This is going to be sort of a long post because I'll be discussing two visits to the barely six-month-old Cacao Mexicatesssen on Colorado Boulevard in Eagle Rock. Mr. DG and I first heard about Cacao from an Eagle Rock resident last summer. Of course, we're always on the lookout for interesting new eateries that we can try on our visits to LA, so we were tempted by Cacao's menu that included duck carnitas and more intriguing, non-run-of-the-mill Mexican dishes.
On our first trip, I had one of the specials of the day ($10.50): three potato, bacon, and cheddar taquitos topped with crema and garnished with guacamole. A pyramid of rice and a bowl of beans were also included. This is a lot of food! My eyes were bigger than my stomach because I'm a sucker for anything that has bacon, potato and cheddar in it. Plus, taquitos are one of my favorite items, so I didn't need long to decide this was what I was getting. The taquitos were crunchy, but I could have used a little more seasoning in the potato filling. I enjoyed the guacamole and the rice and beans, but I was in a carb coma shortly thereafter. Note to self: avoid getting a carb wrapped around more carbs, served with more carbs.
Mr. DG ordered a cochinita pibil taco (roasted pork in achiote and citrus). The taco was garnished with pickled red onion, sliced radish and wedges of lime. Mr. DG usually adds salsa to his tacos, but he said the meat was so flavorful, it didn't need any enhancement.
Mr. DG paired his taco with a comforting bowl of sopa de fideo. The soup is made with chicken broth, tomato and fideo noodles. Mr. DG enjoyed the soup very much; it was a thick broth topped with what looked to be cotija cheese. The soup's flavor reminded Mr. DG of the spaghetti his mom used to make for him when he was a kid. It was a hearty, homestyle soup -- great for wintry days. Mr. DG also ordered a jamaica (hibiscus) drink. The jamaica was not too sweet, but just sweet enough for us.
On our second visit, I remembered to not indulge too heavily in the carbs. So, instead, I ordered two tacos a la carte: the richly-flavored cochinita pibil and the carnitas de pato (duck carnitas) taco. The duck carnitas taco is garnished with slivered radish, pickled red onion and diced avocado. The duck was shredded and had the familiar gamy flavor that duck is known for. I enjoyed it, but not as much as I thought I would -- this is no fault of Cacao's. Just simply my own taste -- I guess I was hoping the duck flavor would be a bit less pronounced and the carnitas seasoning a bit more pronounced.
Mr. DG ordered two a la carte tacos as well: papa con chorizo (potato w/chorizo) and marinated roasted chicken. The potato filling was deep-fried and stuffed in a blue corn shell. Bits of chorizo colored the mashed potato "fritter." Mr. DG felt that the potato filling could use a little more seasoning. With such a dense starch, a heavier hand in seasoning is most likely necessary.
The standout of our second visit was the grilled Mexican corn on the cob! Mr. DG had never had it before, and with one bite, he was an instant convert! My camera phone doesn't do it justice, but, believe me, the corn is a must-try. White corn is grilled and slathered with a lime aioli, queso cotija and dusted with powdered chili. The creamy aioli is zesty; the cotija gives a bit of a salty tang; and the powdered chili provides the "pow!" that keeps on giving. I could barely feel my lips after a while, but I didn't care because the corn was delicious!
Mr. DG was happy to see that a selection of Mexican candies were also available for purchase, in particular, Pico packets. Pico is a hot, sour, and orange sugar-like powder. This is right up Mr. DG's alley as he loves tart flavors, and Pico was a favorite he enjoyed as a kid growing up in the Coachella Valley.
Besides the fresh guacamole, mole sauces, and Mexican candies, Cacao carries a number of imported items including Mexican chocolate, sea salt from the Sea of Cortez, Mexican vanilla beans, and organic cacao nibs.
If you are looking for a change of pace from Starbuck's, you can also purchase a variety of coffee and cacao drinks here. The "Azteca" Mocha Latte sounds very interesting: it contains sugar, cinnamon, almonds, chile de arbol and chipotle. Iced drinks, teas, and aguas frescas are also available.
Cacao is a warm, homey eatery accented by wrestler figurines, masks and Mexican artwork. They serve breakfast; have a happy hour menu; offer daily specials; and serve menudo on the weekends. For those of you who want a stress-free Super Bowl party, order a chips/salsa/guacamole party pack from Cacao. If you need something more substantial, Cacao also offers family packs that include a self-serve taco bar with rice, beans and tortilla chips (serves 4-5 people).
I grew up near Eagle Rock, in neighboring Glassell Park. Eagle Rock has become the offbeat alternative for those who want a more independent feel than the more commercial areas like Old Town Pasadena or the Americana in Glendale. It's nice to see the abundance of unique food and retail that has populated Colorado Boulevard in the past 10 to 15 years. The rejuvenation of this neighborhood has extended to Highland Park, and it'll be exciting to see how Highland Park evolves. I look forward to exploring the areas near my old neighborhood for more delightful food finds that I can share with you!
1576 Colorado Blvd. (two doors from Trader Joe's)
Los Angeles, CA 90041
Tuesday - Saturday 8 AM - 9 PM
Sunday 8 AM -7 PM on menu; 8 AM - 8 PM on Facebook page
Cacao is on Facebook (link opens in a new window)