Diner of the Dead
A polarizing eatery, Los Inmortales Taqueria serves hits and misses
Los Inmortales Taqueria3131 Fruitridge Rd.
Sacramento, CA 95820
What do Celia Cruz, Paul Walker, Freddie Mercury, Selena, Kurt Cobain and Heath Ledger have in common? You’re correct if you guessed that they’ve all shuffled off this mortal coil, but they also share space in a life-sized photo collage that greets you upon entry to Los Inmortales Taqueria.
Other than the iconography of “The Immortals,” there’s no tie-in to deceased legends on the large menu—no Janis Joplin nachos, alas.
A friend who pays attention to food (I refuse to say “foodie”) recommended it to me, and I was a bit skeptical based on the outward appearance, but I perused the Yelps and became curious. I have never seen such a polarized collection of Yelpers, and almost all based on the servers. Equal parts praise and rage were heaped on. Who were these haughty sirens and cheerful helpers? Were they, in the elegant parlance of Yelp, “super friendly and nice” with “great costumer [sic] service” or were they “straight up BITCHES”? I had to investigate.
Visit one: 3 p.m. on a Friday. There’s a steady flow of diners. It’s counter service, with a large menu that includes breakfast and many seafood dishes. The salsa bar is a clean, well-lit place, but the salsas themselves are the first indication of a recurring pattern of blandness. The bolillo on the milanesa torta ($6.75) resembles nothing so much as a Safeway baguette and is skimpily filled and bread forward. The torta milanesa at Lalo’s restaurant it ain’t. Of the three tacos I sample, it is only the pastor ($1.95) that is worth a reorder. The courteous young woman at the counter calls me “honey” and smilingly informs me that the chili colorado listed on the menu behind her isn’t available.
Visit two: Noon on a Sunday. There’s a line and the servers handle it adroitly. The mood is festive. People are slurping shrimp cocktail juice from goblets and ordering “ballenas,” which literally means “whale” and figuratively means a 32-ounce bottle of Pacifico. The pozole ($11.75) looks lovely but is confusingly tasteless. A five-minute trip to Alonzo’s on Stockton Boulevard will yield a better bowl. The enchiladas al pastor ($10.80) are a step down from the tacos, and the thin beans that accompany the plate go unfinished. The elusive chili colorado is again MIA.
Visit three: Unexpected mariachi at 6:30 p.m. on a Thursday. The seven members of Mariachi Los Gallos are resplendent in cream satin and serenade a half-full restaurant. The camarones a la diabla ($13.45) yields a few satisfying tacos. One worker, sporting mesmerizing, Bambi-esque lashes has her hand kissed by a regular, and who could resist this romantic impulse when the singer of Los Gallos’ lovely falsetto lingers in the air? No dice when I try to order the chili colorado.
Visit 4: It’s 2 p.m. on a Saturday. Hair of the dog may be in order, but instead it’s a carnitas taco ($1.95) that’s giving me life. The carnitas are an optimal mix of crispy edges and luscious fatty chunks, with a perfect hit of salt. My dining companion’s tamales ($11.80), boastfully listed on the menu as “homemade of course,” are nothing to boast about. She remarks, “I haven’t had Mexican food this bland in a long time”— and she’s from North Dakota. After four tries I conclude this restaurant does not serve chili colorado.
After doing my due diligence I conclude that Yelpers are full of shit about the service—the mostly female front-of-the-house kicks ass—but I can’t account for the popularity of Los Inmortales. Americans do love celebrities, even dead ones.