The favorable buzz about Taqueria Mi Pueblo has been building for quite a while, culminating in its being named best Mexican restaurant in the recently published 2012 Press Democrat Best of Sonoma County readers' poll.
Lots of people like the place &#8211; or places, as it has now opened shops in San Anselmo, Novato, Cotati and two in Petaluma. At the restaurant on Petaluma Boulevard North, it seems the secret to its success comes down to the following five factors.
First, you can get an excellent margarita grande, with a generous spike of tequila, with or without salt rim, with slushy or cracked ice. It is the perfect way to end a hard day's work and prepare for a hearty meal.
Second, the portions are generous. The tacos are jam-packed with ingredients and on Saturdays and Sundays, the corn tortillas are hand-made, Mexico City style. Choose from shrimp, fish, al pastor, carnitas, chile verde, carne asada, ground beef, lengua, cabeza, pollo asada, shredded chicken, chorizo, or shredded beef. As with all the dishes here, you get enough food to fill your tummy with maybe some left over for lunch tomorrow.
Third, it's for everyone. It's so nice to see the tapestry of different ethnicities enjoying themselves &#8211; family members from babies just a few months old to people who could easily be someone's great-grandparent, plus everyone in between. It seems like half of Petaluma is there, filling the booths and tables, crammed standing-room-only into the waiting area, dads holding babies, babies clutching moms, all creating a loud hubbub that, combined with all the bright Mexican colors and neon signs and murals, fills the room with vibrant life.
Fourth, it's all very reasonably priced. A family of four could easily fill up with food for less than $20 per person, 20 percent tip included.
Fifth, the food tastes great. There is a light savory sauce that the kitchen uses on many of the typical taqueria staples &#8211; enchiladas, tamales, chili rellenos, and so forth &#8211; that heightens their flavor. And there's a range of salsas from the salsa bar from mild to biting hot, plus a bottle of Tapatio hot sauce on every table so you can turn up the heat to your liking.
For instance, the Chile Relleno ($5 **) contained a mild chili stuffed with mild cheese, but was easy enough to spice up with a good splash of red salsa picante we nabbed from the salsa bar. The light savory sauce that comes with the dish turned the crusty coating soggy even as it enhanced the flavor. The textures of a Shredded Chicken Enchilada ($3.75 **) and a Chicken Tamale ($3.50 **?) differed, of course, but the flavor of both, and the chile relleno, were very similar because all three items were covered with the same sauce. The tamale scored higher because it had a pleasant mouth-warming heat and a boatload of chicken under its steamed masa.
It was when the Taco Al Pastor ($2.75 ***) arrived that I knew why the place is so crammed. This was no bitty little taquito, but two corn tortillas piled high with barbecued pork, onions, minced chilies, tomato, sauce, and cilantro, and simply delicious. You could have a chile relleno, enchilada, tamale and a taco loaded with your choice of meat or seafood for a total of $15.