[Metroactive Dining]

[ Dining Index | Santa Cruz | Metroactive Central | Archives ]

[whitespace] Tacos Morenos
Photograph by Jeff Kearns

Worth the Wait: The line runs out the door at lunchtime at Santa Cruz's popular Tacos Morenos.

The Ultimate Taco

Tacos Moreno, still creating world-class taqueria fare, is another reason not to pull up stakes and leave town

By Christina Waters

WHEN TACOS MORENO opened in a rather obscure corner of Water Street, patrons sensed that they were in the presence of greatness. That was 1982, and the line still goes out the door every day as Santa Cruzans flock to get their ultimate taco fix from the family of founder Stephen Moreno.

Tacos Moreno does its best to look authentic. That means the clean, tidy interior offers next to zero ambience. The total package includes half a dozen tables, the obligatory refrigerator case filled with soft drinks and beers, and a counter where Moreno family members and employees take your order and almost immediately produce it at your table or wrapped to eat on the sidewalk, the car or even--if you have the restraint to wait--at home.

As in Mexico, Tacos Moreno focuses on its prime directive: the freshest, most brilliantly balanced taco fillings available. Everybody's got a favorite, but nobody ever walks away from their first Tacos Moreno experience without being permanently transformed.

Somewhere, behind the scenes of this no-nonsense slice of authentic taqueria, magnificent barbecued specialties, slow-simmered beans and succulent stews are created that fill the most unbelievably soft and delicious tacos anyone will ever taste.

Can you tell I feel strongly about Tacos Moreno? We grab a Jarritos grapefruit soda--citrus is always a great foil for spicy, meaty tacos and burritos--and take a seat at the table. I only have a moment to admire the retro wall clock, whose hands are set into a piano keyboard adorned by a bouquet of red roses, when our food arrives in those little red plastic baskets.

One al pastor burrito--the size of Michoacan--costs $3.50 and is fully loaded with crunchy, shredded cabbage, pinto beans, cheese and salsa, plus amazingly feisty barbecue pork. Jack is in heaven, and adds more of the excellent table-side salsa for added firepower.

I sigh over my mammoth chile verde taco ($2.40), filled with meltingly tender pork and a world-class chile verde sauce, plus more of the pintos and shredded cabbage. The burrito is so big, it makes a guest appearance at lunch the day after our visit to Tacos Moreno.

Sure, if you go at lunchtime, you'll probably have to wait for a few minutes. Big deal. You'll have the satisfaction--all too rare in this apocalyptic world--of knowing that this wait is worth it.

Tacos Moreno, home of exceptional carnivore-friendly tacos, burritos and quesadillas (and some righteous veggie ones as well), will your satisfy your mouth seven days a week, from 11am to 8pm, at 1050 Water St., Santa Cruz (429.6095).

Harvest-Time Tips

BY NOW, everybody not in a coma knows that fresh organic produce has hit its peak. Dry-farmed tomatoes are in their prime--the ones from Two Dog Farm and the UCSC Agroecology apprentices are especially worth their weight in gold.

Do not refrigerate tomatoes! Simply chop into nice crimson chunks. Splash some balsamic, sea salt and shredded basil on them and prepare to see God. The bounty in our fine markets and outdoor farmers markets right now is what separates us from the wasteland of the Midwest. Take a bite of a sweet Italian plum and congratulate yourself for not living in Rhode Island.

Our friends and neighbors in La Selva Beach are hosting their annual Organic Harvest Festival, Sept. 22, 1-4pm, behind the library on Florido Street. Come sample locally grown fruits, veggies, apple juice and what is being touted as "the world's largest organic salad." Then dance it off with Celtic music from Dance Around Molly. Life is good.

A gourmet fundraiser for the Second Harvest Food Bank, "Take a Bite Out of Hunger," will fill Holy Cross Hall on Sept. 20 at 6:30pm. Consider the incredible prospect of sampling dishes created by our top chefs--Scott Cater (Casablanca), Marco Verduzco (Convivio), Mimi Snowden (Bleu Spoon), Robert Morris (Blacks Beach) and others--with wines to match. Proceeds from the $150-per-person dinner benefit those who really need it. For reservations (and make no mistake, this event will sell out), call Craig George at the Food Bank, 722.7110, ext. 214.

Hot Tomatoes: And if you just can't get enough pomodori, then go ahead and shell out $75 to sample more than 300 tomato varieties, barbecue, tomato dishes, olive oils and fine wines at the opulent Quail Lodge Resort in Carmel Valley, Sept. 16, 12:30am-4:30pm. For tickets, call 888.898.8171 or go online to www.TomatoFest.com. Ciao for niao!

[ Santa Cruz | Metroactive Central | Archives ]

From the September 5-12, 2001 issue of Metro Santa Cruz.

Copyright © Metro Publishing Inc. Maintained by Boulevards New Media.

Foreclosures - Real Estate Investing
San Jose.com Real Estate