Taqueria La Bamba (Mountain View, CA)
Score: 9 / 10 Reviewed by: Dan
La Bamba has an interesting history; it's two doors down from La Costena market, and is kind of the illegitimate child of that legendary Silicon Valley institution. La Bamba was started in the mid-1980s by a former cook from La Costena who was frustrated because he wanted to put a more Salvadorean spin on his cooking. So he packed up one day and set up shop in what was then an empty storefront in the same strip mall. After twenty years, he's still going strong, with fantastic burritos and the best pupusas I've ever had.
Bamba is bare-bones -- a big room with a table lining the sides, an unholy number of raving newspaper reviews on the walls, Street Fighter, a cooler full of drinks, and a cash register. No decoration, no attempts at gentrification, just a place where, on occasion, they make the best burritos on the planet.
It's an absolute joy to watch your burrito being made here. One guy assembles everything right in the front, and a small staff of assistants man the grill, refill the salsa and cilantro bins, and put together the large catering orders that come in from local software companies. The guy chucks his ingredients into his burritos, resulting in near-perfect integration.
And the ingredients -- oh, man, the ingredients. When it's on, La Bamba's al pastor is that which all other pastor must be judged against. It's tender, bursting with flavor, and bleeding orange grease. Order it. Other meats aren't quite as good, but it's really asking quite a bit for them even to come close. There's a small chance you'll get a bad batch -- one out of ten al pastors tend towards the dry. If you don't dig on swine, check out the pollo asado, carne asada, or straight pollo. All three can be really good, with the pollo asado usually the best of the lot.
The meats at Bamba are so good, they tend to overshadow the rest. This isn't a bad thing -- veggie burritos here are nothing to write home about. The guac, in particular, just doesn't measure up to what you can get elsewhere. The salsa is quite good and changes spiciness day-to-day, and they punctuate it with onions and fresh sprigs of cilantro. It's just that guac getting in the way. If Bamba had the option of putting chunks of avocado in your burrito....coupled on a good al pastor day....I would probably take an every-stops Caltrain down just to go.
As it stands, Taqueria La Bamba does a tremendous job. It's quick, cheap, and absolutely delicious if you're a carnivore. In high school, we used to get burritos to go, grab Big Gulps from the 7-11, and sit on the grass next to the office park with our food, watching the traffic and chowing down. I'm older now, but it still doesn't get a whole lot better than that.
posted 7/1/2005 12:31 PM, updated on 7/12/2005 12:07 PM