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.
Ezequiel Rodriguez has cooked French cuisine, Italian pastas, and lots of seafood during his 40-year career, but his favorite remains Mexican. As owner and head chef of Cabos Restaurant, he builds the menu from all his favorite flavors. Rodriguez stuffs fire-roasted poblano peppers with cheese and seafood before battering and grilling them. He fills soft, small flour tortillas with grilled red snapper marinated in garlic lime sauce, or piles shredded beef into taco shells and fries the whole thing until crispy. The kitchen expert also maintains a full bar that looks like it's fresh out of paradise's main beach. His libations help wash down his culinary creations, including many varieties of margaritas made with the restaurant's own exclusive tequila and secret recipe for ice.
For more than five decades, Manuel treated his fellow Los Angelenos to from-scratch Mexican specialties at the original El Tepeyac Cafe. Today, his son Marcos follows in his culinary footsteps at Panchito's, where he nabs fresh veggies for the restaurant's piquant sauces and impromptu still-life paintings. He honors his family's generations-old recipes by spotlighting his dad's signature burritos, machaca (shredded beef), and towering tostadas on his own menu, and he maintains each dish's flavor and integrity by preparing everything fresh daily from the best ingredients available.
Through the colonial-style wooden doors, Cha-Cha's Cocina Mexicana welcomes guests into a world steeped in Mexican culture. Carved masks and colorful suns populate the walls, and iron chandeliers illuminate tables topped with classic Mexican dishes. Chefs wrap tortillas around shredded meats and oaxacan cheese. They can deep-fry the mass into a chimichanga, fashion the wrap into a burrito, or make it an enchilada slathered in crema fresca and ranchero sauce. Meals can be paired with more than 100 varieties of tequila, including Patr?n and Cazadores, which comes served in chilled glasses and mixed into margaritas. Guests celebrating a special event can reserve the eatery?s private banquet room, which features intricately carved chairs surrounding a long, wooden table and can seat up to 45 people or up to 23 chupacabras.
At Taqueria Los Cabos, the menu spans Mexico and Latin America by flaunting ingredients from throughout the region. Everything from sopes and tortas to quesadillas and chimichangas come stuffed with cilantro, radishes, and onions, creating dishes that are as flavorful as they colorful. And these vibrant meals join with the bright banners hung throughout the sun-soaked dining room to create a dining experience that's more festive than a plate full of confetti.