Restaurants & Bars

Taqueria Santa Maria del Oro, Petaluma

Melanie Wong | May 19, 200205:22 PM     1

Craving the spice and heat of Mexican food, last Sunday I stopped here for the first time for a bite while passing through Petaluma. On the weekends, menudo, birria and other specials are offered. I was a little put off to see the sign posted that no lard, only canola oil is used in the cooking. But when the owner assured me that the birria is made from barbecued goat and not lamb, I was sold.

This was an excellent choice! A huge serving for $7.95 accompanied by six handmade tortillas, it’s more than enough to serve two people. I made three meals of it, and the birria improved each time it was reheated. The goat was cut in thick chunks and braised until tender and just starting to pull from the bone. All the gelatinous goodness from the bones enriched the medium hot sauce that was thick with roasted peppers, smoky accents and deep, dark complex flavors. Garnishes of chopped fresh jalapeño chilis, cilantro, and onion and a couple lime wedges allow you to adjust the seasoning. The handmade corn tortillas were thick, chewy and well-etched with griddle marks.

The chips were decent. They’re served with three different salsas – a tomatoey blend of roasted vegetables, a green tomatillo and jalapeño, and salsa cruda. Maybe my taste buds were out of practice for being away from chilis for a week, but these seemed hotter than average.

Another specialty here are the house-made aquas frescas, Mexican fruit juices. When I had a hard time choosing between the cantaloupe and the strawberry, I was offered a taste. I settled on the strawberry which captured the freshness of the sweet berries just coming into peak season. I will come back for the cantaloupe when melons reach their fullest flavor.

A couple other things that look intriguing on the menu are the fish tacos and machaca con huevos (shredded beef with eggs) for breakfast. I asked the owner whether the machaca included any carne seca (dried beef), and he said it doesn’t but he thought I would like the mix of meat textures in their blend. I’ll have to take him up on that.

Taqueria Santa Maria del Oro [Sonoma County]
177 N. McDowell Blvd. (in shopping center)

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