#279: Local Kitchens

1:15PM 6/18-19/2022


A couple of months ago a co-worker recommended Local Kitchens, located on Fairway (near Kohl’s, BevMo, In’n’Out), and told me a little about it. It sounded a bit like a few food trucks got together and leased a brick and mortar restaurant space. I didn’t really have much of an idea what it would be like. Does each vendor have their own counter? Does it feel like a food court? Is it pickup only? Today I have answers to these questions and more as I just returned from lunch #2 in as many days at Local Kitchens.

Sometimes I like to go in cold, doing zero research. Sometimes this gets me into trouble, like when they are closed and I didn’t even go so far as to check their hours. Other times, like yesterday, I was delighted by a totally fresh experience. At first from outside it’s hard to say what you are looking at. The windows in-line with the building signage are totally covered up with more signage. The front door is to the left. Once inside it’s a shockingly simple setup. An open kitchen with a pickup counter sits at the back. To the right is a bare bones seating area with a few different types of tables, high and low-tops. A small counter towards the back of that area has a few basic items like napkins and plastic utensils. To your immediate left from the entrance are 3 touch screens for placing orders (you can also use their app to order for pickup or delivery). It’s honestly as if a shared Ghost Kitchen started offering dine in.

The ordering process was very smooth. I found the touch screens (iPad Pros, I think) responsive and the ordering app to be well designed, uncluttered and with a nice photo of every single item I looked through. It took me a moment of poking around to realize what “trucks” were available here. The first menu lumps a bunch of the most popular items from all the businesses together. Other menus organize the options for beverages, kids, vegan and vegetarian. Finally, each entity has their own menus. You can choose from: Sushiritto (Japanese), Nash & Proper (chicken), Senor Sisig (Filipino / Asian fusion), The Melt (burgers), Curry Up Now (Indian, burritos), Garden of Eat’n (healthy, salads, sandwiches) and Humphry Slocombe (ice cream). I’ve heard of a few of these before, most notably Nash & Proper, Curry Up Now and Garden of Eat’n (the last of which I visited back in 2016 and still has a location across from the Galleria). I was very excited to see Nash & Proper here. They are one of a few trucks I will go out of my way to try and visit when they are up here. Below is my favorite photo of their “Sammich”, their signature Nashville Hot Chicken Sandwich.

Now that I’ve downloaded and looked around the app I see that this is one of a small handful of locations. All the others are in the Bay Area and have mostly the same options for “trucks” with each store seemingly having one or two unique to it.

Nash & Proper was calling to me loudly. I fought those calls off and checked out nearly everything available before the Tosilog Burrito caught my eye and I added to to the visual cart/bag/whatever. This is from Senor Sisig and consists of Filipino Sweet Pork, adobo garlic rice, fresh tomatoes and a fried egg. Served with a side of peppered vinegar. (Additional Eggs can be added). This was $13.50 + $1.75 to add a fried egg, which I did. The configuration options for this were kind of funny. First off the spice levels you choose from are No Spice, Mild, Medium, Spicy, Hella Spicy & Hella Hella Spicy. After the egg selection screen is a screen that just says “No Tomato” and has a checkbox for it. Tomatoes are sort of a love/hate thing for me so I went ahead and ticked the box. The last screen has a handful of extras you can add: Beans, Shredded Cheese, Guacamole, Sour Cream, Pico de Gallo, Adobo Rice, Cilantro Cream Sauce and Lettuce. I left all those alone, added a can of soda [$2] and checked out.

Checking out was simple with tap-to-pay on the credit card machine. You enter your name, which then shows up on a screen above the kitchen with an estimated wait time. You can also email yourself a receipt and enter your phone number for order updates.

The vast majority of customers seemed to be taking out. Most of the dine-in crowd were utilizing the outdoor seating since the weather was insanely beautiful. My order was ready in about 10 minutes and the manager, whom I spoke to briefly after ordering, actually brought it out to me (well we met about half way as I didn’t expect that). I grabbed a couple napkins (excellent, substantial and large napkins by the way, they were surprisingly noteworthy) and got to work.

What can I say other than this was a tasty burrito. It was constructed expertly and everything inside was perfectly distributed so I got a bit of everything in just about every bite. As noted in the description this came with a little cup of peppered vinegar. I cautiously took a whiff of it and wasn’t sure I would like it. It was straight up intense vinegar. Carefully, I poured a small amount into the burrito and took a bite and was pleasantly surprised. The strong vinegar flavor had melted away into the burrito and just served to enhance all the existing ingredients. I ended up using all of it by the end!

This morning, after playing video games instead of hitting the gym, I decided I would return for Nash & Proper for lunch. Little did I know that when I would get there I’d change my mind at the last second and order from Sushiritto instead. The Sumo Crunch sounded interesting and the photo was just sucking me in (Shrimp Tempura, Surimi Crab, Cucumbers, Red Tempura Flakes, and Sriracha Aioli rolled with Ginger Guac, Super-Premium Koshihikari Rice, and Proprietary Nori) [$14].

I had a decent view of the area that was making Sushiritto items. They have this crazy automated rice machine that spits out perfectly formed rice sheets ready to be rolled up. I would love to get a closer look at how the hell that thing works on the inside (Science Channel, let’s get together on a mini “How It’s Made” with stuff like this!)

My order was ready once again in about 10 minutes. This was a bit messy and slightly less crunchy than the name implied, though quite a visually interesting item with the red tempura flakes. The nori was fairly easy to bite through, although I wonder how well it would hold up if you had it delivered or were taking it to go. It did seem to get slightly chewier as I got to the end.

Overall I was really quite pleased with this place and it’s concept. These businesses all have something interesting to check out and it’s nice that you can get them all in the same order. A couple of thoughts I had on how they could make this even better:

  1. Shrink some of the items and sides down or offer different sizes, so you can try more variety in one visit without having leftovers or spending a small fortune.
  2. Liven up the dine-in option some more, it’s incredibly basic – amounting to the indoor equivalent of picnic tables and little else. Serve up some local beers!

#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).


#269: Taqueria La Nueva Vallarta

12:30PM / 1/15/2022


I’ve eaten so many burritos in this building.

Today for lunch I headed over to Fairway & Pleasant Grove to go to Taqueria La Nueva Vallarta. This Mexican restaurant took over the space left behind by Freebirds World Burrito, next door to In-N-Out. I’m not sure when they opened, but if the oldest Yelp review is a good indicator than it was around March 2021. I headed in at about 12:30 after taking a quick peek at the menu online.

The interior is brightly-lit and refreshed from it’s Freebirds days, with some wild neon green booth seating and reconfigured counters. Lady Lib is gone and in her place is a row of LCDs crammed with the full menu (a bit more detailed than the website I think, so check out the photos below). It was moderately busy inside with about half the tables in use and a few people already in line to place orders. I stepped in behind them and started looking over the menu to finalize what I had started putting together in my head at home.

I don’t wear glasses (yet), but the text on these screens was on the smaller side and I had to step up closer to read them clearly. There’s a lot to choose from. I decided to go with a fairly basic order to get the sense of the place. I chose the Regular Burrito (meat, rice, whole beans, pico de gallo)[$8.99] and picked Asada Steak for it. I also picked out their Super Taco (meat, large corn tortilla, cheese, sour cream, guacamole, lettuce, pico de gallo)[$5.99] and went with Carnitas for this one. I finished off my order with a regular fountain drink [$2.50].

I grabbed a table by the front and by the time I had filled up at the fountains and grabbed some chips and salsas from the salsa bar my food was already on it’s way out. I had just ripped open the grease stained bag of chips when it was delivered.

The taco was a monster. It was piled high with lettuce. I pulled some aside to get a better look at what was underneath it and spotted a few large chunks of pork, sour cream and the pico. It was a challenge to get this thing up off the plate to take a bite. It came with a fork and I almost wondered if they didn’t actually expect people to pick it up. I lost about 1/3 of the lettuce with my first bite, but otherwise it held together pretty well. It was too much lettuce anyway.

This was totally fine. Everything was fresh but nothing really stood out to me, including the carnitas. I love the crispy fried bits of pork but this version didn’t have any of those. It was kind of bland overall not just in taste but in texture as well.

I took a break between the taco and burrito to dig into the chips. The bags were available for anyone up at the salsa bar, and I had somewhat higher hopes for them seeing that the white paper bags were a bit greasy from the chips within. I thought this could be a sign they were made in house. Whether they were or not didn’t really matter because they were wholly unremarkable. Barely a hint of salt was visible. They were not served warm, which didn’t help. I grabbed 3 of at least 5 different salsa options to try, a white, a red and a green (the bar was not labeled).

The white was my favorite. It was creamy and had a surprising little bit of heat that snuck up on me after a few bites. The red had a strange flavor that I was unable to put my finger on. I was not crazy about it. The green one must have been avocado based. I usually like this kind but this one was incredibly salty as well as very heavy with lime. After a few bites I set it aside.

On to the burrito. This came foil-wrapped and kept it’s heat nicely while I tried everything else. I cut this in half to get a look inside before biting into it. Down the center was the asada, and surrounding it was a nearly uniform layer comprised of rice and beans. It was almost hard to tell what was rice and what was beans. I went to work on it and found that the flavors were similarly uniform. The asada was, again, fine. Similarly to the carnitas, it was very uniform in texture and didn’t have any blackened edges which give so much texture and flavor. The pieces were very small, almost like a rough ground beef. It was…boring. I was literally looking forward to finishing it so I could get a few more photos and get going with my other errands for the day.

While the food here was totally blah, I wouldn’t say it was bad, just not memorable in the slightest. Maybe I went a little too basic with my order, who knows. I will say that the place was very well kept and the staff was friendly and on top of things while I was there, clearing tables within minutes of people leaving. 2 out of 5 sounds about right.