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Otaez report (Dia de los Muertos)

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Otaez report (Dia de los Muertos)

Autumn | Nov 1, 2004 08:19 AM

I had a great time at this year's Dia de los Muertos festival! Our food choice ended up being dictated by where we were when we all decided we were hungry, and which line was the shortest (somewhat daunting to figure out). We wound up at Otaez.

When we walked in with a group of six on such a busy day, we figured we'd be in for a wait. We were somewhat dubious when they said ten minutes. After about ten minutes, we decided we were a little tired of waiting, so we split into two tables, one group of four and the other of two. And indeed, we were all seated in ten minutes.

The first things we got were our drinks, and complimentary chips and salsa. I had a large tamarind agua fresca, which was delicious. It was very tart and not overly sweet like many others are. My husband had a strawberry one, which was too sweet for me, but he liked it. Our companions had a horchata (which she liked so much, she finished and got a second one - no small feat, considering their size), and a Coke (regular Coke, not Mexican - not sure if this is their default or not). As for the salsa... they gave us two options to choose from, a dark and murky liquid that looked very much like those pots of chili on the tables in Chinese restaraunts (which I was not brave enough to try), and a fresh salsa with big chunks of onion, tomato, jalepenos. I'm a big wimp for spicy things, but the fresh salsa was so good that I didn't care about the pain! Probably on the high side of medium rather than "hot," but very tasty.

I ordered their weekend special carnitas plate. The carnitas themselves were very dry, which I'm given to understand is one of the regional styles of how they're prepared. They were a little too dry for me, so I ordered some limes, and spritzed them with lime juice all over, and they were delicious. It came with guacamole (very good), beans (very good), and rice (amazing - I don't generally like rice or even eat it, but this was so good I ate all of it). The portion was gigantic. I was really hungry when we'd arrived, and my leftovers were the size of an entree at a lot of other places. All this (and corn tortillas, really good ones) for $6.95!

My husband had the quesidillas with carne asada, which I had a bite of after they were leftovers in the fridge at home. The meat was very good, and the tortilla was cooked just enough, even being carted around all day under some sour cream and then refridgerated for a while didn't ruin it. I don't recall what one of our companions had, but the other had enchiladas (chicken and cheese), and really enjoyed them.

The service was great for being so insanely busy. Every table was packed, sometimes three to a two-person table. As such, the servers were a little rushed, but the service wasn't. There was a little bit of a wait to order, and the guy we ordered drinks from (not a waiter, he was giving us chips and salsa) got one of our drinks wrong, but he took it back and corrected the error no problem. The waitress was great. The service was not too rushed or too slow, even under pressure. Plus, they were all in Halloween costumes, so that was an extra bonus.

All in all, I was very impressed. We had four people stuffed and happy (with at least two meals' worth of leftovers) for $40. I don't tend to get to Fruitvale outside of the Dia de los Muertos festival (the one time I ended up lost in the area, I was a little nervous as it's not the best neighborhood), but I may return just to head to Otaez.

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