Jalisco Restaurant 1721 International Blvd., Oakland, 510-436-8696
Jalisco is open only on weekends, but it sells the best carnitas (browned pork) this side of Michoacan. Add in fresh corn tortillas, chile salsas, and nopales (sliced cactus paddles), and you've got yourself something delicious. You can enjoy your carnitas here or get them to go with all the fixins, but it's not the same without the nopales. The nopal cactus ties Mexicans to the land and to the diet descended from the country's glorious indigenous past. According to Jalisco's owner, the restaurant sells about fifty pounds of them each weekend. What's cool is that the chefs cook them up fresh, cutting the paddles from the mother cactus, cleaning off the prickly spines and eyes, and then slicing and cooking the pieces until the bright green changes color-- many places overcook nopales, but not Jalisco. The cooks combine the cactus with garlic, white onion, tomato, and cilantro. But it's the added oregano that gives it that Jalisco stamp.