CVIndependent

Sat11282020

Last updateMon, 24 Aug 2020 12pm

What: The Taca tacos

Where: The Sandbox Kitchen, 72301 Country Club Drive, No. 110, Rancho Mirage

How much: $3.50 each

Contact: 760-565-6044; www.facebook.com/TheSandboxKitchen

Why: Perfect meats.

At first, there was Taca Tacos, run by a young couple named Daniel and Aimie.

Taca Tacos catered various parties and events—and began earning rave reviews. “Our food quality is something that we pay close attention to, and we serve nothing but the best!” Daniel wrote on Facebook. “Even our meats are cut by hand (by me!) to reduce as much fat as possible and ensure top quality. Our salsas are made with the freshest ingredients, and our tortillas are made the day of the event.”

Then, in mid-2019, came The Sandbox Kitchen, a brick-and-mortar restaurant owned by Daniel and Aimee, in the strangest of spots—at the back of a medical/office building near the Eisenhower Medical Center campus. The Sandbox Kitchen offers breakfast items, salads, sandwiches—and those acclaimed tacos.

I love a good taco, so I decided I needed to check out The Sandbox Kitchen. After one failed attempt (I tried to go on a day the restaurant was closed for a private party), I finally managed to make it for a post-holidays lunch.

I ordered three tacos, Taca-style (which means they come with minced cabbage, crema fresca and chipotle aioli, and quesito)—one each with carne asada, chicken and al pastor. (Cauliflower tacos are available, too.)

After a 20-minute wait—I arrived just after several other parties had ordered, apparently—I had my tacos … and I instantly understood what the Taca Tacos buzz was all about: The chicken was juicy and delicious; the carne asada was flavorful with a variety of textures; and the al pastor was fantastic—with a hint of a spicy kick.

In summary … all three meats were perfectly prepared—and The Sandbox Kitchen has a new fan.

Published in The Indy Endorsement

What: The Street Taco Platter

Where: Loco Charlie’s, 1751 N. Sunrise Way, No. F5, Palm Springs

How much: $7.95

Contact: 760-832-6474; mylococharlies.com

Why: The crispy parts.

It was lunchtime, and I was craving some good tacos.

This is not an unusual occurrence in my life. In fact, there are few lunchtimes when I am not, to some degree, craving tacos. However, on this particular day, I was really craving tacos—so off to Loco Charlie’s we went. I had never been before, but several readers have recommended the restaurant to me—and we all know that Coachella Valley Independent readers are a smart bunch, yes? (Here’s a hint: If you’re reading this, you’re an Independent reader.)

Let’s just say that the readers didn’t let me down—and my taco craving was more than satisfied.

Loco Charlie’s—located in a nondescript strip mall on the corner of Sunrise Drive and Vista Chino Road—offers four types of meat in its tacos: Carne asada (beef!), carnitas (pork!), pollo asado (chicken!) and lengua (beef tongue!). Turns out the Street Taco Platter includes four tacos, and you can mix and match the meats.

I’ll take a Street Taco Platter with one of each, please.

The chicken and lengua tacos were just fine. (By the way, if the thought of eating tongue makes you squeamish, you really should get over that. It’s good, tender stuff.) However, the carne asada and carnitas tacos were revelatory, because the meat was so delicious—due, in part, to the fact that the taco-preppers in the kitchen included both softer and crispy pieces of meat in each taco.

I feel I should include an endorsement within an endorsement for the price: Four tacos plus sides for $7.95 is a fine deal. It’s such a fine deal that I may just go back tomorrow for some more street tacos … because the more I think about those tasty tacos, the less my craving is feeling satisfied.

Published in The Indy Endorsement

What: The carne asada tacos

Where: Casa Blanca Restaurant, 35850 Date Palm Drive, Suite A, Cathedral City; 66370 Pierson Blvd., Desert Hot Springs

How much: $7.49 (for three, with rice and beans) as a weekday lunch special; $1.99 a la carte; available in other special combos

Contact info: 328-2150 (Cathedral City); 251-5922 (Desert Hot Springs); www.casablancamenu.com

Why: The little pieces of steak are perfectly seasoned and prepared.

I've driven past the Casa Blanca Restaurant in Cathedral City many dozens of times (a good friend lives just around the corner), but I never stopped in—until recently.

Boy, have I been missing out.

I was in the area on business during the noon hour, and hunger was a-callin', so I decided to stop in for a quick bite. Other than one other occupied table, I had the restaurant to myself. Since I'd never been to Casa Blanca before, I asked the server what she recommended. She said that everything is good (don't they always say that?), and she recommended one of the weekday lunch specials. So, I picked the No. 1: three soft tacos with any available meat (I chose carne asada), plus rice and beans, for $7.49.

I somewhat sated my hunger by chowing down on the chips and salsa, but soon enough, the tacos you see above arrived at my table. They were pure simplicity—just tortilla, steak, white onion and cilantro. I added a bit of the tasty-but-could-be-spicier salsa to one taco, picked it up and bit in.

Yum.

Having lived in Southern Arizona for a decade, and having a love for good Mexican food, I have sampled many carne asada tacos in my time—and these are among the best I've ever had. The key is in the steak: It was seasoned perfectly, with the seasonings complementing the meat, not overwhelming it. Further, the little pieces were just the right size—small enough to pick up a lot of char, but big enough to retain inner softness and juiciness, without any extreme chewiness.

How's the rest of the food at Casa Blanca (which, in addition to the Cathedral City location, has its original location in Desert Hot Springs)? I can't tell you. And I won't be able to tell you after my next visit, either, because I am ordering these tacos again.

Published in The Indy Endorsement