It was Mrs. Torres who taught my mom how to make tacos, which quickly became a family favorite. She would fold and fry corn tortillas in corn oil, stuff with ground beef sautéed with onions, top with cheese, iceberg lettuce and pico de gallo made with tomatoes, green onions, dill pickles, radishes and peperoncinis.
When I saw crispy tacos on the menu at De La Hacienda, I hoped they would not be the tasteless factory— molded variety favored by fast food eateries. I visited De La Hacienda because a friend insisted that they made the best super burritos. The little restaurant on the corner of Washington and Laurel streets has six large tables sporting plastic-covered, festively colored woven fabric, surrounded by stocky carved wooden chairs, and a counter that faces Loudon Nelson’s basketball courts.
I started with an al pastor crisp taco ($2.75), a pollo corn quesadilla ($2.95) and a can of diet coke ($1), which were brought to the table with a squeeze bottle of the house’s roasted salsa.
The quesadilla was a single corn tortilla griddled on one side but still soft, and topped with pinto beans, angel hair shreds of cabbage with bits of bright cilantro, and white and dark shredded chicken in a spicy, translucent crimson sauce. I ate it folded like a soft taco, its fillings overflowing.
The taco was as I had hoped; a house-fried tortilla stuffed with chewy nuggets of barbecue pork, iceberg lettuce, fresh tomatoes and shredded cheese. I added plenty of the spicy salsa, enjoying the crisp, chewy and soft textures.
And that Carne Asada Super Burrito ($6.55). Weighing in at 1.75 pounds, it was stuffed with wonderfully spiced beef, pinto beans, tomatoes, cabbage and creamy avocado.
De La Hacienda Taqueria, 354 Washington St., Santa Cruz, 427-2200.. Beer available. Open from 11 a.m. daily, until 8 p.m. (winter) and 9 p.m. (summer). Visit delahacienda.com.