#278: LaLupita

12:10pm, 5/21/2022


Today I popped over to this little Mexican joint on Atkinson and Church/Vineyard for lunch. I think that this is about as hole-in-the-wall as you get in Roseville. Much like my visit to the neighboring El Abajeno Tacos back in 2012 it felt like I was transported hundreds of miles away, south of the border. As I finished taking a couple pictures outside the door was opened by a friendly gentleman who beckoned me to enter.

I stepped inside and there was a flurry of Spanish by a bunch of people nearby, who were wondering what I was taking photos for. I wish I had learned even a little bit of the language, but luckily one employee stepped up to translate. They were curious but welcoming as far as I could tell. The conversation was essentially over and I was left standing in the entry-way unsure if this was a counter-service or table-service sort of place.

The interior is clean and brightly colored, if a bit on the older side compared to most places in Roseville. It was comfortable. Through archways to either the left or right are larger rooms with most of the seating. The counter was unmanned and I decided to unload my cameras at a table in the room to the left. As I was finishing laying out everything, and thinking I should go order at the counter, the same interpreter from a moment earlier approached to take my order. To be clear I don’t think this is normally a table-service kind of place, they just saw an idiot come in and were trying their best to accommodate him.

Anyway, I knew I was looking for some tacos, having briefly seen some photos before I headed over that looked delicious. Mentioning tacos he told me their most popular item was the quesabirria tacos, and rattled off a few other items like burritos and enchiladas. I settled quickly on the tacos and also got an horchata[$3.75] to wash them down. Price-wise, hard to say on the tacos. I paid in cash and don’t have a receipt but the total was something like $14.92 after tax. Individual tacos are $3.95 on the menu, but this came with three so it worked out to be about $3.34-ish per taco.

Within a few minutes the man that had opened the door for me came by to drop off my horchata. Every single interaction with this guy was hilarious because he spoke 98% Spanish and always had way more to say than I ever had a chance to pick up on. When he later returned with my plate of tacos he decided to be a bit more deliberate and picked out two of the condiments already at the table, putting them next to the plate and then telling me that one of these was either really good or really spicy (maybe both!). Language barrier aside, I got the general drift on this and checked them out when it was time to dig in.

The horchata was refreshing, sweet and flavorful. It was pretty great. The tacos came with a small bowl of a deep rich-looking red broth. Having never ordered these in my life before I didn’t realize this is essentially the French Dip of the taco world, which is a shame because I didn’t dip my tacos in it at all. I did taste it and it was delicious, rich and savory. I’ll have to return to give this a proper try. The tacos, on their own, were nothing short of incredible. I’ve had tacos on the brain for a month or so after a co-worker introduced me to this fantastic new taco truck that’s been showing up in Rancho Cordova recently (Bibi’s). First I took a couple bites without adding any condiments. The base taco is, wow, super flavorful. Melt-in-your-mouth tender meat (goat I assume, based on most descriptions) with a layer of cheese on the tortilla for just the right amount in every bite. Onions and cilantro rounded it out. The tortillas had a nice, light crisp to them.

I used a little bit of the bottled sauce that was recommended. This was a very thin, fast-flowing sauce and I didn’t feel like it added much to the tacos. Next I grabbed the little cup with it’s tiny spoon and stirred up the sediment within until it was a more uniform consistency, then drizzled a little of this into my next couple bites. Now we’re talking. This added a deep roasted chili flavor with heat that left my lips tingling. I proceeded to use this generously on the rest of my tacos.

I had sort of expected to like this place, even not knowing what I was walking in to. Expectations were met and exceeded greatly. Despite the communication challenges that have hit me hard, on this street in particular 😂, the service was very friendly and inviting and the tacos were simply outstanding. This is the type of place I can see myself taking out-of-town visitors to for some solid tacos. Easy 5/5 here.

Note that this restaurant is only open on the weekends (Fri-Sun).


#277: Bonsai Japanese Cuisine

12PM, 5/14/2022

Today I headed to Cirby & Sunrise to check out Bonsai for lunch. I’ve been driving by Bonsai nearly daily since it opened in mid 2019 and always wondered what it was like inside. Previously this was Moe’s, a Chipotle-like fast food spot. Bonsai has converted the make-line, where you once worked your way down as your burrito got built, to a sushi counter. Although no-one was sitting there, the chairs and soy sauce were there and ready to go. The rest of the space definitely had a paint job to mute down some of the bright yellow-painted walls. Much of the rest, including the booth seating remained mostly the same.

I was greeted right away upon stepping inside and beckoned to a booth near the center of the restaurant. I was handed a nice looking bound menu and started to go through it to see what I would be ordering. The inside was more worse for wear with the thin plastic sleeves coming apart in places, but it did the job. My server came by to introduce himself, drop off a glass of water, and take my drink order. Having just made it to the back page where the beer was I hastily picked a large Sapporo before flipping back to confirm my other choices before he returned.

Bonsai’s offerings are pretty on par with the general sushi-focused restaurants we have in the area. Sushi, bento boxes, rolls, ramen, etc. Check out the menu below, as it appeared during this visit.

Once I had ordered I had the pleasant surprise of a complimentary edamame delivered. It’s been a while. I thought most places stopped doing this. At the very least, the spots I frequent have long stopped this practice. They were a nice, cool and refreshing snack to work on for a few minutes until my food started coming out.

I had started with their Wakame Seaweed Salad (Marinated seaweed salad/lettuce)[$6]. This is something I’ve been ordering a lot lately wherever I see it. If miso soup is my winter appetizer, this is certainly my summer appetizer. This was very nice and came with a little Lemmon wedge that I squeezed over top which brightened up the flavor a bit.

I was only a few bites into the salad when my 2nd app arrived, the Sun Shine (4pc salmon wrapped with crab meat and fish eggs)[$9]. First off I will say that I really enjoyed this. The description gave me a very different impression of what I would receive though. Instead of 4 separate pieces of salmon wrapped inside crab, two bite-sized clumps of rice were wrapped by two pieces of salmon each and topped with a slightly smaller ball of crab meat and thinly sliced avocado with the roe perched up top. I’ve always wondered if there was any money to be made in a menu-consulting gig.

Right around when I was polishing off the last of the Sun Shine my roll was delivered. I had picked out the Spicy Rainbow Roll🌶 (spicy tuna and tempura shrimp with avocado and assorted fish)[$13]. I love how this is presented on a long and thin dish with every piece carefully arranged in a row and topped with a thin slice of fresh, crisp jalapeño. This roll had a little bit of everything I was craving. Plenty of fish, tempura shrimp at the center of every bite, the aforementioned crisp jalapeño, and a tiny little dollop of a spicy sauce to top off every single piece. There was plenty of sauce on the platter around it if you wanted it, with a bit over top each bite to start you off. When I had finished this I was delighted by the lingering heat that was left on my tongue. This had an appreciable amount of heat to it without distracting from the rest.

I went in to this with virtually non-existent expectations and came out very satisfied. It may lack a nicer atmosphere but the food and service were both on point and the prices felt fair. Solid 4/5 here.


#276: Jersey Mike’s Subs

1:30PM, 4/15/2022 & 12PM, 5/7/2022


Jersey Mike’s is a quite large national chain. Its presence in our area is in a bit of a resurgence at the moment. I remember they first showed up many years ago with 2 or 3 locations and just a few year later had totally left the market. I was pretty bummed about it and even made a point to visit locations while traveling to get my fix. Now they are back again and in bigger numbers. We have 2 here in Roseville with one by Top Golf and the other just having opened very recently on Douglas in the Sprouts shopping center. I had not planned on doing a visit here due to the chains size but I’ve had more than a few messages inquiring about it so here we are. I stopped on a lark about a month ago and had this half written up for a rainy day. Last couple weekends have been insanely busy, so now’s the time. On Saturday while running errands I dropped in one more time so I’ve got a couple sandwiches here to show. Photos at the store were taken with my phone.

Anyway, what is Jersey Mikes and what makes them so special? It’s a sub sandwich place and what makes it special, to me anyway, is how they slice the meats and cheeses to order from big blocks right in front of you, with expert speed and efficiency. It’s a level of involvement no chain deals with (even a lot of smaller delis don’t do this, to be honest). I’m personally a fan of their cold subs, and the #8 Club Sub in particular, but I’ve also enjoyed their cheesesteaks and tuna sandwiches as well. This location is really no different than any other I’ve been to. The space is clean, modern and the staff is as friendly as all the others. It sort of reminds me of the Chick-fil-a or In’n’Out level of friendliness, but a bit more casual if that makes sense. What I mean by that is I get a strong sense that those two fast food chains put some amount of pressure on their staff to achieve that reputation. Jersey Mike’s may apply some of this pressure as well but it’s somehow comes across as a bit more natural and genuine here.

I’ve visited locations in Sacramento, Rancho Cordova and Folsom a number of times with a co-worker who doesn’t eat pork and they not only made it a point to either clean the slicer right then and there or use a different slicer in the back for his order but also remembered him on subsequent visits and started cleaning the slicer in advance. The customer service has rarely been anything less than great.

On my first visit I walked right up to the counter with no one in line ahead of me, and the whole process took less than five minutes. When there is a line it can take much longer, as with any assemble-as-you-order type place. I went with my typical Club Sub (Provolone, applewood smoked bacon, ham, Turkey & mayo)[Regular size, $9.85]. Bread options (baked fresh in the store) include White, Wheat, Rosemary Parmesan & a gluten free option. I’ve had all but the GF and they’re all good. Wheat has been my go-to for years but I’ve been going with the Rosemary Parm lately, which adds a little something extra flavor-wise. With this sandwich they alway ask if Mayo and Bacon are OK and if you want it Mike’s Way. Mikes Way includes Onions, Lettuce, Tomatoes, Red Wine Vinegar, Olive Oil, Oregano & Salt. I usually ask for “a little extra mayo” but was distracted and just said extra mayo. Hatchi Matchi, they didn’t disappoint with that as you can tell from the photos, lol. It was the first time I said to myself, this is probably too much mayo.

Mike’s Way, with its vinegar & oil, can get lead to a bit of a soggy sub if you travel with it. I think it’s best to have in the store but it’s OK within 10-15 min. I’ve played with proportions over the many, many visits. Different amounts of produce, getting extra and even double meats, etc. Honestly, just getting it as it is I feel is the best. They’ve got a very solid sandwich right out of the gate.

On my 2nd visit I dropped in to grab a sub in between laundry loads. Today it was totally empty inside but the staff was still busy, working on online orders no doubt. The same bearded gentleman as last time greeted me as I stared up at the menu. I confessed that I’d probably get my usuall but it’s sort of become a ritual to look over the menu in case something new pops out at me. He took the opportunity to make a few recommendations and noted they have a bit of a secret menu, which I asked more about. One thing everyone I bring here always seems to comment on is how the numbers on the menu are sort of random. As I learned this day, the missing numbers do exist but are rotated through a specials corner of the menu, but you can order them all the time. He described the #4 (known on the website simply as “The Number Four”) (provolone, prosciuttini, and cappacuolo) and gave me a quick slice of the prosciuttini and cappacuolo to taste. I liked the peppery notes on these and decided to go for it. Mike’s Way and all that jazz. This one doesn’t have mayo. Turns out I had earned enough points from previous visits for a free regular so I was off without ever taking out my wallet.

This sandwich was delightful, lighter and less salty than the Club Sub. The vinegar, onions and oil is a big part of their cold sandwiches and was able to stand out even more with the lack of the mayo and bacon here. A hint of the pepper from the prosciuttini was present throughout. I’ll probably be coming back to this one in the future.

Anyway, obviously I’m a big fan of this gigantic chain. For those that haven’t checked it out, it’s worth a visit. Their hot sandos are good. The cold subs are where they shine, in my opinion.