Locale Profiles: California Taco Shop

tacoCalifornia Taco Shop, a small Rhode-Island based chain, has opened another restaurant a month ago, this time in Pawtucket. They have four existing locations: Providence (with locations on Manton Ave and Plainfield St), Johnston and Warwick, and the expansion means good things for Mexican food. According to NPR, the Latino population in Providence has almost doubled in the past decade, so the food seems to be catching up to the demographics. Of course, Mexican cuisine probably won’t overtake Italian in the city anytime soon, but I think the variety is refreshing.

Usually, my Mexican restaurant of choice in the area is El Rancho Grande, but unfortunately I’m not the first to figure out that it’s awesome; the place is always loaded (even on weekdays), so I’m definitely open to new Mexican options in the area.

California Taco Shop seemed like a much more manageable dining experience, and having never tried the local chain, my dining compatriot and I decided to check out their new location on Central Ave in Pawtucket.

Although the impact may not have been felt as much in Providence where the Mexican restaurant scene is more saturated, it seems to make a big difference in Pawtucket. As we drove across the city from Providence, I couldn’t help notice the seemingly endless, nondescript pizza places the neighborhood has to offer. For people tired of the monotony, this may be a welcome addition.

The interior is small and inviting, with bright colors and pictures of things like cacti and peppers to set the scene. Diners were also treated to FX’s Tuesday night comedy lineup on a huge flatscreen, which seemed to be a “Mike and Molly” marathon. Right away, we were give complementary chips and salsa.

All the Mexican staples are well-represented on their menu, which includes dishes like enchiladas, quesadillas, nacho plates and chimichangas, all for very reasonable prices. For those who go all the way there and decide to wimp out, they also have burgers and buffalo chicken tenders.

The quality of the food didn’t blow me away, but the low prices, big portions, and great service make CTS worth the trip. My girlfriend ordered a trio of vegetarian enchiladas and enjoyed them — not many Mexican restaurants make a point to offer vegetation options.

I went straight for the most gluttonous thing I could find and ordered the California burrito, a steak burrito enhanced by guacamole and French fries. I decided to order my burrito “wet,” which sounds unpleasant, but I can assure you is anything but. They put the burrito on a plate, melt some cheese on it, cover it with sour cream and red sauce, and serve with some chips. This thing was as big as my head, and for about the price of a Chipotle burrito ($7.99), is a total bargain. I also stole a few creepy glances at the table next to ours, and the tostadas looked pretty generous.
But the game-changers are probably the restaurant’s namesake, the California, soft-shelled tacos. Many of the tacos are just a dollar (!), and I had one with al pastor, or pork marinated with pineapple. If you’re wondering how I ate this in addition to a humungous burrito, it was pretty uncomfortable. The meal was also enhanced by their homemade hot sauce, made with fresh chilli peppers; it’s extremely flavorful, but mild enough to be liberally dumped on anything you order.

If you’re hungry for a quick bite and aren’t interested in shelling out a lot of dough, California Taco Shop could be an option. And if you just ate, you can probably still cram in a one dollar taco.

The newest California Taco Shop is located at 877 Central Ave, Pawtucket.

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