exit, literally right after you exit you pull into the parking lot. We'vre been looking for more authentic Mexican in the north East Bay closer to home than Oakland and its plethora of Mexican eateries. I'm also bored with the good, but more generic Mexican eateries like Cactus and Picante. They are not spicy enough for my taste.
La Bamba has an open, airy feeling and the kitchen is wide open. You sit down and they bring menus, though there is a menu on the wall too. We both had the combination plate with one taco, a papusa, and rice and beans. We received chips and salsa too. The salsa was excellent and very spicy, but the chips seemed like those from a bag, though they were good enough and nicely crunchy.
I had an Al Pastor taco and a chicharron papusa. The taco was tasty, with the right balance of taste and spiciness. The pork was well flavored and the tortilla fresh tasting. However, the chicharron was different than I expected. When I've had chicharron in the past, usually in burritos, it was very crunchy and flavorful. In the papusa, it appeared to be mashed, with the texture of refried beans. It had a very earthy flavor. Good, but I'll pass next time.
My wife had a carnitas taco, which was very good as well (I don't have a detailed flacor report from her and I didn;t try it), and a cheese papusa. The cheese papusa was excellent, using a more flavorful cheese rather than the usual drab monterey jack. I would order this again.
The rice and beans were also very good. I like rice that is flavorful enough, but does not try to be its own gourmet item. The rice at La Bamba fit the bill and had a nice texture. The beans would fit this description as well.
La Bamba also has a number of El Salvadorian items as well. Those are next on my list of items to try, which will be very soon!
If there are other Mexican places in the north East Bay that are similar in being more authentic I would appreciate the input. Also, has anyone else noticed that the menu at Picante is shifting. The chips are a new recipe, which I like because they taste like the Tex-Mex chips I grew up on, sort of buttery, and the new cheese tacos are good as well.