It’s all a matter of taste, of course, but our taste for Mexican food leads us to El Michoacano, an absolutely authentic eatery on Fruitridge Road near Fox 40. The restaurant started in a trailer more than 20 years ago, and while the setting has changed the food hasn’t. One relatively recent convenience: You don’t have to speak Spanish to order. The dozens of offerings – it’ll take you 20 minutes to read them all — are affixed permanently to the table tops in both English and Spanish.
If you’re accustomed to the restaurants with more traditional American-Mexican fare – Caballo Blanco, Vallejo’s, 524 and Tex-Mex immediately come to mind – you’ll find El Michoacano different. Very basic, simple décor. The juke box – loud – offers popular Mexican tunes, heavy on the accordian, polka-style and mariachi-based ditties. When the restaurant is crowded – which is often – the juke box often is roaring. This is a drawback for many diners.
El Michoacano offers an array of fish, chicken, beef, pork, lamb and beans in virtually any combination of taco, enchilada, tostada, or burrito. There are shrimp as filling, there are shrimp cocktails, there are shrimp salads. There is tripe. There is lengua (beef tongue). There are soups, led by the traditional albondigas (meatball soup). There are chile rellenos, which may be the best in the city. There is classic, spicy Mexican rice. Almost all of the entres are less than $10, and many are less than $7. Two tacos a la carte and a side of beans is about $6.
Tacos, of course, are made with two small tortillas, soft and steamed, jammed with meat filling, chopped onions, cilantro and spiced — exactly as they are served throughout Mexico. On a hot day, with the food and music and a bottle of Bohemia on the table, you’d swear you were in Morelia on the road between Guadalajara and Mexico City: You walk through the door of El Michoacano and you’re 2,000 miles south of Sacramento. This is what first attracted us to El Michoacano – you feel time and space have been altered.
For about $44, you can get El Michoacano’s top-of-the line offering: A huge platter, lazy susan style, of meats, beans, fish, rice, guacamole, tortillas (a stack, literally), assorted sauces and more. This was a spectacular dinner for four and filled us all – including two strapping teen-age boys with bottomless appetites.
The restaurant on Fruitridge is officially known as El Michoacano 2. The first one began as a trailer in Alkalai Flat across from the old 524 and now resides on Franklin Boulevard. But that’s a tale for a later review.
El Michoacano 2
4591 Fruitridge Road
9 a.m. – 9 p.m.