Today after work I stopped into La Morenita Market & Taqueria, located on Douglas Blvd just across from Roseville Square. I’ve been driving past this little market for about 6 years now every single day and only recently did it click in my mind that this was also a restaurant in addition to a market. There was a long period of time that I would stare in the window as I drove by trying to confirm this in a few seconds from my car but it was always somewhat difficult to make out anything in time. Finally I realized they do have some tables and I saw people eating once, so I added it to my list.
There is a small amount of parking in the back, which seems to be shared by the auto shop and car wash on that corner. I walked in at about 4PM to a mostly empty shop. There was one customer milling about, waiting for his food I think. At first I wasn’t sure where I was supposed to order. The counter and register to my immediate left sd no sign of a menu or reason to go there, so I slowly made my way further inside. To the right it opened up to a small dining room with half a dozen tables. Finally, all the way to the back and around a shelf I discovered a tiny nook with a menu and a glass display case that was serving as a counter of sorts. The small Pepsi menu was augmented by a larger homemade menu with photos of items to the side (which was really awkwardly located and hard to get a picture of). It seemed like they had the basics that you might expect at a typical taqueria and not much more (though I may be wrong, perhaps they make a full menu’s worth of food and you simply have to know or ask).
When I approached the counter and was looking up at the menu, a woman working in the kitchen called to someone in the back. A moment later another woman arrived to take my order. I asked for a carnitas plate, she said she’d bring out chips, and that was that. I turned around and took a seat in the dining room. Several of the tables were dirty but she came out and cleaned them all up after delivering my chips and salsa. Behind me the entire wall was lined with coolers full of bottled and canned beverages. The selection was similar to any other convenience store – water, soda, sports drinks, a small selection of beers. I guessed that you just grab whatever you want and pay afterwards, but not being 100% sure I decided to go without unless I got thirsty, which I didn’t. I later got confirmation of this when another customer ordered his food, grabbed a soda and sat down to his chips.
The chips weren’t anything special. They were room temperature and had a decent crunch to them, but not much else. The salsa was thin but packed a satisfying heat to it. Although these were pretty uneventful, I did find myself continuing to snack on them all the way to the end, so they definitely weren’t bad.
It wasn’t very long before my carnitas plate was brought out to me, perhaps just about 5 minutes. The amount of food felt right for about $8. The carnitas were hot and steaming away when it arrived. Instead of being shredded or pulled, these were chunks of various sizes from big and juicy to little crispy bits and everything in between. The rice and beans looked pretty standard, and indeed they were. I tasted each one by itself before mixing them together with the lettuce. I gathered up a little bit of everything along with some of the plain looking guacamole and wrapped it up in one of the hot corn tortillas that were in a basket off to the side and wrapped in foil. Overall it was OK. The guacamole seemed like it probably came from a jar, a little disappointing but not unexpected based on it’s appearance. All the other ingredients felt like they were covering up what might be pretty good carnitas, so after a 2nd tortilla I went to the fork and ate the rest of the plate one thing at a time. The carnitas were, in fact, a lot better this way. They did have a lot of delicious flavor, particularly the bigger, fattier pieces. They all had a nice crisp to them on the outside, and as they got smaller they became more and more crispy until they were basically little pork chips of sorts, but still pretty tasty.
When I was finished I went to the main counter where the cashier asked what I had ordered and then rung me up. He confirmed that this was a family run restaurant when he commented to me that his mother was the cook. I wish the rest of the plate was up to the level that the carnitas was but unfortunately it was fairly lacking. The service, while very minimal, was good overall. Everyone seemed friendly. I like the idea of this place but if I want to get a crazy good carnitas plate I know there are a few other places here in Roseville that are a big step up in execution.