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OAKTOWN EATS: La Calaca Loca

on June 29, 2009


Chips and salsa can make or break a Mexican meal.

While Las Palmas or Cactus Taqueria might bolster healthy Mexican cuisine -they fail to match the quality and quantity of these triangle corn appetizers.

This is where La Calaca Loca quietly excels.

The restaurant fries their corn tortilla chips ($1.50) to perfection. With the hearty chunks of tomato and a dash of cilantro and onion, this appetizer might be confused for a meal of its own. img_5555

You can enjoy the chips with their salsa verde – for those inclined to spice– or salsa roja for those who like  tones of sweetness.

The restaurant gets lost in the radar in its location inside the Temescal Triangle neighboring a cell phone retailer and a couple of vacant lots. But its food has placed it on the map to many North Oakland residents.

An order of three tacos de carnitas (3.25) came as the main dish. There aren’t many places that present Mexican food as if it were sushi. Indeed – it can be a Mexican flag with its bright reds and vibrant greens. Aesthetically – it’s an art form and it’s equally delicious.

Just the right amount of guacamole  on top of the pork. From the melted cheese at the bottom, to the beans and pork that fill the middle and the balanced heap of fresh guacamole -they have the layers down to a science.

The difference is there but subtle. La Calaca Loca toasts the first tortilla and  envelopes a second, more pliable, tortilla to make sure the ingredients stay in your taco and not on your lap. Two tortillas are always better than one.
It’s easy to make a mistake on carnitas. Leave the pork submerged in the pot of water long enough and you can make it too crispy. A careless eye will leave most of the meat stuck in the pan.

La Calaca Loca has never served less than sub par carnitas. They don’t melt in your mouth, though they’re consistently tender and moist.  The shreds and chops of meat make up most of the taco, which is a considerable sum for their size of tortilla.

But fresh isn’t cheap.

Seven dollars in your pocket might do for a midnight run into the taquerias in Fruitvale. Be prepared to spend twice as much on a meal for one.
La Calaca Loca is where Mexican food and Healthy come to make amends. Often criticized for using less than nutritious ingredients, like large amounts of grease. You might not have to fight Michael Pollan for a seat at the table but La Calaca Loca is one of the healthier Mexican food fare.

Experienced eaters forgo Jarritos– the popular Mexican soda, lined up in the refrigerator. The Mango, Limon, Jamaica, Tamarindo and all the colors in between that make up the rainbow spectrum – could be had elsewhere for less. Instead, its selections of aguas frescas are the choice this summer.

You can’t go wrong with Pina, Orchata or Fresa – all three on the menu regularly. The restaurant sells them in two sizes: Small and large, although the former ($2.00) looks more like a medium. img_5530

There’s a few tell-tale signs to check on any orchata to see if it’s worth it’s rice. It’s should be almost as thick as  the half and half in your coffee. Check. There are grains of cinnamon floating at the bottom. Check. Although the restaurant’s drink disappoints with a lack of rice, it’s still up to snuff.

Ditto for the churros. You’d be hard pressed to find a better one. Although these cinnamon delights come with a word of warning: The restaurant usually waits until the churros are sold out before they bake a fresh batch.

Morning customers enjoy these while they are still warm with a gum like texture. Anytime after that, you might get stuck with a crusty, dry sugary stick.

La Calaca Loca isn’t for the frugal but it gets the basics down right. Chips and salsa anyone?


Four out of Five Collard Leaves

La Calaca Loca

5199 Telegraph Avenue
(510) 601-8226


  1. […] Oakland North ? OAKTOWN EATS: La Calaca Loca By Steve Saldivar While Las Palmas or Cactus Taqueria might bolster healthy Mexican cuisine -they fail to match the quality and quantity of these triangle corn appetizers. This is where La Calaca Loca quietly excels. The restaurant fries their corn … Oakland North – […]

  2. Oakland North » Oakland North Today 7.1.09 on July 1, 2009 at 9:45 am

    […] Bart and AC Transit fares. Oakland North also started a new food blog, Oaktown Eats; check out our review of La Calaca Loca in Temescal and their scrumptious tacos de carnitas.  Also, for an update on the Safeway […]

  3. Oakland North » Oakland North Now 7.23.09 on July 23, 2009 at 12:24 pm

    […] Or you would rather eat out, Oakland has lots to offer from Ethiopian to Mexican. […]

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