Tortilla Soup, Huarache Azteca (fried corn tortilla with a layer of refried beans in the middle, topped with marinated cactus, lettuce, queso, sour cream, and carne asada); Flan
Occupation: Web Director/Writer
Favorite Restaurant: El Huarache Azteca
Reviewed El Huarache Azteca: Sunday, January 8, 2006
El Huarache Azteca is a slice of Mexico City. It’s enlightening to know what a city of more than twenty-five million souls considers everyday food. El Huarache delivers in this regard by offering authentic, homey, street-food style cuisine. The flavors are intense, sharp, and sometimes hot, and the type of food served here is substantial.
After several visits here in the past three years, I would say that the huaraches with chicken tinga topping satisfy me and leave my palate overstimulated. This is good.
I think the single biggest drawback here (if I had to find something) would be the menu. It’s not especially “user-friendly” to newbies or people who may have never had any of these dishes. It’s hard to imagine what “chicken tinga” tastes like, for example, even if you’re from Mexico but not Mexico City. My family, for instance, is from the state of Jalisco, on the west-central part of Mexico. The food in our region is quite a bit different from central Mexico.
The ingredients that stand out for me here as uniquely central Mexican include flor de calabaza (squash blossoms), huitlacoche (a type of fungus that grows on blue corn), and the tinga (which is shredded chicken that has been sautéed with oil and chile guajillo and onions).
The Aztecs and most of the pre-Columbian peoples of Mesoamerica relied on corn, tomatoes, beans, and chile peppers, along with cacao and other native animals for protein (from turkeys to marine life, to grasshoppers and ant eggs, for example!). You won’t find grasshoppers on the menu here, but the Huarache does provide an authentic piece of central Mexico that is both satisfying and educational.
Occupation: Disc Jockey–DJ The Maestro
Location: San Francisco
Favorite Restaurant: The House
Reviewed El Huarache Azteca: Sunday, January 8, 2006
I would really like to lose some weight, but now that I have discovered Huarache Azteca, I think it might be impossible. The food at this place is so good that I already know that I am going to be a lifetime regular. Even if I became the world’s most famous and disciplined fitness guru, I would have to sneak out and overeat at this place. This may be the best Mexican food I have ever tasted.
The service was so kind and gracious that I almost wanted to hire their staff to go to other restaurants and teach self-absorbed, attitude-filled waitpeople how to just relax, stop pretending they invented coolness itself, and just take care of people. At Huarache Azteca I felt like we were honored guests in a dignified person’s home.
The decor was distinctly outrageous, sort of like you were eating in an Aztec Museum. The place was wrapped in murals. There was Aztec history and philosophy on the walls. There was a mini fountain for human sacrifices, (probably only used if someone complained about the food). There were Spanish Conquistadors marching in to wreak havoc on the natives. I hadn’t thought about the Aztecs in a long time, but I’m pretty sure this was a good place to do it.
Our server hardly spoke English, so we knew we had come to the right place. When we asked for recommendations she didn’t understand us, but sweetly went and got help. We started with a plate of four mixed appetizers. We had mini flautas, mini sopes, mini huarache aztecas, and another mini dish I can’t remember how to spell or pronounce. We were instantly transported to Aztec Heaven. We were already impressed by the chips and salsa, but once we tried the flautas and tortillas with cactus, we stopped yakkin’ and started pigging out. Our perception of Mexican food was about to be expanded forever
We had the Chicken Mole and the Chicken Tinga for our main entrées and, of course, had to get a few steak and chicken tacos on the side. Once I bit into the mole I instantly knew that this was by far the best mole I have ever had. Biting into this was like discovering the Beatles for the first time. I started eating uncontrollably. I can’t imagine anyone not liking this dish. It’s like an elegant burrito bathing in savory chocolate. This was not only merely the best mole of my life, but the Chicken Tinga was like discovering an entirely new species of food. It was so new and exciting that I wanted to go home and paint Aztec murals all over my own walls. It had a sweet and hot red sauce dripping through shredded chicken on top of a bean-stuffed thick corn tortilla. Actually, “WOW!!!” would be the best way to describe it.
So far, the best tacos I have ever had were in the Chiapas region of Mexico. I only had one small steak taco at Huarache Azteca, but it seemed right on par with Mexico’s best. The refried beans on the side were so good I wanted to drink them with a straw.
We had absolutely no room left in our stomachs, but we decided to order the flan anyway. I know I sound like a cheerleader for this place, but this was the best flan I have ever tasted, moist and sweet and instantly addictive.
My friend Evan and I were both staggered by the deliciousness of this restaurant. I felt like I had discovered one of life’s great secrets. We are already planning to bring friends back to this place by the busload.
The one drawback for some people might be the deeply urban location. When we were leaving there were hookers walking the streets, cops patrolling on almost every block, and an extremely high person at the local gas station asked me for $5. It seems to be a bit more reckless than your average neighborhood, but this food is worth the risk. I would crawl over land mines to get at food this good.
Occupation: Behavior Specialist for the Orinda, Moraga, and Walnut Creek School Districts
Location: Pleasant Hill
Favorite Restaurant: Havana
Reviewed El Huarache Azteca: Friday, January 6, 2006
If you are in the mood for Mexican food, but looking for something unusual, authentic, and inexpensive, El Huarache Azteca in Oakland will fit the bill. El Huarache Azteca specializes in genuine Central Mexican cuisine; something you won’t find at many local Mexican food restaurants.
After struggling to find parking and walking past many “ladies of the night,” El Huarache Azteca was like a comfortable beacon in the night. Upon entering, one is struck by the well-lit space that is covered, floor to ceiling, in amazing murals of Aztec culture. In the corner was the most amazing and elaborate nativity scene I have ever laid eyes on. We easily grabbed a table for two, as the restaurant was not crowded at this time. There were just a few locals scattered around the room enjoying their dinner.
The friendly server immediately came over and offered us menus. She returned a brief time later to take our order and bring us chips and salsa. I was disappointed to discover that the corn chips were not made here in the kitchen, despite the fact that the restaurant is known for their skill in making corn tortillas.
The menu at El Huarache Azteca is very different from your standard Mexican food restaurant. They do offer quesadillas and tacos, in all types of meat including tongue. In addition to this standard fare, they offer a wide selection of tortas and other Hispanic sandwiches, as well as flautas, chalupas, and tostadas. The most unique item on their menu, and something I had never seen before were the huaraches. I ordered the restaurant’s namesake, the Huarache Azteca, which was a thick corn tortilla, softly fried with a layer of refried beans in the middle. On top was a tangy marinated cactus, plenty of lettuce, salty Mexican queso, sour cream, and carne asada.