I am doing the A-Z challenge, focusing on places or entities that can be found within Mendocino County. I do not intend to imply that the subjects of my writing are the most significant, only that they have personal relevance to me. Today’s letter is T for taco, as in Taqueria Bravo and Taco Loco.
I know it is a cop-out to go with two different sites for the letter “T.” All I can say in defense is that these two restaurants, Taqueria Bravo and Taco Loco, feature excellent Mexican food, and they are in two different cities, so there is no conflict of interest, or preference, for that matter.
Taqueria Bravo is in downtown Willits, no more than five minutes’ walk from our apartment. It has served as a jumping-off point for many a trip to Ukiah. We stop in, order our taquitos, and less than forty minutes after we walk in the door, we are leaving. I like the taquitos here, better than the ones at Taco Loco, because they are cooked just a couple minutes shorter, and I like the corn tortillas better if they are not too crisp.
Willits is a funny town in regards to Mexican restaurants. There are seven in a town of just about five thousand people. That’s one restaurant for every 742 people. Now, granted, one of the Mexican “restaurants” is Taco Bell, but I see a lot of cars in the parking lot there, so I guess it must pull in its share of business. The other establishment that I would put quotation marks around is the one that has been on the scene the longest, and does have the best ambience. Unfortunately, it has Americanized food, or gringo food, if you will.
Since I have been an enthusiastic partaker in food from south of the border since the early sixties, when my father began hanging out with his fellow workers at the shop during lunch time, I feel that I have earned the right to evaluate the different restaurants, and express an opinion. Taqueria Bravo and Taco Loco, which is located in Ukiah, in the same shopping center as Star’s Restaurant, have authentic Mexican food. In fact, one of the characteristics that I like best about Taco Loco, is that they have six different types of salsa, that you serve yourself, and I like them all. For those who like mild salsa, they have it; for those of us who like to see steam coming out of our ears, they have salsa caliente, or at least that’s what I call it.
But Taqueria Bravo, being so close to home, is still my favorite. If by chance, I decide to forgo the taquitos, I can opt for the chile verde, and be just as happy. The only thing I rarely order from any restaurant, is tamales, because Annie makes the best tamales I have ever tasted, and I would never want to insult her by ordering them from a restaurant. In fact, Annie not only makes chicken tamales, she also makes veggie ones, with squash, or potatoes, or even eggplant in them, to make a summer meal that can’t be beat.
One of the seven Mexican restaurants in Willits, is the Aztec Grill, located in the Chevron. Before you snort in derision, I have to admit that I have eaten at several Aztec Grills, and they are more than palatable. It’s just that the ambiance at the Chevron leaves a bit to be desired. I will also admit that I have never even eaten at the little restaurant on the south end of town, right across from the Ray’s-er-the Lo-Bucks shopping center. I am having a hard time adjusting to the new name for Ray’s.
In any case, last Sunday, when Annie suggested that the boys meet us for dinner in Willits, it was unanimous that we meet at Taqueria Bravo. We had a lively conversation, and the food was delicious, as always. We even got Lito to give us a ride back to our place, figuring that we might as well take advantage of the taxi service. Besides, he has a new-to-him Audi, and we had to give it a test-drive.
So there you have it. The next time you are in Willits, you will have to join us for lunch at Taqueria Bravo. If you are lucky, you will get the counter-person who does not speak any English and you’ll get to practice your Spanish. That’s how we can always tell the food is authentic.