I'd like to thank everyone for their support online, offline, and through email. It meant a lot to me. I seem to be on the mend this week. I'm back in the office full time, and every day I get a little bit better from what I now know was the flu. Sadly enough, Cat has fallen victim to it as well. She was very gentle and caring during my first week with it, so now it's my turn to take care of her.
Edit 08/25/2013: Lucia's Tacos and Mulitas has closed. The entire strip malls seems to have been devastated over the past five years.)
Lucia's Tacos and Mulitas (a.k.a. Lucia's Tacos y Mulitas) is one of those earthy, local joints that can be very intimidating to the uninitiated. Located at the end of a tiny strip of service stores and dwarfed by both the Valero gas station and the liquor store that share the same lot, it doesn't stand out. If you do happen to notice and decided to investigate, you'll be confronted by a cramped space featuring menus and specials heavy on Spanish, and a staff who are light on English. The clientele are a mix of day laborers, mechanics, blue collar types, and a few out-of-place office workers, such as your's truly. However, don't be scared by the rough customers, mismatched tables and chairs (often dirty), or the language barrier. For those who are adventurous enough, Lucia's Tacos and Mulitas offers a true taste of authentic Mexican street food that will delight the tongue and satisfy the stomach.
Here are some simple instructions for navigating Lucia's Taco and Mulitas:
Step 1: Secure a table. The place is small and they're in high demand during lunch. Bring a friend so one can guard the table and the other can order. You may need to wipe down your table and chairs, and bus any dishes from the previous diners.
Step 2: Check to see if your table has a salt shaker with salt in it. The salt is important, since the cooks prepare everything lightly salted so that you can adjust it to your liking.
Step 3: Figure out what you want to eat by reading the big menu on the wall. There are helpful English translations for most, but not all of the items. However, anyone who's lived in Southern California for a while should be able to suss out the rest.
Step 4: Step up to the cashier and order. Try not to mangle the Spanish bits too much. Pay immediately.
Step 5: Hit the salsa bar. Get lots of limes, containers of salsa, paper napkins, plastic cutlery, and salt packets (if you weren't able to score a salt shaker with salt when you got the table). Everything here is self-service. If you don't get it, no one will bring it to you.
Step 6: Wait and listen for the cook to call your order. It will be in Spanish and spoken very quickly, so listen carefully.
Step 7: When your order is called, go get it from the cook. It's eatin' time!
Sounds complicated, huh? Trust me, it's worth it. Good god is it ever worth it. Don't believe me?
Take a gander at this gorgeous plate of tacos, each made using a fresh, flour tortilla hand-made by the cooks. On the right, a Taco Al Pastor. Spice-marinated pork is slow-roasted on a vertical rotisserie. Thin slices are shaved off, chopped, and used to generously stuff the tortilla. Powerful and piquant, it packs a pleasurable punch. I usually just hit mine with a squirt of lime before snarfing.
On the left is a Taco de Cabeza, which in this case consists of braised beef cheeks that are like none I've ever tasted. Rich with fat and gelatin, unctuously soft, and delightfully decadent, it flows across the tongue like the finest tendon and marrow. A little salt and lime juice adds a great counterpoint.
In the middle is a Taco de Lengua, filled with a juicy heap of chopped beef tongue that has been braised until meltingly tender, with a flavor like slightly rare rib meat. A dash of salt, some lime juice, and a little of their hottest salsa are all I need to make it perfect.
Those of you who are squirming can stop. Lucia's Tacos and Mulitas also offers the standard Carne Asada, Carnitas, and Pollo for any of their tacos, burritos, and platters. I'm just very fond of the nasty bits.
If you like tacos, but want to try something a little different, I highly recommend the Mulitas. These are essentially kicked up, meat-packed quesadillas made with fresh Queso (cheese). This one was a Mulita de Cabeza.
You can also try one of the Sopes. Your choice of meat is piled on a fried flour tortilla, covered with shredded lettuce and cheese, smothered in sour cream, and topped with a few tomato slices. Undoubtedly good, but also definitely not for anyone with a heart condition. This one was a Sope de Lengua.
Before we go any further, I need to mention Lucia's hand-made tortillas, which are amazing. They're served warm with every soup or platter, and their soft yet chewy texture is perfect for sopping up broth or wrapping up meaty morsels. I even like eating them plain and enjoying the fresh taste of the wheat flour.
The truly hungry should get one of the meat platters, which are essentially build-your-own-taco plates. You get a good-sized portion of the meat of your choice, Mexican rice, beans, a salad, a hefty wedge of queso, and a stack of five or six tortillas.
In addition to the configurable tacos, mulitas, sopes, and meat platters, Lucia’s also offers burritos and Tortas (Mexican sandwiches). However, their best dishes are their specials, which are printed on separate sheets of paper and taped up under the menu. For example, this Camarones al Mojo de Ajo (Shrimp in Sauce of Garlic), which I rather enjoyed. The garlic, garlic, garlic, more garlic, and butter puree the shrimp were poached in may be a bit strong for some. However, I liked the kick, and made sure none of the sauce escaped the sopping power of my tortillas.
My favorite special is their Menudo, which is quite possibly the best I've ever had. Menudo is a soup made of all four kinds of beef tripe (cows have four stomachs, ya know) slow-cooked in a strong broth of chilies and other spices. While it has great flavor, Lucia's menudo broth is surprisingly gentle spice-wise...
...which is why I kick it up with lots of cilantro, onion, oregano, lime juice, and Chiles de Arbol (a common kind of small, dried chili). Ahhh... Heaven...
I don't recommend trying Lucia's tamales. I find them much too tough and dry for my taste. Fortunately, I think they've been taken off the menu.
No lunch at Lucia's is complete until you pick up some of their Pan Dulce, which are mildly sweet, Mexican breads often topped with sugar. They're great for snacking on back at the office and sharing with friends.
Lucia's Tacos and Mulitas - Authentic Mexican cuisine at amazing prices. Follow the steps and you'll be just fine. Don't forget to score some limes and salt.
The Bill (Multiple visits):
Tacos - 1.75
Mulitas - 3.75
Sopes - 3.75
Meat Platters - 7.00
Camarones al Mojo de Ajo - 9.99
Menudo - 7.00
Tamales - 1.50
Pan Dulce - 1.00 (for 3)
Lucia's Tacos and Mulitas
(corner of Beach and Warner)
16952 Beach Blvd.
Huntington Beach, CA 92647
(If you have difficulty being understood, ask for Lalo.)