The Tacos Las Plancha @ La Morenita, Napa

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Tacos Las Plancha (two carne asada, one al pastor) @ La Morenita Taqueria, Napa.

Even on weekdays, the parking lot of La Morenita Market remains a bustling hub of activity, perhaps the one small place in Napa that can remind me of my decade in Los Angeles. In the height of summer, the parking lot’s soundtrack is a melange of norteño music and Spanish talk radio, with pockets of folks congregated next to their vehicles, half-listening and half-socializing. It’s a relaxing scene, and one that always reminds me of “Saturday in the Park” by Chicago, even though the lyrics aren’t a literal match (not even by a long shot, actually).

Although stores like Target and Wal-Mart are definitely cross-cultural here in California, it seems like La Morenita Market fills in many of the gaps for Latinos; while Target and Wal-Mart might feature Spanish on their store signs, La Morenita actually offers many Latin American brands. From the street, it is easy to dismiss La Morenita as another supermarket, since the store itself dominates the property. However, a small restaurant space — called La Morenita Taqueria — resides at the back of the main building, tucked away into the corner of the strip mall’s narrow parking lot.

I like to order the #12 plate, which consists of three tacos a la plancha, as pictured above. These tacos — named for their preparation on a flat-top grill — are a welcome departure from the typical two-ply, three-bite tacos offered here in Napa. The tortillas themselves are thick and sturdy, dense with corn flavor, and spotted with char-marks the size of coins. The interior of each taco is almost reminiscent of a quesadilla: a morass of meat, melted jack cheese, salsa roja, chopped onions and cilantro, and a thin avocado wedge. The cheese that oozes onto the griddle during cooking makes for a deliciously crispy first bite.

 

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