Yeah I know Santa Cruz is not exactly suffering a shortage of taquerias and everyone would probably be more excited if we I were posting on the first Vietnamese, Korean, or French Bistro to open but hey its the only new place I know of.
Located in the old Hernandez market on Laurel at Washington I noticed over the last month that a new Taqueria was in place and the owners had opened up the restaurant with new doors facing Laurel that allowed me to see the spinning chickens as I drove by. Made it in today for lunch to see what the story was.
Chickens were not done at lunch (the owner told me he got a late start but they are normaly ready for lunch). I went for a few tacos ($1.89) trying carne asada, al pastor and carnitas. Tacos were a little less meaty than at Vallarta making for a better balanced though smaller dish. The place was dead quiet (only 2 other customers at 12:15) so the cook took a bit of time to griddle up the meat and tortillas. The food seemed a bit hotter with a bit more flavor for this and the tortillas greatly improved making them stand out from other places. Carnitas were the highlight with a modest amount of fried crust but still very succulent with no dry stringiness. Carne asada was fairly standard and the al pastor was a more mild marinade than most places. I wish someone would put in one of those al pastor roticceries that I have seen photos of. The only negative thing was the green salsa needed some more chile for my tastes. Overall a nice place that is competitive with Vallarta.
I asked the owner about his chickens since some were red tinged (looked like achitote) and others more natural. He told me the red ones were for the market but he likes to keep his simple with just S&P and a bit of lemon. He told me he crisps them up on the griddle before serving. Whole is $9.69 half is $7.69 and he told me he has an off the menu leg with thigh in the $5.50 range. These are dinners with rice/beans/tortillas though I wish they offered a takeout chicken deal since a roast chicken is a great convenience item. I will definately go back to try one.
They also have burritos, tortas weekend menudo and some seafood and combo plates. In addition to my selections they have offer chicken (not the roztizado) lengua and chile verde. There are only 4 tables but they were not that crowded so it was not an issue.
Anyone tried the kiosk downtown in front of New Leaf? I have heard they do good tortas but this was from non CH sources. The menu seems more interesting than a downtown kiosk would be.