Today for lunch I finally made it out to El Azteca Taqueria. I attempted to come here a while back but found out that they were closed on Mondays. During the rest of the week hours are pretty standard and they open early on the weekends for breakfast. El Azteca is located a couple doors down from Panda Restaurant in the Bel Air shopping center at Foothills and Baseline/Main. I’ve heard nothing but good things from lots of people, so I was excited to finally check it out.
I arrived with my parents just after 11:30AM. I was immediately wowed by the size of the place and how nice it looked. I’m fairly certain it’s the biggest taqueria in Roseville. In addition to tons of table seating, there is a big and nice looking bar, which looked to be well stocked. I wondered for a moment if this was actually more of a full service, sit-down type place, but then I noticed the menus and register directly to the back from the front doors. They don’t have a website and were out of paper take-out menus, but the woman I asked was nice enough to let me take photos of the menu. Click on any photo to go to a bigger version. The menu was impressive and had everything I expected from a taqueria and more. The beer list is particularly large for most restaurants and it even puts some bars to shame. Most are Mexican imports and the sheer number of different bottles available is outstanding. A small selection is available on draught. It didn’t take me long to locate my favorite dish, the carnitas plate (or as they have it on the menu, Plato de Carnitas). It’s either the most or tied for the most expensive carnitas plate I’ve ordered in Roseville at $13.95. With a soda the total came to $17.68, including tax.
I filled up my big cup with Dr Pepper at the fountains located just to the left of the register and headed out into the dining room to look for a seat. There weren’t very many people here at the time, so we had lots of tables to choose from. Eventually we settled on a table near the front by the windows. From here I had a good view of the entire taqueria. A minute or so after sitting down we had chips and salsa brought to the table. The chips were very average, room temperature but with a nice crunch. The salsa had an instant kick to it and good overall flavor. More than a couple bites in a row and the heat started to build very, very quickly. I had downed half of my soda by the time we polished off the basket of chips as a result. Being self serve I got up and refilled it before the food arrived. By this time there was a fairly long line which kept up for a while.
Just over 10 minutes after sitting down I saw someone heading our way with a tray of food. She arrived at our table and started naming each plate and handing them to each of us as we claimed them. For mine she mistakenly said carne asada, but quickly corrected herself when I repeated “carne asada?” and looked skeptical. It was indeed the carnitas plate. We were all set. My parents had an enchilada [$4.50] and 3 chicken taquitos [$5.49] a la carte since they had a late breakfast. The enchilada was very gooey and cheesy, which I could tell by watching my dad dealing with long, stringy cheese in some bites. The taquitos, along with my carnitas plate, came with a good amount of fresh, excellent guacamole. I first tried the rice from my plate, and I knew right away that this was some of the best rice I’ve encountered. Most everywhere it’s very boring and nearly flavorless. Here it was incredibly flavorful. So much so that I didn’t want to mix it in with the beans as I usually do anywhere else. It was also very hot, which my beans were as well. Like the rice, the beans were very good as well and I’d put them in my top 5. I was starting this plate out very impressed. On to the carnitas. Just by looking at them I could see they would have the wonderfully crisp edges I love so much. The first bite in I was sold. Just past that crispy outside was an intensely flavorful and tender bit of pork that almost melted in my mouth. Each piece, from one to the next, was very consistent and delicious.
Now I know why this place gets as much good word of mouth as it does. It deserves it. I’d put it right up there with my favorite taquerias, El Parian, Sabores and Plaza Jalisco. The only thing that wasn’t totally excellent was the chips, which isn’t really a big deal. This is one of the pricier taquerias, but I’d say it’s quality lives up to that price.