San Leandro Reviews
Note: Taqueria is now a catering-only operation. The restaurant itself has closed.
Summary: Good effort by endearing couple still falls short in taste and quality of food.
San Leandro has too many taquerias. There are now four within a few blocks of my house, in addition to two full-fledged Mexican restaurants. I wouldn’t mind if this was in addition to other types of restaurants - but beyond Mexican and Chinese the choices are skimpy in downtown San Leandro. So I was not thrilled to see the flawed, but potential-filled Kolbeh turned into yet another taqueria - this one called unimaginatively called “Taqueria.” And after having dinner there thrice (May-July 2006), I’m still not thrilled.
Taqueria’s main problem (as I see it, at least) is that the food it serves has been pre-cooked and it’s sitting in warmers waiting for the tacos, burritos and so forth to be assembled. This gives the meat a chance to dry, and indeed all the meats we’ve tried so far have been quite dry. The meats seems to be a bit higher quality than that served at nearby taquerias; they are certainly less greasy and the slices are a bit bigger, but they are also tougher and less tasty.
The accouterments are good; the guacamole in particular was much better than that served at the competition, but I’m not sure I like Taqueria’s gimmicky pricing system. Here, you choose your ingredients one by one, and pay $1 for each (including tax). You start by choosing the type of tortilla you want: large flour, wheat or flavored tortillas for burritos, corn or crunchy tortillas for tacos, a taco bowl, nachos or a flat crunchy tostada tortilla. If you decide to skip the base, you still have to pay $1 for a plate. Other choices are quesadillas or enchiladas.
Next comes your choice of meat: carne asada, ground beef, carnitas, grilled or shredded chicken are all $1. Accouterments (guacamole, sour cream, cheese sauce, cactus, salsa or enchilada sauce) are also $1 each, as are rice, beans and vegetables. Cheese, shredded lettuce and jalapeños are free with meat purchase, but you have to ask for them. Finally bottled and fountain drinks are all $1, as are churros. And if you want chips, free at most taquerias, here they are $1 as well.
So far I have tried the carne asada, chicken and carnitas burrito with sour cream and guacamole. At $4, they weren’t a bad value, but I barked at paying $1 extra for salsa and I missed it. The burritos were quite large - if you order them with rice and beans, you’ll pay a couple of dollars extra but you’ll have lunch for the next day. The accouterments were generous, indeed perhaps too much so - they pretty much drowned the meat (not altogether a bad thing given how dry it was). They did also cool it down significantly - and I’m not too fond of eating a cold burrito. As mentioned, the beef and carnitas were dry but otherwise fine, but the grilled chicken had a strange taste, reminiscent of chicken broth. It didn’t taste at all grilled and I would not be surprised if it came out of a can.
For Mika we’ve gotten both a plain quesadilla ($1) and a chicken quesadilla ($2), which came in a toasted tortilla cut into slices. She's eaten the cheese quesadilla but she did not like the chicken one.
The churros are quite nice, they are served hot and come with a sugar/cinnamon coating. In all, it's my favorite item at Taqueria.
Taqueria’s owners have done up the place pretty well, using imagination and cheap materials to make it look inviting and “nice.” Still, most of their business seems to be take-out; I rarely see anyone eating there (and I walk by it almost every day) and both times we went we had the whole restaurant to ourselves. This is a plus for family with children, as the kids can be loud and run around without bothering anyone. Indeed, I think we’ll be returning to Taqueria when we go out with other families with kids. The couple who owns it clearly work hard and are very nice, but I'm afraid that the concept may not really work well for them.
1660 E 14th St
San Leandro, CA