Lalo’s #2 is number one with me

Posted on October 18, 2008 – 8:42 PM | by beckler
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Lalo’s #2 (there is no longer a Lalo’s #1) has a bunker feel to it, kind of like it’s the Flame Club of restaurants.  Actually, weekday Lalo’s and weekend Lalo’s are totally different things, although they both share the same limited hours, ten to six, that make it unsuitable for dinner.  Weekday Lalo’s will probably be deserted, with Telemundo playing in the corner.  I wish I had known to avert my eyes when the news gets to the car accident reporting.  If you see a newscaster with a graphic to her right that says something along the lines of “sangre en las calles” I would advise you to stop watching, unless Faces of Death is one of your favorite movies.   On the sleepy weekdays, the same woman who takes your order may also prepare it for you.  LalosOn one occasion, the second woman present was methodically washing a sink full of intestines, scrunching each hose-like piece up onto the sink spigot, running the water through it, and then placing the cleaned pieces into a tub.  Not an appetizing sight, but a friend who has eaten the “panza” barbacoa that contains lamb intestines as well as other innards said they were delicious and tasted like the “cleanest intestines in town.”  Perhaps Lalo’s could make that their slogan.

Lalo’s only offers the barbacoa, pozole and menudo on weekends, so the weekdays are a good time to order a torta. I recommend the milaneza torta.  At Lalo’s the milaneza torta is restrained and the flavors are balanced.  It contains a sheet of steak, pounded thin, breaded and fried, sliced avocado, two kinds of cheese, sauteed onions, a thin layer of well-flavored beans, and a tangy chipotle sauce.  On two subsequent visits I tried both the cubana torta, which is really only good for the comedy value (ingredients: milaneza, three cheeses including American, low-quality hot dog, ham, fried egg, avocado, onions, beans), and the pachuquena MARK: tilde over the “n”, which has milaneza, pork and pineapple, but the plain milaneza is my favorite.

TortaWeekend Lalo’s will be crowded, with many people eating at communal tables, and you might not get immediate attention when you walk in, so try not to feel sheepish if you have to stand a bit before you get a table.  They are friendly but the place is very busy.  The weekends are all about the barbacoa.  And probably the pozole, although I wouldn’t know because each time I tried to order it they were already out.  The third time I was denied the pozole, only to shed a tear because they were out of it again, I ordered the menudo instead.  If you are a regular menudo eater, you probably won’t put any stock in my opinion because it was the first time I have ever tasted it, but I thought it was good.  I was pleasantly surprised to find the large hunks of tripe to be soft and bland, rather than having that barnyard flavor that I can’t stomach (heh, get it?), and it was a perfect vehicle to soak up the oily, rich flavors of the broth.  The menudo comes with corn tortillas, and my bowl contained an entire head of garlic, skin on, so I was delighted to squeeze out the cloves and make myself some tripe tacos.  The server had given me the option of having pig knuckles in my menudo, and the unrelentingly soft texture of the tripe made me lament the fact that my bowl contained one lone, springy knuckle.  I would have preferred at least a hoof’s worth of knuckles.

The barbacoa estilo hidalgo is one of Lalo’s specialities.  It is delicious, tender steamed lamb, dished up by the pound on a section of aluminum foil with tortillas on the side. You will probably get two different types of salsa, a red one and a tart tomatillo one, and they are so good that I have seriously considered smuggling in some chips, which Lalo’s does not serve.   Most patrons order an inexpensive bowl of consomme MARK: accent over the “e” with their barbacoa, which is broth with garbanzo beans that is good for doctoring up with onions and oregano and dipping your barbacoa tacos into. 

Tortas, soup, barbacoa, that’s a lot for any restaurant to do, and do well, but I have barely even skimmed the surface of Lalo’s menu thus far.  How about a nice al pastor taco?  Oh, no big deal, just one of the best I’ve ever had.  The meat is salty and savory, and the sauce on it is thicker than usual, and has more of a barbecue sauce flavor.  Each different kind of meat served at Lalo’s comes with it’s own special accompanying salsa that is well suited to the dish.  The tongue tacos are also exceptionally good here, with a perfect chewy texture, as are the asada tacos.  There must be something that Lalo’s isn’t good at, right? Their carnitas are just OK, with a strong lard-y flavor but a too-soft texture that is lacking in crispy parts, but they are still better than half the carnitas out there.

QuesadillaI’ve thrown a lot of dishes at you so far, and your eyes might be glazing over a bit by now.  You’re probably just about ready to put down your copy of MidMo, jump in the car, and head to Lalo’s.  But wait, I haven’t even told you about the quesadillas yet.  As far as I know, Lalo’s is the only restaurant in the Sacramento area to offer both flor de calabaza (squash blossom) and huitlacoche (corn smut) quesadillas. Lalo’s quesadillas are encased in a thick, fresh, masa crust and topped with chopped iceberg lettuce, crema, and bits of cotija cheese.  The squash blossom quesadilla is good, but the flavor of the blossoms is adrift within the cheese, and I prefer simpler preparations of this ingredient.  Huitlacoche is a storied ingredient that I had never gotten my hands on until I tried it here, and it’s very interesting.  It’s quite unnattractive to look at, a kind of black-ish paste, and it has a complex, earthy and tangy flavor.  A whole one is maybe too much of that sharp flavor, so I suggest ordering one huitlacoche quesadilla to share.

To refresh yourself while consuming this hearty food, on weekends you can choose from the usual horchata, tamarindo, and jamaica refrescos, and every day they offer a huge assortment of licuados and fresh-squeezed juices.  If you have a sweet tooth the licuados make an excellent dessert.  They are milky and frothy, and come in many flavors, from the familiar strawberry and banana, to the somewhat obscure tropical fruit, the mamey.

The sheer novelty of so many unique dishes on the menu at Lalo’s got my heart beating fast when I first walked in, but it’s the delicious execution that keeps me coming back again.  And again.  And again!

Lalo’s #2, 5063 24th Street, Sacramento, (916) 736-2389

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