May 5, 2011
Chris Macias' Cinco de Mayo food picks

CREDIT: Marisol Ortuno cuts up avacado for a taco plate during lunch at Lalo's mexican food restaurant on 24th Street between Sutterville Road and Fruitridge Avenue. Randy Pench, Sacramento Bee

The Battle of Puebla was a noble fight, with the Mexican army defeating the French in 1862. And what better way to celebrate this Cinco de Mayo victory than entering into a spicy food coma? Either way, Sacramento's traditionally had a bustling Mexican food scene with plenty of options, from the long-running family style restaurants to tiny taquerias serving tasty food at low prices.

Before I run down some of my recommended Cinco de Mayo eats, please leave a comment about your favorite Mexican restaurants at eateries around the area.

For this fan of Mexican food, south Sac is where it's at.

Franklin Blvd. is home to a couple sentimental favorites that I grew up eating as a kid, including the fried tortilla chips and caldito at Caballo Blanco (5604 Franklin Blvd., Sacramento), or the hearty carnitas down the street at El Novillero (4216 Franklin Blvd., Sacramento).

But for me, no Mexican eating excursion in south Sac is complete without a stop at La Esperanza Bakery (5044 Franklin Blvd., Sacramento). Just try and not be seduced by the sweet smells of fresh pan dulce and fruit filled empanadas. Grab a few goodies and save them for breakfast - or, if you're like me you'll start tearing into them right in the parking lot.

My favorite secret spot for Mexican food in Sacramento can be found near the corner of Florin Rd. and Franklin Blvd. Tucked in the back of a large, aging strip mall you'll find Birrieria Bugambilias (7242 Franklin Blvd., Sacramento). This restaurant specializes in dishes from Michoacan, along with familiar items that aren't afraid to bring the spice. Birrieria Bugambilias also makes my favorite tortillas in town - listen closely and you'll hear the cooks slapping their hands together while making them - and last time I was there, the restaurant even hosted mariachi karaoke. Brush up on your strongest version of "Volver Volver" and give it a shot.

Or maybe you feel like cooking on Cinco de Mayo and want to fire up the grill. In that case, swing over to Carniceria Lopez No. 2 (6201 Franklin Blvd., Sacramento) and pick up some pre-marinated carne asada that's ready for some outdoor cooking. This excellent and authentic carniceria butcher shop offers different cuts of meats and marinades for your carne asada cooking, and if you're hungry and want some food to go, Carniceria Lopez runs a taqueria adjacent to it's meat market.

Otherwise, the almighty Lalo's Restaurant (5063 24th St., near Fruitridge; Sacramento) remains a must-stop place when I'm in the mood for some Mexican eating. From arguably the best tacos al pastor in Sacramento, to agua frescas and quesadillas de huitlacoche, Lalo's serves some fantastic eats that'll fill you up for just a few bucks. Don't forget to swing by on the weekends as well for barbacoa, and brushing up on your Spanish before dropping by won't hurt.

And this is just the tip of the street taco when it comes to local Mexican food picks. In other parts of town, you can't forget Chando's (863 Arden Way, Sacramento). Way down south you'll find another one of my secret local faves: Taqueria y Carneceria San Juan (7850 Stockton Blvd., Sacramento). Three words: carne asada torta. Good luck finishing that epically tasty torta in one sitting.

But again, what are your favorite local Mexican eateries?

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