Review: Manuel's: A Mexican RestaurantMex-i-can or Mex-i-can't?
Growing up in San Jose, good Mexican food is easy to find. But, when your half Mexican and your Grandma makes you authentic Mexican food whenever you want, you end up becoming a harsh critic whenever you enter the local Taqueria or a place that claims to serve “authentic” food. The ability to find excellent Mexican food is an entirely different affair.
As most know, Mexican food can vary with the region. Northern Mexico is known for its meat dishes, Central Mexico is popular for “authentic” Menudo and the South is known for seafood, their local fare.
But, as I am thousands of miles away from Mexican comida, one of my biggest pet peeves is when so-called chefs blatantly use the wrong ingredients…when are flour tortillas EVER the right choice for enchiladas?? Why does my chili rellano often come with so much egg batter it seems like I am eating a burrito? And, if there isn’t at least one Serrano chili in my hot sauce, get it off my plate.
But, there is one restaurant in the South-ish Bay Area that any person would travel a good half an hour (trekking over 17) and STILL wait in line for….
Manuel’s is a popular Mexican restaurant that anyone in the Santa Cruz area will rave about. It’s a small restaurant, with two little bars, that you better put your name down on the reservation list for. After eating at Mexican restaurants all over the Bay Area this is the one place that’s enchiladas could give my Grandma a run for her money.
A problem I usually have when going to Mexican restaurants (besides eating too many chips) is once I find one dish I like, I never branch out. At Manuel’s the cheese enchiladas are to-die-for. Their sauce coats the tortilla without being too clumpy or overbearing. The sauce was smooth and had a nice bite that wasn’t too spicy. Inside, there wasn’t to much queso and had tiny pieces of white onion that gave it a nice crunch.
Well, I knew I would order a enchilada, but what else…..
I decided on a meat taco – something Americanish, yet I was interested to see how they would prepare it. I was happy to see that the taco’s were just as good as their enchiladas. You can tell there is talented chef in the back kitchen as the meat taco was amazing (Grandma, did you get a side job you didn’t tell me about)?
The shredded pork was spicy, juicy and kept in the moist flavor from the pork. But, my favorite part of the taco was the shell itself, reminding me of my grandma’s. They didn’t buy those pre-made shells from the supermarket, instead they used corn tortillas that they dipped in oil and fried it themselves. I also loved that the taco wasn’t stuffed with cheese, lettuce, sour cream. It had those toppings, but they were there for moral support, a garnish – not topics that were overbearing and hid the taste of the meat (you probably can't tell from the picture, but there was lots of meat).
As I’m writing this, my mouth is watering and I am totally hungry for more Manuel’s – a hidden gem of Aptos.
Well let’s get on with the bottom line:
Name: Manuel’s: A Mexican Restaurant
Pricing: On average $12 - 15 bucks a person
Address: 261 Center Avenue, Aptos, California 95003
Byte Rating: 5 out of 5 (woo hoo! My first perfecto rating)