This week we've got something old, something new, nothing borrowed and after what we tasted, we're anything but blue.
We're featuring two lunch spots, both recommended by readers -- one of which is an exceptional value.
Los Comales Taqueria has opened on Brundage in what was for so long the Olde Port Fish Grotto but in recent years has been home to many, many restaurants that haven't lasted too long. I have a feeling this humble restaurant will stick if only because of the exceptional values. The interior is shop-worn, but at these prices you're not buying atmosphere anyway.
For example, I ordered a burrito made with carne asada ($4.99) and I swear it was about 90 percent meat. There was a bit more refried beans spread near one of the ends, and some salsa, but this is a carnivore's dream. The beef was perfectly seasoned and prepared, thin as cardboard, chopped, grilled almost crunchy in some spots but moist everywhere with the salsa. Even my companion, who isn't always in the mood for meat, had to take another bite after her sample portion. That's how good it was. It was like a home-cooked burrito and a steal at only $5.
My companion ordered the chicken fajitas ($9.99), which are brought on a sizzling platter with decent rice and beans on the side, the addition of red pepper strips to the green peppers and onions you usually find. What was puzzling was the almost complete lack of any seasoning that you take for granted with fajitas. If you've ever wondered what chicken breast meat grilled with vegetables tastes like without any spices, try this. It's like an unplugged version of a hit song. Had it not been for this flaw, I'd be recommending this dish, too. Who serves chicken fajitas for only $10 nowadays? It's rare.
The menu also offers tacos, quesadillas, tortas (Mexican sandwiches) and more meats, including cabeza al vapor, pork and tripe.
They even have chicken nuggets or hamburgers for $4.99. Why? Keep picky children happy, I guess. Anyone who'd order American food when the quality of the Mexican fare is at this level needs to check themselves.
Changing gears to the veterans around town, we recently visited Circle Deli, at the northeast quadrant of the Garces Circle downtown, where it's been forever. Near the cash register there was a framed newspaper ad from 1938 when it was the Circle Market. It has a very narrow interior, with laminated bench seating inside and a few tables on the patio outside.
I was told to order the Circle Deli Cheeseburger ($8) and the meatloaf sandwich, but the latter item was not on the list of 14 sandwiches (many tempting choices), and when I called to ask about it, they said they've never served it.
I did try the burger, which featured a hand-formed, misshapen but juicy patty that was not quite up to the standards of the best in town, but I loved the grilled hot pastrami on it.
Still, the American cheese was an insult to the pastrami. A slice of Swiss would've been killer. There was a generous portion of leaf lettuce, the typical pathetically pale tomato slice that adds no flavor and some purple onions. The bun was grilled, and even had a grill mark on top that looked like a birthmark.
The crinkle cut fries ($1.99 extra if you don't get a combo) were uninspired.
My companion selected the Cobb salad ($7.25) and it was a winner. The mix of greens included spinach and various other exceedingly fresh lettuces, a bit of bacon, solid ham and turkey bits, diced tomatoes (redder and sweeter than what was on my burger) and came with a choice of six dressings (she picked balsamic, an excellent pairing).
A local company called Simply Cupcakes was providing desserts, five different choices in a case. We selected the Oreo ($2.75), which had black-and-white layer- cake and bits of Oreo in the frosting. Save room for this, though the banana nut one looked great too.
There are a number of breakfast items and some inspired choices on the sandwich list that I'll sample on return visits, including the Pioneer ($7.50, grilled chicken breast, bacon, jalapenos and pepper jack cheese on a Pyrenees roll), the California Special ($7, grilled roast beef with pepper rings and pepper jack cheese on, again, a Pyrenees roll) and the French dip ($7, also on that roll). That bakery's name on a sandwich still carries some clout.