Mexico City has over 21 million residents and a food culture that is unique to its place in the world. When we think about Mexican food in this state, it is mostly Baja based. That banana like peninsula that beacons surfers and travelers to drive her crazy roads, eat street tacos and see her unspoiled beauty. I could never live in a place where Mexican food isn’t available, as its flavors and heat are my favorite culinary treats. I eat it often, cooked it at home and worship Mexican Grandmas who make it for me in their kitchen. When I find an eatery that both surprises and delights my Mexican palate, I am instantly a fan and going to try everything on the menu.
My recent surprise came in a large, bright yellow box posing as a Taco Stand in Arroyo Grande. Countless friends had told me Fruitland la Casa del Sabor (The House of Flavor) was outstanding, but I was pleasantly surprised at how wholesome and spectacular this eatery was to my experienced Mexican palate.
With no inside seating, but an authentic woodened table patio we sat and ordered our first dish. The owner, Jose explained that this was Mexico City cuisine, so no rice, chips, guacamole or filler, just fresh food. Even the salsa is made in small batches and not stored in a big bucket like other restaurants. My first impression was the fruit cocktail, which I usually have with hot/salty Pico De Gallo seasoning applied. I was with the grandkids so I had it topped with yogurt and granola instead. Large pieces of local fruit made this an outstanding starter. Next I had the Alambre Plate that was a sizzling platter of shredded beef, bacon pieces, ham fragments, bell peppers, onions, cilantro, and chipotle all covered with a fresco queso cheese and served with salsa, fresh pinto beans, and blue corn tortillas. I was shocked at the complexity of the flavors and awed by the brilliance.
I came back the next day and tried the Aztec Tacos with a glass of white wine. With thick, house made blue corn tortillas wrapped around red dried pasilla chili with cheese inside and wet azteca salsa, queso fresco, red onion and cilantro. It was a symphony of real main land Mexican flavors that I have longed for but never found here in the states. I became obsessed with trying everything.
I talked with the owner, Jose Rojas and his wife Grissel at length. They told me where they find the freshest of fruit, seafood, meat and how they make their own marinated carrots and jalapenos. We talked for an hour about his techniques and knowledge of this amazing style of food. I instantly loved them with their passion and desire to create this cuisine that can reach deep down into a person’s soul. From a carafe of the freshest strawberry juice, (sourced from our finest strawberry vendors) to the making of each tortilla and torta, you will find no cans in their kitchen, only food constructing from connoisseurs.
The next day I brought Mr. Bayus and he started with the Pina Colada. A whole pineapple shell filled with fresh coconut water, pineapple juice and wine based liquor was as refreshing as it was beautiful. He downed it in five minutes and ask for another and a hammock.
His dinner was the Hawaiian Tacos featuring el pastor meat with grilled pineapple slices in those amazing blue corn tortilla shells. They also held bell peppers, red onions, cilantro, and queso fresco. This was a savory, sweet surprise. My drink was the Agua de sandia (watermelon juice) and Jose gave me a try of the Agua de pepino (cucumber juice) that was perfect for a hot day. I had the Chilangas Steamed Clams. With a spicy, tomato base served with spectacular garlic cheese bread for sopping, I deemed these the best clams in America.
Attempting to share the love of this food, I brought fellow restaurateurs and foodies. The portions are huge and they all agreed it was the best Mexican food in the area. I had the Fish Tacos with grilled tilapia, cabbage and fruti pico salsa on the blue corn tortillas with a home made secret sauce. The fish was a large filet, moist and perfectly cooked and the sweet salsa with pineapple brought out an original essence. My other friend had the Chuleta Tacos featuring succulent roasted pork, bell peppers, red onions, cilantro, queso fresco, and avocado slices. We traded tacos and I was impressed by the suppleness and piquancy of the meat. Our other friend had the Cubano Torta, a bacchanal of a sandwich that could feed four people. Inside the huge, soft fresh bun was a Dagwood stack of chicken milanesa (breaded chicken), beef milanesa (breaded and beaten beef), hard fried eggs, chorizo, ham, queso de puerco, sausage, queso fresco, and quesillo. It was only exceeded in its size by its amazing taste.
Fruitland la Casa del Sabor is one of those rare culinary happenings where an entire family is making sure you are satisfied with their fresh, amazing food. They are located at 803 East Grand Avenue in Arroyo Grande, you can call them at (805) 474-8141. They are open every day from 9:30 am to 8:00 pm (expect for Thursday when the close at 4:00 pm).