When Jim Knudson bit into his first taco during dinner at a friend's house in 1949, he knew he had tasted something special. He added the item—which many diners were pronouncing "tay-co"—to the menu at his restaurant in Grass Valley, California. Determined to introduce the food to as many people as possible, Jim and his wife, Margaret, converted a 16-foot trailer into a kitchen on wheels. They adopted the nickname Jim had earned from one of his longtime customers and drove up to Lake Tahoe, where Jimboy's Tacos found its first permanent home.
Locals, tourists, and even members of the Rat Pack flocked to the tiny taco stand for the uniquely seasoned, parmesan-dusted ground-beef taco, the anchor of a growing menu. The family eventually relocated to Roseville, California, where they set up a small taco stand and began branching out to other locations in and around Sacramento.
Today, Jim Knudson’s daughter Karen, the current president of the company, carries on the legacy of taco obsession at more than 40 locations in northern California and Nevada. Guests who arrive early for breakfast might glimpse the cooks slowly simmering beans, mashing avocados into guacamole, and preparing their signature ground beef with trans-fat-free oil. In addition to classic corn-tortilla tacos, the menu holds the mega-size flour-tortilla El Gordo, golden-fried taquitos, and even a taco burger that fuses Mexican and American culinary traditions.
The chefs at Plaza Jalisco make all the classics—carne asada tacos, spicy chicken fajitas, plates piled with vegetables and seafood. They toss sautéed shrimp into giant burritos, layer fish fillets into tacos, and fill enchiladas with a blend of spinach, mushrooms, and salsa blanca. They serve many different styles of seafood, with the siete mares—or the Seven Seas—pairing prawns, octopus, shrimp, scallops, fish, mussels, and crab simmered in their own juices. To complement these dishes, they have a full drink menu featuring a range of tequilas. These can be blended into house margaritas or enjoyed by themselves for a drink as elegant and energizing as a gloved slap in the face.
El Pueblo Flosom offers a variety of succulent meats and fresh vegetables to fill the tacos and burritos that come out to tables, while salsa and guacamole accompany chips. House specialties include carnitas, tamales, and chile rellenos, chile colorado, and chile verde. A full bar offers up tasty drinks, with craft beers on tap, frosty margaritas, crafted with fresh lime, organic agave nectar, and premium tequila in chilled glasses, and jealous water dripping ever so eagerly out of the tap. Shaded under colorful umbrellas and surrounded by warm earthen pillars, diners come to El Pueblo Folsom to enjoy clement weather and savory Mexican meals on the patio.
By the time Marco Ramos opened Casa Ramos in 1997, he had been working in the restaurant business for 15 years. While working at his cousin's restaurant in Seattle, Marco soaked up invaluable, hands-on lessons about how to run a business. He draws upon that experience at Casa Ramos, where he and his staff serve time-tested family recipes that date back to his years in Mexico City.
In the kitchen, cooks prepare specialties such as Molcajete—chicken and beef strips sautéed in a mildly spicy sauce—and Carnitas Uruapan—slow-roasted Uruapan-style pork in a Mexican sauce. The fajita salad—a Ramos family favorite that's carved into their family tree—combines fresh greens, mushrooms, sliced eggs, avocado, and steak or chicken.
While the sun sets over the crimson outdoor patio of La Rosa Blanca's Folsom location, the vibrant orange and green walls of the Fulton Avenue restaurant grow deep beside dimming window light. However, the party is just getting started. Blenders whirr with wine margaritas in wild flavors such as papaya, mango, and watermelon, and skilled waiters erupt from the kitchens, arms stacked with hearty taco plates, burritos, and fajitas that sizzle with steak and chicken. Brave diners can slather jalapeño salsa over seafood enchiladas or utilize a tortilla and sweet mole to write a love note to the chef.