I am starting to love the Temescal neighborhood. Where else can you find world cuisine like Korean, Mexican, Ethiopian (and various others TBD), all on one street?
Okay, fine. There are lots of places. But the area on Telegraph Avenue (between 40th and 51st streets) just provides oodles and oodles of opportunities for culinary exploration.
La Calaca Loca (the crazy skeleton), is a new-ish taqueria on 51st and Telegraph in the mini-mall. Don't let its location fool you; this is fresh, wholesome, and modern Mexican taqueria food.
I have been going crazy for al pastor lately, thanks to the good folks at Tacubaya, whom I blame for exclusively feeding my Mexican food cravings this week. (Chile, do not even get me started on how much I love that place.)
So I'm driving home from flamenco class in El Cerrito, when the al pastor urge suddenly comes over me. Since I had already passed Berkeley, Tacubaya was out. I remembered La Calaca Loca and decided, why the hell not?
Unfortunately, La Calaca Loca doesn't have al pastor on the menu. Boo. So I ordered my old standby, a carne asada burrito ($4.75, ordered without rice) and some chips ($1.00) to munch on the ride back to my apartment.
The chips? Not your usual, bland, must-have-salsa-for-flavor fried corn tortillas. Oh, no. I don't think I've ever had tortilla chips this savory. Could it have been because I was starving? Maybe. But I would go back to LCL for the chips alone. I took this to be a good sign.
The burrito itself was on the small side (probably due to the absence of rice, no doubt), and I'm used to burritos you need to hold with both hands in order to eat them properly. But that's neither here nor there, since it's all about the flavor. And there was a lot of flavor going on with this carne asada. The chunks of beef (Niman Ranch, thankyouverymuch) were moist, chewy but not tough, and oh so flavorful. My only gripe was that they should have given a bit more meat. But then again, I'm a total carnivore.
I haven't seen any taqueria offer elote ($2.75) on the menu, which was a pleasant surprise. Elote is basically corn on the cob on a stick, slathered with mayo, mexican queso fresco, and chili powder. From what I hear, it's a popular snack sold by street vendors. In theory, it sounds pretty appetizing. I ordered one in tribute to Esqueleto in Nacho Libre. I managed to take three bites, but I couldn't get past the copious amounts of mayo. But, the corn was fresh and the kernels popped in my mouth. I think if they lightened up on the mayo a bit, it would improve the dish somewhat and appeal (mildly) to more heath-conscious, or mayo-averse, diners.
La Calaca Loca also serves breakfast on weekends, but I didn't see any menudo, the famous hangover cure, on the menu. However, they serve sopa de tortilla, which provides a healthier alternative.
I'm definitely going back to try their baja pescado tacos ($3.50), made with fried, beer-battered fresh fish with their baja sauce and the usual cilantro, cabbage, and onion. The tacos are generously sized and plentiful and look absolutely delicious.
And of course, I'll be getting a side of chips.
La Calaca Loca
5199 Telegraph Avenue (at 51st street), Oakland
(photo credit: SF Station. Cross-posted on the Beast Blog.)