Menu Please: Healthy Take-Out Mexican at Roquito’s Taqueria

If you haven’t lived in Redding long, you might be surprised to know that Market Street used to be part of California’s main thoroughfare. The Highway Formerly Known As 99 ran from Mexico to the Oregon border and was quite the accomplishment in interstate highways. When Interstate 5 was completed – likewise an accomplishment – it decimated businesses along 99, including Market Streets north and south (AKA State Route 273). Looking at it now, it’s hard to believe that it was lined with perfectly respectable motels, restaurants, and other businesses (remember the Coliseum Roller Skating Rink? Chesty’s Floor Shop? A&W? Paul Bunyan?).

A Denny’s Restaurant operated on 273 in the 1960s and ’70s; it morphed into the Lime Tree Restaurant, which later became AJ’s. Four years ago Roque and Tiferet Carbajal opened Sweetie’s in that old Denny’s, serving up their seasonal specialties like heirloom tomato Benedict and strawberry-rhubarb cobbler alongside home-smoked & barbecued meats to an appreciative customer base. Now Roque Carbajal has opened Roquito’s Taqueria on South Market, take-out Mexican in a tiny building that formerly housed to-go pizza and was perhaps best known as “that place next to The Tropics.”

Though there are a few picnic tables on the south side of the building, Roquito’s is really a take-it-home kind of place. There’s just enough room to squeeze inside and order; you watch your food assembled in the tiny kitchen. Or phone your order in ahead and pick it up; Femme de Joie wished desperately she had done this while waiting behind a customer who ordered a LOT of food yet seemed to not know what each item actually was.

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Nachos with grilled chicken, Roquito style, $7.50

“Roquito style” is available on all menu items for an extra dollar and is worth it; it includes cabbage, pico de gallo, Jalepenos, cilantro, onion, lime, and a spicy creamy sauce drizzled over. Although M. de Joie had her misgivings when she saw the nachos being assembled in a smallish-to-medium-size Styrofoam take-out box, the end product was more than the sum of its parts. Melty cheese sauce ladled over house-made chips with all of the Roquito toppings plus morsels of grilled chicken made two very generous servings and we wound up scraping the box for leftover smidgens of sauce. The chicken got a bit lost amidst all the competing flavors so a more strongly flavored meat like carnitas or barbacoa would work better – or no meat at all.

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Smoked carnitas torta, $9.50

Many Mexican restaurants don’t offer tortas; if they do, it’s likely inoffensive and unmemorable. The crusty grilled bolillo roll was necessary to hold the juicy filling – the house spicy sauce, lettuce, tomato, onion, cheese, and delectable smoked pork carnitas all pressed together. The smoked carnitas was one of the better versions in town, with real wood smoke taste on pull-apart shreds of pork. In fact, an order of the carnitas alone would be fantastic – it’s that good.

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Carne Asada burrito, $8.50

Roquito’s does a few things differently: whole wheat tortillas instead of white. Ranchero beans (pintos in a smoky sauce) instead of refried. And brown rice in place of the usual reddish annatto “Spanish” rice. So you can have a giant burrito and a lot less guilt. This was filling but not heavy with niblets of grilled carne asada beef peeking though – again, the meat got a little overwhelmed by all the toppings, but the little bites were delicious on their own.

Roque Carbajal is onto something here. The limited menu – no enchiladas, no chile rellanos, no tamales – lets Roquitos focus on just a few things and do them very well. Staff is efficient, friendly, and helpful even when the little foyer is packed. Grilled meat from Sweetie’s is on tap. Prices are reasonable for the quality and serving size. They serve Cholula Hot Sauce in to-go packets. Is it too much to dream that Sweetie’s and Roquito’s might be the harbinger of a Renaissance of South Market Street?

Roquito’s Taqueria, 2605 South Market Street, Redding, CA 96001. 530-768-1103. Open Monday through Saturday, 11:00 AM to 8:00 PM. Closed Sunday. Cash and cards, no checks. No alcohol. Parking is wherever you can find it – there’s a vacant lot to the north of The Tropics. Vegetarian and vegan options. Follow them on Facebook.

Femme de Joie
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 or send her an email at femmedejoiefood@yahoo.com.
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15 Responses

  1. Hollyn Chase says:

    Thanks for the heads-up! I’ve never been there, but plan on doing so now. I made a note of the phone #, and will call my order in.

  2. Karen C says:

    What a mouth watering review…yum!  I never knew about this place and now I want to go – today!  Thanks, too, for the photos, I love seeing them.

  3. Thanks! This place is definitely on my go-to list now.

  4. A. Jacoby says:

    WOW . . . . good on the Carvajal’s for their vision and good on you for not only discovering this gem, but also for sharing it for the rest of us who might might otherwise miss it.

  5. cody says:

    This place is very good, and the food is very fresh.  Thank you for the review.

  6. DougM says:

    This place is the BOMB!  Best tacos (Roquito style please) anywhere!

  7. Jordan says:

    I hit up taco Tuesday frequently! 4 tacos with your choice of meat for only $5!

  8. Beverly Stafford says:

    I like Roque’s double down:  two tortillas for each taco so that it doesn’t fall apart and is easier to handle and eat.

  9. Steve Towers Steve Towers says:

    I’ve been a couple of times.  Roquito’s and El Rinconcito are the two best Mexican food joints in town.

  10. We love Roquito’s! We eat there (take out) at least three times a month and we are regulars at Sweetie’s Cafe as well. Can’t say enough good things about the Carbajal’s. If South Market Street has any hope of rejuvenation, it will be with Roque and Tif out in front, leading the charge.

  11. Hey, look! It’s Taco Tuesday. And I have business on S. Market today! Woo-HOO!

  12. Roquito's Taqueria says:

    Thank you all for the love! We are very pleased with being able to share our love and passion for food. We are making smiles happen one taco at a time! 🙂

  13. Christina says:

    Fantastic review and fantastic food. Both reatraunts are nothing short of amazing in servuce and quality. Thank you!

  14. Beverly Stafford says:

    During one Chef at the Market where Roque was serving up some lucious stuff, he said that he’d be happy if he were able just to cook for people.  He truly does make smiles happen one plate at a time for both himself and those who partake of his healthful and delicious food at both the Taqueria and Sweetie’s.

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