Saturday, October 24, 2015

La Super-Rica Taqueria (Santa Barbara, CA)

La Super-Rica Taqueria
622 N Milpas St, Santa Barbara, CA 93103
Sat 10/24/2015, 11:30a-12:55p

La Super-Rica Taqueria Exterior

A quick day trip up to Firestone Walker Barrelworks meant passing through Santa Barbara, and passing through Santa Barbara meant a stop at the iconic La Super Rica, perhaps the Southland's most vaunted taco joint. The place is the work of owner Isidoro Gonzalez, a former college Spanish teacher who opened the family-run shop in May 1980. He was reportedly inspired by the tacos al carbon he had in Mexico City, sort of a new-ish concept in the States at the time, and supposedly the restaurant really took off in 1985 when Julia Child proclaimed it a favorite of hers on Good Morning America.

La Super-Rica Taqueria Menu La Super-Rica Taqueria Specials Menu
La Super-Rica's menu was lengthier than expected, comprising mostly non-taco items joined by a rotating board of specials. Prices were also much more reasonable than I thought they'd be, and it turns out they haven't crept up much at all in 20 years. Click for larger versions.

La Super-Rica Taqueria Salsa Selection
Salsa options included your typical pico de gallo, a spicy-smoky roja, and a surprisingly floral verde.

Tacos de Bistec
Tacos de Bistec [$2.50] | Tender strips of grilled steak served on two homemade tortillas
We had to begin with your typical carne asada taco. Decent flavor and char to the meat, but I also found it tough and on the dry side. Not a promising start.

2015 Bruery Terreux Imperial Cabinet
The food just screams for BYOB, so we obliged, starting with the 2015 Bruery Terreux Imperial Cabinet, an oak-aged sour ale brewed with lemon, lime, orange, botanicals, and sweeteners, inspired by the Ramos gin fizz cocktail and created in collaboration with Jester King. I got a lot of sweet and sour, both in terms of smell and taste, overarched by notes of floral vanilla, with more spicy/herbal nuances coming through on the palate. It sort of reminded me of a more complex version of the brewery's limoncello-inspired Sourrento.

Alambre de Filete
Alambre de Filete [$5.80] | Grilled tri-tip with bell pepper, onions and bacon plus 3 tortillas
One of more satisfying dishes of the day. The tri-tip came out surprisingly tender, with a smidge of char, and definitely worked alongside the onions and peppers.

Rajas [$3.95] | Sauteed strips of chile pasilla w/ onions, melted cheese and herbs on 2 corn tortillas
A take on rajas con crema looked a mess but functioned reasonably well, the zing from the peppers cut by that runny cheese.

2015 Council Beatitude Three Berry Tart Saison
The 2015 Council Beatitude Three Berry Tart Saison was utterly quaffable with its bright, tangy, refreshing fruit (raspberry, blueberry, blackberry) flavors.

Super-Rica Especial
Super-Rica Especial [$6.80] | Roasted chile pasilla stuffed w/ cheese, with marinated pork +3 tortillas
One of the standouts was this disheveled looking plate, which had your classic meat 'n' cheese goodness balanced out by the presence of those chilies.

Tacos de Chuleta
Tacos de Chuleta [$2.50] | Grilled strips of pork steak served on two homemade tortillas
The pork chop taco was more successful than its bovine brethren, arriving more tender, more flavorful, but still not great.

2015 Cigar City Two Regular Joes
Next to drink was the 2015 Cigar City Two Regular Joes, another limited release from CC created in collabo with Nantahala Brewing Company out of North Carolina. It had a pretty prototypical stout-y nose of rich malt and molasses with some spicing, while the taste went tangy, with loads of cocoa powder and a trace of nuttiness.

Tacos de Chorizo
Tacos de Chorizo [$2.50] | Chunks of grilled chorizo served on two fresh homemade tortillas
The chorizo was nice: spicy, fatty, flavorful, and not screaming for a thorough dousing of salsa in order to make it more palatable.

Chile Relleno de Queso con Crema
Chile Relleno de Queso con Crema | Cheese Chile Relleno topped w/ cream sauce.
The chile relleno was a bit flat though, both in terms of appearance and taste. Not too much going on here.

2015 Sante Adairius Barrel-Aged Fumare
The 2015 Sante Adairius Barrel-Aged Fumare was a "historical saison" made using smoked malt. It definitely tasted the part, with a nose of apple-tinged smoke leading to a palate of more smoke, commingled with funky blue cheese notes, spice, and an underlying fruitiness.

Tacos de Adobado
Tacos de Adobado [$2.50] | Strips of marinated pork steak served on two homemade tortillas
The adobado was my favorite of the tacos--the most tender and the most flavorful, with a nice touch of heat.

Tamal de Verduras
Tamal de Verduras | Vegetable tamal filled w/ chayote, corn, zucchini, potato, chile pasilla strips, cheese. Topped w/ a cream sauce.
The tamal was about what you'd expect, the relative lightness of the veggies going up against the sheer creaminess and cheesiness of it all.

2015 Bottle Logic Picture If You Will
Our final beer was the highly-anticipated 2015 Bottle Logic Picture If You Will, brewed with pumpkins, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, allspice, and clove, then aged in Buffalo Trace bourbon barrels for six months. It was one of the better pumpkin beers I've had for sure, and very apropos for the season. Smooth aromas of sweet, autumnal spice; taste conveyed loads more sharp, sweet pumpkin pie and baking spices, with some oak peeking through.

Quesadilla con Chorizo
Quesadilla con Chorizo [$3.50] | Grilled chorizo w/ melted cheese served between two homemade tortillas
You generally can't go wrong with a combination of chorizo and cheese, and La Super-Rica certainly didn't. One of my favorites for sure.

Enchiladas de Plaza
Enchiladas de Plaza | Two corn tortillas filled with chicken breast, potato, mushroom, red chile sauce. Topped w/ cheese, chile pasilla strips, cream sauce, avocado, radish. Two per order.
We ended on a high note. Enchiladas were properly meaty, hearty, but also balanced by the various veggies on the plate while the cream sauce held it all together.

I don't get the hype surrounding Super-Rica. The food was reasonably good (especially the homemade tortillas), but not worthy of all the acclaim that the place has garnered. In terms of recent meals, I experienced considerably better cooking at Lakewood's Adobo Taco Grill, and that's just a random, no-name spot in the suburbs. Perhaps Julia just didn't have many other choices for Mexican back in the day.

2015 Toolbox WoodwerX
Later, we headed to the beach for a bit and finished off our remaining bottles. First was the 2015 Toolbox WoodwerX, a wild amber farmhouse ale with Brett, aged in American and French oak red wine barrels. Early reports were quite negative for this beer, but I enjoyed it. Think tart and earthy, with a distinct wood component to it.

Uni Tray / Santa Barbara Ceviche / Crab Salad
We also picked up some snacks from the beach-adjacent Santa Barbara Fish Market. The Santa Barbara Ceviche was on point, and the Crab Salad was serviceable as well. The Uni Tray, however, fell short. It was nice to look at, but the actual roe was on the muddy, not-exactly-fresh side. I could only down one piece, with the rest ending up in somebody else's uni pasta.

De Struise Black Albert A2 SC2 Club
The heftiest beer of the day came in the form of the De Struise Black Albert A2 SC2 Club, an imperial stout fermented on peaches, then aged in Anguilla rum barrels. I got a smooth presentation of roast and malt, underscored by barrel character with just a hint of stone fruit layered on top--quite good. Interestingly, the beer was re-released in 2013 as Black Damnation XII - Nuptiale A2 for the wedding of an Ashley and a Trey, and fittingly, there's also a "T2" variant with black currants and Port barrels.

2014 The Bruery Geriatric Hipster Club
Closing it down was the Hoarders-only, Old Fashioned cocktail-inspired 2014 The Bruery Geriatric Hipster Club, a strong ale aged in oak bourbon barrels with orange peel and housemade bitters. I really liked this a lot more than I thought I would. It smelled of sweet, rich malt intertwined with citrus. The taste, meanwhile, went boozy, bourbon-y, with lots of bittersweet spice and zesty orange layered on top. Much easier-drinking than anticipated.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think you are judging the place too hard, it isn't supposed to be extraordinary it's just a place to get cheap homey and delicious Mexican comfort food

Wednesday, December 02, 2015 10:09:00 AM  
Blogger DishRanker said...

Fully agree with you. I left that place pretty annoyed about waiting in that long line for bland food. Next time, check out Los Agaves up the street for some amazing molcajete.

Wednesday, December 02, 2015 11:48:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If you cannot appreciate La Super-Rica, you lose all credibility my friend.

Wednesday, December 02, 2015 11:50:00 AM  
Anonymous Kevin's Poor Liver said...


Do you ever worry about jeopardizing the restaurants where you bring in booze illegally?

Thursday, December 03, 2015 11:02:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Love this place, sublime mexican food, haunted by it!

Thursday, December 03, 2015 2:12:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Have to agree, only went there once, took a few bites and threw it away and went and got a burger. Try Lilly's tacos or Taqueria Rincon Alteno next time in SB.

Thursday, December 03, 2015 5:08:00 PM  
Blogger kevinEats said...

Anon: There's absolutely nothing wrong with cheap, homey food, but there are a lot of restaurants that offer up such cooking, so why does everybody talk this place up?

DR: Los Agaves came up while I was looking at other Mexican joints in SB, but everybody wanted to do Super Rica.

Anon: Some would say that you lose credibility for buying into the hype here. But it's not that I can't appreciate the cooking (at least for some of the dishes), it's that the cooking isn't anything particularly noteworthy.

Liver: If it's illegal because the restaurant doesn't have a license, then they're doing a pretty good job of jeopardizing themselves by selling pedestrian beer (check Yelp).

Anon: I wish I could say the same.

John: Somebody in my group actually proposed Lilly's, but again, people were attracted to the name recognition of this place.

Friday, December 04, 2015 1:05:00 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

I went here with high expectations that fell very very short. I honestly thought it sucked. Being from Socal where the Mex is legit, I thought this place was bland and boring. Only people from SB think its good.

Friday, December 11, 2015 12:29:00 PM  

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