It might surprise some folks to learn that the Redding strip mall known as Cypress Colony was once a Southern Baptist Church. When that congregation upped sticks and moved elsewhere, developers turned the Sunday school classrooms into shops and offices; the former sanctuary became a restaurant. It seemed like a promising plan – after all, Cypress has plenty of traffic and plenty of nearby businesses with employees who presumably need lunch and dinner. Perhaps it’s the intense traffic flow (if you’re not already in the turn lane, you’ll never get into the parking lot) or the lack of neon signs to grab your attention that has caused previous businesses to go under. Femme de Joie remembers a Mexican restaurant in that spot where she grabbed a burrito one very busy day a few years ago; after that Umstead’s BBQ lasted a couple of years.
Jim and Laurie Harris operated a “gourmet sandwich shop” in Washington but have restaurant history in Redding: the old Perry’s Pizza on Lake Boulevard (which introduced us to square pizza in the 1970s) was run by Harris’s father. The Harrises opened Jaimitos Tacos about a year ago.
The menu is on a board behind the counter; order and pay, then wait for your food to be brought out to you.
Chips and salsa, $2.50 ($3.00 to go)
The chips were freshly fried and unsalted, but the salsa was very thin, like V-8 juice that had a few minced onions and cilantro tossed in, inoffensive and indifferent as well as difficult to scoop up on a chip.
Taco al carbon, $3.00
Though not really al carbon (cooked over charcoal), this grilled-and-sauced taco was deliciously messy with a light sprinkling of cheese and cilantro leaves to oomph up the flavor.
Bean and cheese burrito, $3.99
The menu board read, “Bean and cheese (only) burrito,” and they weren’t kidding. Other than a smear of mild red sauce, this was nothing but beans and cheese, no onion or other garnish. Truth in advertising to be sure, but a bit on the bland side.
Steak torta, $6.99
On a soft fresh bun, steak torta had plenty of colorful fresh toppings and was a filling meal, but the steak turned out to be very soft shredded beef, cooked long enough to be easily consumed by someone who had forgotten to put their teeth in. While it wasn’t bad, it was unmemorable other than for the squashy texture.
Top row: two fish tacos. Bottom row: steak taco and pork taco, $2.25 each.
M. de Joie loves fish tacos, but not these. Thin fried parallelograms of an unknown fish were very dry and required a lot of salsa; there was a surfeit of chopped cabbage and onions. Eventually we were presented with a thimble of sauce that tasted very much like cole slaw dressing, which helped, but it should have been on the tacos in the first place.
Femme de Joie and Amico del Signore had a brief debate over which was the steak taco and which was the pork, finally deciding on the basis of the color of the meat, since they tasted the same and both were as pulpy as the filling for the torta. We did appreciate that two corn tortillas were used on each taco.
While the food is inexpensive and the service fast and friendly, nothing Femme de Joie tasted at Jaimitos Tacos had that addictive gotta-have-it quality that brings people back in. Meat fillings were overcooked to flabbiness with unexciting seasonings, the salsas bland and without personality. It wasn’t bad but neither was it particularly good. And there was an unfortunate incident on one of her visits where M. de Joie could very clearly hear a loud, deep masculine voice emitting from the back, chewing someone out in a sarcastic manner. “You thought you were being helpful by doing it this way, but do us all a favor….” Whoever it was doing the berating, be advised: No customer wants to hear that kind of thing and no employee should be talked to like that.
While she wouldn’t strenuously object to being taken there by someone who was paying, Femme de Joie probably wouldn’t stop in there on her own and wouldn’t make a special trip there.
Jaimitos Tacos, 916 East Cypress Avenue at Larkspur, Redding, CA 96002. 530-768-1047 (not the number on their receipts, which belongs to some poor guy who constantly deals with phone calls meant for Jaimitos). Open Monday through Saturday, 11:00 AM to 8:00 PM. Closed Sunday. Cash, cards; no checks. vegetarian and vegan options. No alcohol. Parking lot.