Road Trip Hit: La Coqueta (Santa Maria, CA)
Posted by Caveman Cooking on June 28, 2010
When I’m on the road, there’s nothing better than stumbling into an unfamiliar town (preferably small enough to throw a Frisbee across) and finding a hidden gastronomic gem. I feel as if I’ve miraculously discovered some pirate’s buried treasure … without a map! The only difference is, I can’t wait to share this find with everyone I know. 😉
Hence, the start of a fun new series here on C3: Road Trip Hits. Taking a page from Guy Fieri’s Diners, Drive-Ins & Dives, this ongoing series will feature some of those little known paragons of road-trip rations.
I find that, more often than not, I am much better off “following my gut”. And, not just for filling said bottomless pit. It’s weird how, at times, your instinct just kicks in, and you know that you must follow that path, no matter how blind of a journey it may be.
It is with that frame of mind that I have approached this particular road-trip. Sure, I have a few stops in mind. But, other than the McDonald’s a mile from our new Cave that provides one of the all-time-great early-morning travel fare (the Sausage Egg McMuffin with Cheese), and the overnight stay at our cousin’s house in Mill Valley, we haven’t hit one! We’ve just gone with the flow. It is that flow, that belief in going with “feel” rather than “thought”, that brought us to Santa Maria, California, home to our first Road Trip Hit stop … La Coqueta (118 West Chapel Street Santa Maria, CA 93458-4302 805-739-1124).
The Cavewoman was craving good, authentic Mexican food. As we traveled up Highway 101 into the southern stretches of Central California, we were getting into areas I had passed through numerous times, but was only familiar with one or two local purveyors of good eats. None of which had anything on the menu originating south of the border.
But, when we saw “Main Street” as one of the upcoming exits on the overhead signs, I felt something in my gut. Yes, hunger pangs were making their presence readily felt. However, this was something different. Something that just said, “Get off here, you knuckle-dragging Neanderthal!”. So, I did.
My gut kept us going down Main Street in a westerly direction for a couple of miles. Then, it had me make a right one block past Broadway (yeah, Broadway & Main … I can’t make this stuff up!), then the next right onto West Chapel Street. And, there it was! I mean, you look at this place and it immediately screams, “AUTHENTIC MEXICAN FOOD!”. We parked the car, pried the Cavekids away from their movie in the back seat (Lion King 1 1/2), and took our first tentative steps into our intuitive find.
I should have known that, with the World Cup matches being blasted with Pablo “Goooooooooooooooal” Rameriz’s spanish account of the action, we were in the right place. Though, that confirmation didn’t actually come until we sat down and took that first bite of the complimentary chips and salsa. Much as you know whether or not you’ll like a new haircut as soon as you glance up into that mirror, you know whether or not a Mexican restaurant has any chance of being good with that first taste of fried tortilla and tomato/onion/garlic/cilantro. This place rocked the chips and salsa.
We added an order of guacamole to start things off … that, too, was a good choice. Creamy, yet still plenty of avo-chunks to go along with the tomatoes, onions, cilantro and lime juice. This was the real deal! Plus, the serving size was more than enough for the four of us.
Then, it was time to order our main courses. My head kept telling me to go with the Chile Verde plate, but my gut was screaming, “Get the Carnitas, you mouth-breathing fossil-head!”. Who am I to argue with success??? I went with the latter. The kids ordered up some a la carte soft tacos in pollo (chicken) and carne asada (steak) configurations while the Cavewoman went with a Cheese Enchilada.
The made to order food arrived fresh and hot … and goooooooooood! The Caveboy annihilated both of his tacos before Pablo finished screaming “Goal!” on the TV, the Cavegirl left her plate so clean it didn’t seem to have been used, and the Cavewoman accomplished a rare feat for her – finishing her entire plate!
As for the Carnitas, it was as authentic (and delicious) as it comes, and done just the way I like it: a nice “bark” on the outside, yet still tender and juicy on the inside. I just kept slapping them on the generous portion of corn tortillas, and they just kept going down!
Almost as incredible as the food was the price. Our entire meal, including two milks and two Arnold Palmers, was $17 before tip. As they say at Staples, now THAT’S a great price!
At home, I probably would have stopped about halfway through and brought the rest back to the Cave for another meal. However, there just isn’t room for leftovers on the road. Even if you have a cooler, there’s always the issue of reheating them. So, as usual when road tripping, I over-ate because heaven forbid you leave anything that tasty behind! 😆 It was worth it. Besides, all I had to do was loosen the belt a little bit, get behind the wheel, and start driving to our next stop. All while my gut jiggled in delight at, both, being full and being right on the money with the La Coqueta call.
©2010 Caution: Caveman Cooking/UHearMe, Inc. All rights reserved. This originally appeared on the Caution: Caveman Cooking blog at http://cavemancooking.net authored by Caveman. This may be shared and reprinted as long as this entire copyright message accompanies it.