Tuesday, August 02, 2005

It's time for a local restaurant review and it's going to be El Vacquero in Orland. There are two or three Mexican restaurants in the valley that qualify as "Good" or better and El Vacquero usually tops my list. Although I wish that their menu had more variety, what they do have is quite good. The restaurant is situated in a somewhat rundown shopping center, but don't let that distract you. It's a simple storefront restaurant, not much ambiance...but most Mexican restaurants don't do "ambiance" very well anyway. After all, once you've seen a dozen serapes and big hats...what else is there?

Service is always predictable and always good; you're given the usual chips and salsa as soon as you're seated. They have two salsa's, one a rough chop of onion, jalapeno, tomato and cilantro, while the other is a smooth red salsa with lots of heat.

Since they cater to a mixed clientele, hispanic and basic American, the menu has the usual burritos and tacos as well as menudo and posole. But I have a favorite; Chili Colorado. It comes with 3 tortillas and the typical rice and beans, which are surprisingly good. The beans are light and don't appear to be weighted down with lots of lard. The rice could be spicier, but it's very fluffy, something I like to see. The chili itself has a bright and sharp taste, as though only the freshest spices were used. And the best part...the portions are not big! When you finish your meal, you are still comfortable. And I always finish my meal...right down to the last drop of the red sauce.

And every once in awhile, I will order the Chef's Special, a very spicy shrimp dish. Once again, the flavors are bold and the heat is on...but you will enjoy it. Honest...

Laurae likes to order the Chili Relleno, which you can order ala carte, although it isn't on the menu that way. I've tried it and think it's one of the better Relleno's I had over the years.

On the downside, they make a small taco salad that would be the perfect size for a summer meal, but it's so bland, it's really not worth the small price.

I will give it 3 1/2 "tortillas" out of a possible 5. Where is it? On South Street, right next to I-5. There is a motel and shopping center at the South Street exit from I-5 in Orland and the restaurant is located close to the motel.

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