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.
A piping hot pocket of corn dough stuffed with tender pork and slathered with verde sauce and cheese. This is the homemade pork tamale at Felipe's Mexican Restaurant, and what a sight it is to behold. The dishes on Felipe's menu have stayed the same for the most part in its 30 years of existence. Since Paul and Adela Lee—who met while working there—took over as owners in 1988, they have updated the menu but only slightly. They also moved the original restaurant to its current location and opened another in Folsom. One thing hasn't changed, however. Crowds still come from all over to try Felipe's famous tamales and chimichangas.
In 1962, Alberto Heredia and his wife, Carmen, flung open the doors of Carmelita's Restaurant, introducing a menu of tried and true family recipes from Puebla, Mexico. Now, a third generation of the Heredia family helps simmer carnitas and blend avocados into guacamole at two Carmelita's locations. The dining rooms, which are bedecked in vibrant knickknacks and paintings, let diners bask in bright colors without getting yelled at by a judge for bringing a kaleidoscope to court. Against the electrically hued backdrop, mariachi bands play on special occasions, their trumpets rising in warm spirals above fiddles and guitars.
Some people could just eat tacos all day. And Tacos Y Mas helps make it possible with signature tacos alongside special breakfast tacos that incorporate scrambled eggs. The Mexican grill’s staff load their double-tortilla tacos with classics such as chorizo and eggs or one of their signature blends such as the cowboy, whose smoked jalapeno, beef sausage, and egg mixture secured the taqueria a spot on D-Magazine’s list of Best Breakfast Tacos in Dallas in 2010. While they do serve up their breakfast dishes all day, they can also fill tortillas with more traditional Mexican favorites such as shredded chicken in a chipotle sauce, grilled shrimp sprinkled with onion and cilantro, or the heart-healthy grilled vegetables in a chipotle salsa. But as their name suggests, they don’t just serve tacos—"mas" covers grande nachos, Cuban sandwiches, and trios of queso, guacamole, and salsa roja for guests who like dips but not decisions.
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.
Grilled sirloin nestled into sour cream-topped quesadillas. Saut?ed jumbo shrimp simmered in ranchero sauce. Cheese stuffed into battered Anaheim peppers. Such are the authentic delicacies whipped up by the culinary maestros of Sabores Mexican Cuisine, who concoct tacos, burritos, and enchiladas for dinner and lunchtime feasts. To bookend entrees, customers can commence meals with loaded nachos or end with a bowl of deep-fried vanilla ice cream.