We can't tell if we love El Huarache Azteca because we love sitting beneath the sepia-toned mural of that hunky Aztec warrior or because they don't make many concessions to gringo tastes: You think you know what a quesadilla is? No floppy giant wheat-and-cheese bomb, El Huarache's is a small, just-pressed tortilla folded around melted cheese and crisped on the comal. And its huaraches, sopes
, and other antojitos
are light and crispy, filled with succulent braised meats or squash blossoms and huitlacoche
(corn fungus, yum). Go, go, go on weekends for the lamb barbacoa
-- where the cooks wrap the lamb in maguey
leaves and re-create the pit grill experience, selling the melting, shredded meat by the pound with a stack of fresh tortillas -- and the clear, delicate barbacoa consommé made from the drippings. It's the best meat by-product ever.
Two locations: Berkeley, 510-528-1881;