Delivers the goods

Cook Gerardo Lopez working in the kitchen at Candelaria's.

Cook Gerardo Lopez working in the kitchen at Candelaria's.

Photo/Allison Young

Candelaria’s Mexican Food is open 7 days, 10 a.m. - 9 p.m.

I love nothing better than finding a new hole-in-the-wall eatery serving up housemade comfort food. Candelaria’s Mexican Food made me feel comfortable and then some.

Our appetites were whet with an order of chips and salsa ($2). They came with a chunky salsa I’d call medium-hot served with a good-sized basket of fresh, warm tortilla chips. Since my wife and I both love to add a good salsa to a plate of food, we were happy to accept the offer of a free refill.

Our server warned it would take a little extra time for a ceviche tostada (citrus-cured fish, $3.99), as each one is made-to-order. It really didn’t take too long, and I certainly prefer fish to be as fresh as possible. A huge pile of diced cucumber, tomato, onion and fish was stacked on a fried corn tortilla that stayed crispy throughout. The fish tasted fresh, and the citrus marinade was excellent, but I could have done with a little less cucumber. The result—though tasty—was akin to a cucumber salad, seasoned with fish.

Next, our hungry group ordered three combination plates—chile relleno (stuffed pepper, $7.99), bistec encebollado (steak with onions, $9.99), and camarones a la diabla (deviled shrimp, $11.99). Combos come with rice, refried beans, and salad (really more of a lettuce, onion and tomato garnish). For the money, there was quite a lot of rice and beans on the plates. The beans had the flavor and texture that tells you they didn’t come from a can, but the rice was kind of just there. Adding some of that good chunky salsa gave it more reason to be on the plate.

Although not indicated on the menu, the chille relleno plate featured not one, but two sizeable peppers stuffed with melted cheese, drenched in ranchero sauce, and sprinkled with cotija cheese. Or at least I think the sauce was supposed to be ranchero. The tomato puree was pretty bland with not much seasoning to speak of, but the addition of a little hot sauce perked things right up.

The beef steak with onions was very tasty, featuring a 10-by-4-inch well-seasoned and grilled skirt steak served with what appeared to be an entire grilled onion. Seriously, there was so much onion I couldn’t see the meat until I cleared it aside. Not that this is a bad thing. I love steak with onions and boy, they really hit it out of the park. The flavor of an adobo spice blend combined with fresh garlic—and other things I can’t name—was perfect. Just don’t plan on kissing anyone after eating this dish, unless, of course, you both ordered the same thing.

Deviled shrimp doesn’t begin to describe our last dish. The sauce was both piquant and complex, with strong notes of garlic, onion and chipotle pepper mixed with a savory blend of spices and what might have been a hint of lime. The shrimp themselves were cooked just right, a little bigger than your average “peel-and-eat” variety, with plenty on the plate. Though by far the spiciest dish ordered, it was a very approachable level of heat for those not into the burn.

It isn’t fair to visit a taqueria and not try the tacos, so an assortment of carne asada (steak), carnitas (pork), and pollo (chicken) tacos were shared by the table ($1.49 each). The meats were lean, tender and decently seasoned. The slow-cooked pork was particularly moist and flavorful, and all were dressed with tons of onion and cilantro. Nothing fancy, but a good example of “street tacos.”

These folks offer delivery to most of Sparks—including bottled beer and soft drinks—which I sincerely hope becomes a trend.