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.
Frida's Mexican Grill serves up an extensive menu of Mexican staples inside a festive space adorned with portraits of the eatery's namesake painter. The menu showcases tacos, burritos, and fajitas, as well as an assortment of specialties such as Jalisco-style carnitas and chicken breast served with a rich mole sauce. Behind the bar, shelves teem with a wide selection of tequilas and other libations for of-age guests.
La Taquiza Fish Tacos' bilingual salsa slingers prepare marinated meats and seasoned seafood, which can be flame-grilled California-style or battered and fried to Baja-style perfection. The menu's burritos, tacos, and tazons come stuffed with a choice of eight fillings, including carne asada, veggies, shrimp, and grilled octopus. Maws can gnaw on carne asada wrapped in a burrito's passionate embrace ($7.50), or they can clamp down on a pair of Taco Taquiza's tacos loaded with creamy potatoes, salted fried fish, and salsa as smoky as a humidor filled with jerky ($3.50).
With its unique, circular architecture and extra-tall sign, Mi Jacalito elicits attention before patrons even sit down to eat. Once they do, though, the hearty Mexican cuisine becomes the main attraction. The restaurant specializes in seafood dishes with a twist, adding fresh sage and cilantro to zingy ceviche and serving whole fish sided with rice and beans. Cheese-heaped, house-made tortillas swaddle meaty burrito fillings, while tacos hold fresh fish, savory beef, or even tinier tacos.
Started in 1999, Viva Mexico Grill & Cantina serves up south-of-the-border flavors for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. And although most of the menu is reserved for classic dishes like enchiladas, fajitas, and quesadillas, the chefs leave themselves room to play. For example, they pair scrambled eggs with cactus and place guacamole inside and atop the shrimp burrito. Guests can wash it all down with margaritas from the cantina, which is stocked with bottles of 100% agave tequila from a tequila-bottle tree.
The doors of the vault, licked with rust around the hinges, still stand inside the old bank. But now, instead of waiting to deposit their money, customers relax in cozy booths with platefuls of fajitas and burritos. Paco's Mexican Restaurant still exudes the aesthetic of the building?s first tenant, steeped in rich woodwork and marble flooring. The cooks include on the menu classic Mexican dishes, from pork simmered in a mild green sauce to tilapia that is hand-battered, deep-fried, and stuffed inside a taco. Even in the early-morning hours the kitchen staff is hard at work, pairing chorizo with eggs and serving breakfast burritos to guests.