Jimboy’s Tacos1420 29th St.
Sacramento, CA 95816
Mention Jimboy’s Tacos to a transplanted Sacramentan, and you are likely to hear a sigh of nostalgia—for some, it is the first or last stop out of town when they visit. I have heard out-of-town bands sing its praises after being introduced to it while on tour. I even have a co-worker who disassembled and studied a Jimboy’s taco so that he could try to recreate it at home.
Many Sacramentans share a hometown pride in Jimboy’s, but the first one was actually operated out of a trailer in North Lake Tahoe that opened in 1954, and the second was at the auction yard at Denio’s Roseville Farmers Market & Swap Meet, where there is still an oupost. In fact, Jimboy’s was founded by a Swedish couple in Grass Valley, Jim and Margaret Knudson, who, in 1949, had been served their very first taco at a friend’s home.
I do not detect a Swedish influence in the food at Jimboy’s, and, at times, there’s only a passing resemblance to Mexican, but I count myself among the chain’s true believers. Sometimes, nothing hits the spot like Jimboy’s, particularly after a hot, tiring day at the river or as a post-hangover dinner.
I’ve eaten at Jimboy’s for 17 years, and until recently, a dish containing meat had never passed my lips. I started eating there while I was a vegetarian, so my jam has always been twobeantacosandaveggieburritowiththeworksextrafried. I utter this in one breath as written, usually via the drive-thru. This is a gargantuan amount of food, which I often inhale within two minutes.
The tacos are perfection, filled with beans (cooked fresh daily, according the the website) and gooey American cheese. Yes, that’s right, American. The Knudsons found that nothing else melted quite right. But as any Jimboy’s fan will tell you, it’s all about the tortillas. They are fried shells, crispy but still yielding—they don’t break like Taco Bell’s hard ones. A dusting of Parmesan officially puts them over the top. So simple yet so profound.
The veggie burrito with the works is served with sour cream and a thin, guacamolelike substance and can sometimes be too cold, due to the large quantity of shredded iceberg lettuce. But again, this is about the interaction of beans, cheese and tortilla.
Turns out my prior vegetarian-only path was wise: The meat is a disappointment. Sure, the Tacoburger is an amusing novelty—mayo and pickles inside a tortilla makes for a mind-bender. The chicken is bland, however, and the steak tough and flavorless. The steak gordito, at more than five bucks, is a soggy, falling-apart mess. The carnitas taco seems to be an attempt of a taqueria-styled dish, topped only with cilantro and onions—no American cheese. It would be laughed out of any taqueria.
The churros are narrow; they are all crisped edges with no doughnutlike interior. The fries are potato wedges, almost jojos, really (for those of you from the Northwest), dusted with seasoned salt.
Ah, the lot of a food reviewer. It can take a place I love and ruin it for me by forcing me to try dishes I would never normally order—all in the spirit of service to you, the reader. And the heartbreak of assigning stars makes it even worse.
As such, I rate Jimboy’s five stars for the bean tacos. It gets two stars for everything else. With my advanced math skills, I calculate that out to an average of three-and-a-half stars, but I am going to round it up to four, because, well, I can.
And because it is a fast-food chain that serves beer. And because Taco Tree is too far.