La Rosa Blanca

2813 Fulton Ave.
Sacramento, CA 95821

I used to always see the old La Rosa Blanca off the freeway when heading up Business 80, and truth be told—with its brown building and its somewhat dated-looking rose logo—it never looked quite enticing enough to stop. Now, though, the old Auburn Boulevard building has been converted to a more casual taqueria, and the restaurant has opened up a sit-down location (still casual, though) on Fulton Avenue. It seems like a good move—Auburn Boulevard is not exactly a dining destination, whereas Fulton has become a slightly surprising mecca for ’round-the-world eats, from Peruvian to Thai.

La Rosa Blanca doesn’t quite cover that range. This is Mexican food with a somewhat Americanized, old-school vibe (think lots of cheese on the refried beans and all the combination plates you can handle), but plenty of fresher, regional touches (cochinita pibil, sopa de albóndigas, tacos de lengua). In short, there’s something well-priced here for everyone; it’s a crowd-pleasing kind of place, bright and cheery. The slightly dated wood paneling is enlivened with bright fabrics and knickknacks on the walls and lots of color, and the service is helpful and warmly friendly.

We started off with a round of your basic margaritas, finding that we were just in time on those—the hard-liquor license had just come through, so now we could have them with tequila rather than (as before) wine. (Our server apologized that the price had gone up a touch, but no matter.) Mine, on the rocks, was just a little watery and a bit small, but refreshing and not too sweet; one companion’s, much bigger, was blended and more powerful. My husband’s jamaica agua fresca was also sweet-tart and pleasant. They also offer a full lineup of Mexican beers.

Obviously, we needed something for these drinks to wash down. We had a big basket of chips—they charge for the second basket, but the first one is pretty much as many as you’ll need. They had a nice corn flavor, and the salsa, a saucy, chunky and tomatoey blend, was spicy and appealing, with hints of oregano. An order of taquitos from the appetizer menu kept us from needing that second basket. Filled with really good, flavorful shredded chicken, the taquitos were crisp-fried and thin, with a hearty dose of sour cream, slightly pallid guacamole, a chopped salsa and olives over the top and a bed of shredded lettuce—a big but yummy appetizer.

Our companion moved on to prawn tacos with a tasty marinade redolent of chili and lime. I thought there was a little too much of a mayonnaise flavor in the sauce, but the jumble of lettuce, salsa and prawns was fresh and copious—a hit.

My cochinita pibil tacos were a simpler dish, just the two folded, two-tortilla tacos stuffed with meat and nothing else. The pork, with its Yucatecan-style marinade, had an earthy, subtle set of flavors, and the meat itself was delicious, though in the otherwise plain tacos, it seemed just a little dry. A bright, hot, chopped relish alongside for self-application was not really liquidy enough to call a salsa, as it comprised cilantro, radish and some very spicy chilies. The rice and whole pinto beans were simple enough, but the beans themselves were really tasty, with a creamy texture, forthright beany flavor and plenty of cheese on top.

My husband ordered the gran burrito vegetariano, which, refreshingly, was actually stuffed with vegetables—so many vegetarian burritos just have lots of rice and beans. This one was replete with well-flavored pinto beans and lightly sautéed, still-crunchy onions and peppers, with chunks of tomato as well—a fajitalike mix with nice flavors and texture. The tortilla was moistened with a dousing of a thin, peppery orange salsa with a complex chili flavor and a squiggle of sour cream up the middle. The plate was rounded out with mounds of (probably unnecessary) rice and beans. Our daughter had some rice and refried beans (her fave, and again the beans had an excellent flavor) and a simple quesadilla from the kids’ menu, as well as ice cream—a freebie, apparently, when you order for a kid. (Not all patrons will care, but it was nice that they were so friendly to children.)

While my daughter scarfed her ice cream, the rest of us shared two enormously inflated, piping-hot sopaipillas. Simple and coated in just enough sticky honey, the big puffs of fried dough made a satisfying end to a satisfying meal. Will La Rosa Blanca set the world on fire? No. But it’s a solid place to head with your family or a gang of friends—one that’s genuinely welcoming, with plenty of choice and plates of tasty chow. Ain’t nothing wrong with that.