¡Cuatro estrellas!

La Favorita Taqueria

5940 Florin Rd.
Sacramento, CA 95823

(916) 391-5544

It seems appropriate that a painting of the Virgin of Guadalupe peers serenely out over the counter at La Favorita Taqueria. This place is miraculous, and not just because of the quality of the food.

We were there recently for more than an hour while waiting for friends to arrive. The entire time, a line stretched to just inside the door. And yet, as soon as people ordered at the counter, a table miraculously appeared for them; I never saw anyone wait longer than a minute. The food began arriving almost as soon as we sat down. This operation appears to be a finely tuned machine, feeding what should be an overwhelming number of people in an amazingly short amount of time.

La Favorita is tucked behind Tower Records, across the street from Florin Mall—not exactly a high-visibility location. But word of mouth obviously has spread throughout the city. The food is the draw here. It’s the best Mexican I’ve had in this town, and it definitely ranks up there with the best anywhere. Prices are ridiculously low; three of us stuffed ourselves silly with appetizers, main dishes and beer for less than $30. It’s possible to eat for less than $5, if you order a couple of tacos and a soft drink and round off your meal with a basket of chips and a selection from the salsa bar.

The taqueria’s specialty is seafood—in particular, its shrimp or octopus cocktails ($6.99). These arrive in a goblet of heroic proportions, with the sweet seafood swimming in a broth of lime juice; cocktail sauce; chopped tomatoes, onions and cilantro; and chunks of avocado. La Favorita also offers tostadas topped with red snapper, shrimp or octopus; as well as an enormous shrimp enchilada ($6.99) served with rice, beans, guacamole and crema (Mexican sour cream). This is a superlative version of the dish. The shrimp are plump, sweet and thankfully not drowned in a sea of enchilada sauce. Putting the thinner, tangier Mexican crema on the plate instead of the typical sour cream is also a nice touch.

La Favorita also offers a mind-boggling array of tacos; tostadas; burritos; quesadillas; tortas (sandwiches); and dinner plates with options including carne asada, carnitas, chorizo, lengua (tongue) and tripita (tripe). A regular order of tacos ($1.25) comes with two corn tortillas, your choice of topping, salsa and chopped onion and cilantro. We opted for carne asada and chile verde, both of which were delicious. The carne asada was well seasoned, and the pork chunks in the chile verde were tender without being fatty.

Although it is located in a featureless strip mall, the restaurant is downright cheery, with a Mexican tile floor, woven-leather seats and bright murals, along with the requisite Mexican soap operas on TV, and banda music blaring from the sound system.

La Favorita gained points for its drink selection, which included both Mexican and domestic beer and soft drinks, as well as fresh horchata (rice milk), aguas frescas in flavors such as pineapple ($1-$1.50), and fresh-squeezed orange and carrot juices ($2.15).

Until I met my husband, the only "Mexican" restaurant I had ever been to was the Tia Maria my grandma used to take us to after Mass. I spent the next two decades assuming all Mexican food was bland and covered with huge globs of cheese, sour cream and guacamole. On our first date, Tom took me to a restaurant named El Novillero, and I slowly became hooked. Five years in Watsonville, home to some of the best Mexican food this side of the border, only cemented the love affair. My new hometown of Grass Valley, for all its charms, has one serious drawback: a dearth of halfway decent Mexican food. But now I have found nirvana at La Favorita Taqueria. Sure, it’s an hour from my house, but the food is more than worth the drive.