One Thursday afternoon, I was sitting in class when all of a sudden, my daydreaming was interrupted by something reminiscent of a gremlin like growl. It was at that moment , when I realized it was time to tame this beast once and for all. And what better way to conquer such a foul being than with some delicious tacos? Okay, maybe I’m being a “little” dramatic, but I was pretty hungry. I phoned in my friend Brianna and asked if she would join me on my “taco quest”. After much debate, we eventually decided on a place called “Taqueria La Roqueta”. The name intrigued me because when I searched for the meaning of La Roqueta the translation was “rocket”. However, it is not the rocket ship as we usually think of, but rather a term mostly used in the U.K., referring to arugula. This was strange to me because arugula is not a vegetable commonly associated with Mexican cuisine. Therefore, It was time for me to channel my inner Sherlock Holmes and see if I could make sense of this!
Upon further research, I discovered that although, Arugula is not an integral part of these dishes, an herb called “Papaio” is. Papaio is an herb used in Central Mexico whose taste is described as a cross between cilantro (coriander) and arugula. This could mean that the restaurant owners are providing a specific taste and experience originating from areas such as Mexico city or Puebla. The restaurant is located between a bodega and another restaurant. The sign for La Roqueta is fairly small, therefore, It was a site easy to miss, but definitely should not be. The restaurant itself is quite spacious and gives off an elegant, yet rustic vibe. The brightly colored art work and friendly staff really help to transport you to a more relaxed or comforting state. From the beginning, I could tell this would be a special experience.
When My friend Brianna and I walked into La Roqueta, It felt like we were walking into someone’s home. The host gave us a very warm welcome and quickly guided us to our seats. It was quite empty, but we noticed a few children in school uniforms doing what appeared to be a homework assignment at the counter, while a smiling child roamed around on a walker type toy. Our server immediately brought over a basket filled with fresh tortilla chips with two different types of salsas, a red and a green. The tortillas were super crunchy and not too oily (which is a helpful tip when testing for freshness). The green salsa is a mixture of tomatillos and avocado. It had a slight kick from the jalapeños, but was not overwhelming. The red salsa, however, was definitely red hot! It proved way too spicy for Brianna who is not much of a spice enthusiast. However, if you are crazy like me? It was perfectly fine. Aside from the heat,the taste of the red salsa was not my favorite but personally, I’ve never been a huge fan of chipotle based salsas.
To balance the heat of these sauces, we ordered some drinks. I ordered an “agua fresca de sandia” which translates as a “fresh watermelon water”. A typical “aqua fresca” is composed of some type of fresh fruit, with a bit of sugar, and blended together with some water. It’s a simple concept that yields a super tasty product. I was not disappointed with this drink at all. It tasted as though, I had stuck a straw directly into a beautifully riped watermelon. It was the perfect amount of sweetness and came in a huge plastic container. Brianna decided on trying her very first “Jarrito” in the Orange flavor. Jarritos is a soda company that was founded in 1950 by Don Francisco Hill. The word Jarrito means “little jugs”. And by 1960 these “little jugs” of joy had made their way to the top, becoming a best seller in about 80% of Mexican states. And according to Brianna, it was with good reason! Because for her, it was love at first sip! She described it as one of the best sodas she had ever had. So far we were off to a great start.
The overall service was a bit slow but after some time we finally got our tacos. We ordered the tacos de chorizo (spicy sausage) and tacos de pollo, to share. Both tacos came in fresh corn tortillas with a side of radishes and topped with cilantro and white onions. First, we tasted the chorizo tacos since neither of us had ever tried Mexican chorizo before. We expected it to taste similar to the Spanish chorizo we both experienced during our trip to Spain last summer. Boy were we wrong! The chorizo in the taco was dripping in oil and as I took a bite I noticed it was significantly greasy and a bit zesty. Spanish chorizo has a deep smoky, slightly sweet flavor, Where as Mexican chorizo, has a bite and is slightly acidic due to the vinegar used when making the sausage. My review of the taco itself is that it was not my favorite. The seasoning was a bit too intense for me, in terms of the herbs used and the amount of oil was just too overwhelming for my taste. We then moved on to the chicken taco. Now these tacos were honestly worth the wait!
The chicken was grilled and perfectly seasoned. I added a squeeze of lime as well as a bit of the green salsa and the result? A beautifully balanced symphony of tangy, spicy, salty goodness. I will absolutely be going back for those very soon! Spoiler alert: We actually did end up revisting this place but decided to explore the various dishes the menu had to offer. I ordered the Sopes de pollo asada, which is oven roasted chicken on a thicker corn tortilla and Brianna went with the carnitas or pork tacos. And of course we ended up getting another Jarrito, since they have become our new obsession. This time, we tried the strawberry flavor which tasted just like those strawberry shaped hard candies that always seem to find their way into the homes of many of our grandparents. We also tried a mango agua fresca which just like the watermelon, tasted exactly like diving into a perfectly ripe mango. We really loved both entrees and of course the drinks.
My final verdict of La Roqueta? Although the wait is a little excessive, La Roqueta is an amazing little spot to grab a delicious authentic Mexican meal. What I love about this place is that not only are the food and drinks great but the atmosphere is so inviting that it can be an ideal place for almost any occasion. It will surely become one of your go to restaurants for either a date night or a family dinner.