The Best Mexican food north of Mexico City
That’s what Mike Rippey thinks. The best Mexican food north of Mexico City. And he’s a major Mexican food fan, and lived in Argentina when he was a kid so he knows his way around this stuff.
So tonight we went there, with Mike and his main squeeze, Gretchen. Deep in the heart of downtown Oakland, where all the “revitalization” and “renaissance” are happening. Oakland is a much nicer place these days than you probably think it is, and all the nice new restaurants are either the cause or the effect of the change. Or both.
Tamarindo is a small restaurant on 8th Street, just 1/2 block north of Broadway. There is a large parking lot right next door, but we got there right after 6 p.m. and were able to snag a spot in a loading zone (legal after 6). Oakland has hurt their reputation a bit lately with overzealous ticketing and a disastrous attempt to extend the time the meters operate to 8 p.m. so it pays to be careful.
Mike and Gretchen were already waiting for us–there was no problem getting a table that early, but the place doesn’t take reservations, and if you come later in the evening you will have to wait to get a seat.
Waiting is apparently made easier if you are in a place with fancy-dancy Margaritas; Mike didn’t seem to mind at all. Me, I’m just a country boy and don’t understand a margarita that doesn’t come out of a blender. Gail stuck to the Spanish wine, and says it was the good stuff. I had one margarita and switched to iced tea–they need to start stocking the blue or yellow sweetener: the pink stuff is just hideous.
The menu has both small plates and full entrees, but we opted to just order a passel of small plates. I liked the Botana de Pico de Gallo, slices of pineapple, mango and cucumber dressed with lime and spice. The Empanadas de Hongos Y Queso didn’t move me, but then that word hongos means mushrooms, so there’s no surprise that it wasn’t for me. Tamal Oaxaqueño is just a really good tamale with a fancy name. The Sopas were perfect little ovals of delight, and the main dish we ordered, Pork and rice, was spectacular.
Prices were reasonable for a hip, hot, upscale place, but not what you’d expect to pay in the local Taqueria. The best things in life are not free.
Eventually we managed to eat one of almost all of their small plates. There was a mob waiting for our table,starting to murmur about taking our table by force. It was time to leave. Rippey got the check. Our car was still there, without a ticket. Another successful dinner.
Tamarindo Antojeria Mexicana. 464 8th St. Oakland. 510-444-1944