#138: El Parian Taqueria & Cantina

Tonight’s dinner was El Parian Taqueria & Cantina.  It is located on Fairway Drive, directly across the street from Home Depot.  I headed in at about 4:45PM to a mostly empty dining room.  Just a few tables were in use by the half dozen or so customers.  An employee was finishing up mopping when I stepped inside.  She immediately put the mop away and met me at the front counter where she waited patiently as I scanned the menu.

You might think this is an obvious choice given my previous taqueria visits, but I was feeling squirrely today.  I eyed the chimichanga and some of the other special plates with photos while she answered the phone and took a quick order for pickup.  After she hung up I stepped up to the register and asked for the chimichanga.  She asked if I wanted everything on it, to which I squinted a bit and asked what that was.  She explained: Inside- choice of meat, beans, cheese and rice, Outside- guacamole, sour cream and pico de gallo.  This all sounded good to me.  After I selected carnitas for the meat she asked me if I would like black, pinto or refried beans.  I chose refried and then picked a lime Jarritos from a cooler.  In addition to Jarritos they have your typical selection for a taqueria.  In addition they have a few draught beers behind a separate and kind of lonely looking bar.  Once I was paid up (just over $11) I wandered off into the largish dining room to claim a table.

It’s  quite big for a taqueria.  There are three distinct sections of tables.  Along the front of the building are sets of tables.  A short wall divides this section off from another row of tables and the front counter.  Around a corner and towards the back are a few more.  The most striking thing about this place is the bar.  It’s odd because it looks largely unused, save for the beer taps.  If you order a draught beer they will go all the way to the other side of the restaurant and behind this bar to pour it, then come back.  I almost sat at it.  The chairs at each table are not your typical 4-legged restaurant chairs, they have a lot of character to them.  They seemed like they might not get cleaned extremely well due to their design.  They didn’t feel dirty or grungy, but I just got that impression from them.

A few minutes went by before I realized that I didn’t get any chips, so I headed up to the salsa bar to get a basket.  I picked two salsas, a chipotle salsa and one that I think was salsa de aguacate (based on what it looked and tasted like, and a bunch of Googling).  I found the chipotle one (which is usually my go-to) to be much, much sweeter than any I’ve had before, but it did have a good, solid and immediate kick to it.  I probably would have stuck with this if the other wasn’t so awesome.  The salsa de aguacate (again, I think) was incredibly smooth and had a coolness to it that was really nice for this hot day.  As for the chips, they were easily the best chips I’ve had from a self serve salsa bar.  They seemed to be incredibly fresh, where with others you can tell have clearly been sitting for hours, if not days, by their texture alone.  These were crisp and once bitten into they sort of…dissolved is not the right word I’m looking for, but something like that.  In other words not like old, stale chips that you crunch away on and they remain as tiny shards of chip just waiting to get lodged in your throat.  Not like that at all.

My lime soda was the second Jarritos I’ve ever ordered, after the mango one I had at Taqueria Los Altos.  I wasn’t feeling this one right away, but later while I was eating, it started to grow on me.  It wasn’t as strong as I expected, definitely not as strong as the mango.  Mango is definitely my favorite so far.  About seven or eight minutes from the time I ordered, my plate was brought to my table.  On the plate was a MASSIVE chimichanga.  It was kind of silly how big it was.  I think I stared at it, turning the plate around to check it out from all angles, for a solid 30 seconds thinking “holy crap.”  One of the first things that I noticed once I got over the size were the plastic fork and knife.  They felt really out of place here, I fully expected to have silverware.  It’s not exactly an Adelbertos.  Getting past that, I started carving the beast.  The fried tortilla was crisp and flaky, particularly at the end.  Inside I found a river of molten cheese atop rice, refried beans and pork.  The cheese quickly cooled as it was exposed to the air and quickly took a more stringy/gooey composition that at times required the knife to cut through.  Everything else inside held onto the heat for much longer.  The beans in particular were incredibly hot and quite tasty.  The rice added a nice texture but flavor-wise were completely drowned out by everything else.  The carnitas were also very hot.  Super tender, they almost melted in your mouth.  Here and there I’d get bites of superheated beans and pork along with the cool pico de gallo from on top, which was in comparison very cold and a bit of a shock when I didn’t expect it.  My only complaint about this monstrosity was the guacamole.  It looked and tasted like something they probably get out of a can.

I left here very impressed, and also carrying a to go box with the third of my chimichanga that I wasn’t even remotely able to finish.  Obviously the chimichanga was fantastic and monstrously proportioned, but one of the things that actually sticks out to me the most was the salsa bar.  At most taquerias they’re just OK.  Here I wish I had room to go back and snack on some more great chips and that awesome, smooth salsa de aguacate.  In addition, the service was friendly and efficient.  Even the cook, who I had asked for the to go box from, was personable.  El Parian Taqueria & Cantina definitely ranks up there with the best in Roseville.  I know I’ll be back.

(Scanned) Menu: Click Here

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#137: Vernon Street Grill & Deli

I had a pretty small lunch today which had me thinking about dinner almost as soon as I was home from work.  I had already picked out Vernon Street Grill & Deli.  Obviously located on Vernon Street, this restaurant is on the same stretch as Sammy’s Rockin’ Bar & Grill but on the other side.  This is the area where the food truck roundup happens on the 2nd Thursday of each month.  I arrived just before 4PM and found a parking spot close by.  Once inside you can take a right into the smallish dining room or continue ahead down a narrow path towards a cooler with beer, and just around the corner to the counter.  Here they had the menu up on the wall as well as laminated on the counter.

When I got here there were just a half dozen or so customers eating.  They had all left by the time I got my food.  One person came in while I was eating, ordered something to go and left once it was ready.  There were a couple employees working, though I mostly only saw the one that rung me up.  She was quiet but friendly.  Having looked at the menu online a while ago I knew that they offer a little bit of everything: burgers, hot & cold sandwiches/subs, cheesesteaks, hot wings and salads.  They also serve breakfast in the morning.  I asked if there was anything they were known for in particular.  With a smile, “Everything” was what she said.  A moment later as I was skimming over the menu again she pointed out the cheesesteaks and said they were good.  They have 6″, 8″ and 12″ sizes.  I decided to go with the 6″ and pick out a side to go with it.  I found a variety of fries (regular, curly, garlic, onion) to choose from as well as cheese sticks, potato salad, zucchini with ranch and chicken strips with fries (this sounds more like a meal and that it’s in the wrong section to me).  I asked if the zucchini is deep fried, which she confirmed, and I went with that.  After a fountain drink, my total came to about $10.

I was handed a little number and I headed to the front where I found a slightly raised section of small tables that lined the windows.  While I waited for my food the remaining customers left and the woman that rung me up was immediately in the dining room cleaning up tables.  She also appeared to be working on my order, or at least helping in the kitchen here and there.  My food was brought out just five minutes after I had sat down.  The cheesesteak was just a little guy.  It was just a $5 6″, but still.  It’s hard not to compare it to even the basic ‘steaks at Cheesesteak Grille or Cheese Steak Shop, which are both considerably bigger and stuffed full of meat and cheese.  Despite this, it was actually not bad at all.  The steak was tender and flavorful and it had a pretty good ratio of creamy, melty cheese to meat.  Thick grilled onions finished it off.  The roll was just a typical sub roll, not the more traditional Amoroso.  For the price, it’s really not a bad cheessteak at all.

I was kind of expecting the zucchini to be sliced like pickle chips, but they were strips instead.  The batter was thin and light and seemed to be the same type you’d see used on mozzarella sticks.  These were initially very hot and I left a lot of them for last so they could cool off a bit.  With or without ranch I found these to be really good.  They were light enough (even though they were deep fried) to be a really nice side that didn’t leave me stuffed or feeling like I needed a nap afterwards.  You could easily taste the flavor of the batter and the zucchini equally, which is nice when so many fried things just end up tasting like whatever batter/oil they’re cooked in.

Nothing here was all that mind blowing, though I don’t really have any complaints either.  Will I be back?  Maybe to try the breakfast.  I would say that the food and experience as a whole wasn’t super memorable overall.  If I happened to work nearby I could see myself returning to try their other items over time.  Actually there’s a place near my work that’s very much like Vernon Street Grill, similar menu and all, and I feel the same about it.  I go there less than once a year on average, usually when someone else wants to go.  It’s not bad, just nothing really interesting.

Website: http://www.vernongrill.com/

#136: Boudin SF

Today I went to Boudin SF, located in the Fountains.  This is one of numerous bakery/cafes spread throughout California and originating from the famous Boudin Bakery in San Francisco.  I’ve never eaten here or at the San Fransisco one despite having walked/driven past them both many times.  In fact, I wasn’t even really sure what they offered besides clam chowder and bread.  After a short search through the Fountains I found Boudin towards the back, across from Zocalo and Dave & Busters.

I headed in at around 4:45PM.  At first it didn’t seem like they had more than a couple customers, but once moved in a little further I could see about a dozen or so people siting in booths, which had been blocked by a display of bread.  I was surprised to see that they bake their own bread in-store.  The bakery is on display through windows in the entryway.  I figured they would have had daily deliveries from the mothership in San Francisco.  The wall behind the register is a nice display of some awesome looking fresh bread.

I waved the guy behind me forward as I was still looking over the menu.  He bought a loaf of Ciabatta to go.  The menu consists mainly of soups, salads and sandwiches.  They also have baguette burgers and grilled cheeses.  I knew I had to try the clam chowder bread bowl.  I also wanted to try a salad with it.  Under soups on the menu it says you can add a side Caesar or side spring salad for $2.49.  The soup itself is $6.49.  Above this I saw a soup & salad combo for $8.79 where you get to choose from all of their salads.  I felt like I was probably missing something here and asked the cashier why, for 19 cents less, you get a better selection.  She didn’t really have a reason, only confirmed that yes, that was correct and it’s really the better deal.  So I went ahead with the combo and chose the Goat Cheese & Apple salad (mixed greens, sliced Granny Smith apples, Laura Chenel goat cheese, dried cranberries, toasted almonds, white balsamic and citrus vinaigrette).  For beverages they have Coke products (with, interestingly, Dr Pepper rather than the expected Mr. Pibb) as well as various bottled juices and also a small selection of beer.

I paid and was handed a number on a coaster-like disc.  After filling up at the fountains I headed back to the front of the cafe where there are 4 tall tables by the window.  They have a good sized patio to the side of the building and a smaller one around the corner in the front.  My little coaster-number went into a stand in the table and within just a few minutes an employee was headed my way with a plate of food.  After setting it down at my table he asked if there was anything else he could get for me, and then was off to the kitchen again when I said I was all set.

On the crowded little plate was my bread bowl, a bit smaller than I was expecting, and a nice looking salad with lots of bright white goat cheese.  Additionally there was a little pad of butter, I assumed for use on the “lid” of the bread bowl.  The chowder was quite hot so I focused first on the salad.  I don’t know why I this didn’t cross my mind when I decided on this salad but I’m not crazy about apples in many things.  I like them just fine on their own, but to me they really seem out of place in just about everything but pie.  That said, I didn’t mind them here.  I do admit, however, that I ate all of them first so that I could enjoy the salad without them, haha.  It was really tasty.  The white balsamic and citrus vinaigrette was quite mild and enjoyable, not at all overly citrus-y, which I am leery about when I see “citrus” in any description.  All the greens were fresh and the toasted almonds tasted great.  The almonds were a nice contrast in texture to the super smooth and creamy goat cheese.  This cheese was very rich and I was careful to not get a huge gob of it with a small bite.  It seemed to be just slightly above room temperature and right on the edge of melting into a goo right there on my plate.  I thought that the cranberries, of which there were quite a lot, made the whole thing just a touch sweeter than necessary, but overall I thought this was a pretty good salad.

The clam chowder I was less enthusiastic about.  I think this is mostly due to it’s consistency, but a little based on the overall flavor.  Potatoes in it were the largest chunks by far.  They weren’t huge but they were much bigger than anything else.  The clams were very small, almost unnoticeable until I looked for them specifically.  I said in my Claim Jumper post that I’m a huge fan of their clam chowder bread bowl.  Compared to that one, Boudin’s just seemed kind of thin to me and had that ocean-y sent to it.  Claim Jumper’s is super creamy.  Boudin does have a big advantage though in their sourdough bowl.  It’s streets ahead of Claim Jumper’s that, in hindsight, is decent at best.  It seems noticeably fresher and more flavorful.  I enjoyed eating the lid after I had finished everything else.

Both of the employees I interacted with were very friendly, the service was fast and the restaurant, while already looking immaculate, was being constantly cleaned by one or two people the entire time I was there.  While this certainly wasn’t a home run, I saw a lot of potential.  I’d actually really like to come back and try a grilled cheese, sandwich or burger on their awesome sourdough.  I’ll update this post if/when I do that.

Website: http://www.boudinbakery.com/Boudin_SF