As noted before in this space, Redding seems to have more Mexican restaurants per square inch than any other town in the Sacramento Valley. If anyone can come up with a reasonable explanation, please speak up. This is not a complaint, you understand, just a query: we love Mexican food and eagerly seek out new, authentic places and hope for their success. Taqueria Los Gordos opened about two years ago at the corner of Pine and Tehama, in a space long occupied by the Far East Cafe for many years, and then various take-out places came and went.
Femme de Joie was intrigued by the opening of a Mexican restaurant one block from the 10-plus-years-old and successful La Cabana. She assumed the owners must be doing something to set themselves apart, and indeed they are. Los Gordos leans toward the more rustic, authentic dishes. Yes, they have tacos, burritos, enchiladas, etc., but it’s the ingredients that are definitely interesting and less Americanized than their neighbor‘s offerings. In addition to carne asada, chile verde, carnitas and pollo asado, you can also get lengue (tongue), chorizo, buche (pig’s stomach) and tripitas (tripe).
Now stop those gagging noises. You’ve never tried it, have you? Or if you did, it was probably stinky and badly cooked. Americans are offal-phobic, and more’s the pity: cooked with gusto and skill, those bargain parts of the animal make delicious, if full-flavored, eating.
Interior of Los Gordos. Order at the counter and help yourself to an assortment of house-made salsas, pickled jalapenos, hot carrots and fresh radishes. They’ll bring your order to your table.
Chips with pico de gallo, salsa verde and mild salsa.
Al pastor enchilada, tripitas taco, rice and beans, $6.49.
Al pastor, crisp niblets of pork along with bits of fat and skin, was a bit on the dry side but had good pork flavor. The tripitas was delicious: lightly breaded and fried, the strong flavor tamed a bit but still recognizable, with that characteristic chewy texture. The taco itself, made with two soft corn tortillas barely encasing the generous filing, was about half the size of what Americans think of as a taco, a notion firmly implanted by Taco Bell and its ilk. Refried beans were housemade, creamy and fresh.
On another visit M. de Joie tried the Super Burrito with lengua (tongue), $6.49. This is a huge burrito for the money and it was more than enough for lunch. The tongue was simmered until tender and diced. Its mild flavor got a bit lost with all the other ingredients; the sour cream was overwhelming. The carne asada or another more assertive filling might be a better choice in the burrito, or skip the sour cream altogether.
Taqueria Los Gordos is one of the few local restaurants to offer ceviche, which M. de Joie is very fond of, but unfortunately she cannot recommend it. This ceviche tostada ($2.79) appeared to have been made the day before or perhaps before that. The fresh textures and colors had faded; the main tastes were lime and hot chile and the fish itself was mushy.
Overall, Femme de Joie likes Taqueria Los Gordos and suggests it as an authentically Mexican and inexpensive way to become acquainted with some of the less popular (among Americans) parts of the pig and cow. If you can’t quite bear to sample buche, go anyway and try the chicken or carnitas. Warm up slowly to the other items.
Taqueria Los Gordos, 1400 Pine Street, Redding (corner of Pine and Tehama). 530-242-6224. Also at 5200 Churn Creek Road, Redding, 530-222-5081. Open 9:30 AM to 9:00 PM seven days a week. Breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Vegetarian and vegan options. Cash, credit and debit cards. Beer. On-street parking.
Femme de Joie’s first culinary masterpiece was at age 4, when she made the perfect fried bologna sandwich on white bread. Since then she has dined on horse Bourguignon in France, stir-fried eel in London, and mystery meat in her college cafeteria, but firmly draws the line at eating rattlesnake, peppermint and Hamburger Helper. She lives in Shasta County at her country estate, Butterscotch Acres West. She is nearly always hungry. Visit MenuPlease for more.