[Menlo Park, CA] Michoacán specialties at Tacos el Fogon

Tacos el Fogon is a relatively new restaurant on Middlefield in the weird section of Menlo Park sandwiched between Atherton and Redwood City. Right across the street from the wonderful pollo al carbon counter inside Michoacan Market.

The restaurant serves the migrant community from Michoacán. For the gringoes, the menu has plenty of pictures to ease ordering, since the staff is not fluent in English. Before I went in, I made up my mind that I was going to use my non-existent español to attempt to order rumored off-menu weekend Michoacán specials- tacos al vapor and birria. My comical attempts at español, along with their non-existent inglés, made for an interesting meal where I wasn’t quite sure what food would eventually arrive.

Molcajete Mixto- A tomato stew with strips of chicken and beef along with shrimp, nopales, jalapeno, queso fresco served in a sizzling molcajete. The stew was bright with tomato flavors infused with heat from the chili and the salsa. The chicken and the beef did a fine job mopping up the stew. The nopales and the lime juice each added a different tangy dimension and the grilled onion brought a bit of sweetness. Finally, the whole jalapeno, with seeds and all, provided adjustable level of heat. Yummy.

I came here for the tacos al vapor but unfortunately they didn’t have it (that day? forever? I didn’t understand). The servers did offer up a couple of meat choices, cabeza (head) and lengua (tongue) for regular tacos. That was a lovely recommendation. Both the cabeza (steamed?) and lengua was absolutely flavorful, moist, rich and well-seasoned. Cabeza with a mix of lean and fatty, almost gelatin-y meat from the head. Served on handmade tortillas that was fluffier than most, I added the onions/ cilantro/ lime juice. Delicious.

I was not sure why they didn’t put the onions, cilantro in the taco. I think they mentioned/ asked about that during ordering but I didn’t understand.

Taco cabeza

Taco lengua

Birria. I found the birria ok- its a plate of stewed ribs served with seasoned rice and refried beans. The meat was tender and the stew provided strong flavors, but the flavors was a bit one-dimensional and undistinctive. The refried beans was good, however. Its made very creamy and had a bit of a milky taste to it after all the cooking.

Barca on TV during lunch.

Would love to be back to try more of the menu at some point. They hardly had anyone during lunch, and the restaurant looks more like a rowdy spot at night with a sports bar, DJ/ mic stand, jukebox, etc. Perhaps the specials are evening only.

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Honghe Hani Rice Terraces, Yuanyang County, Yunnan
Credit: inkelv1122, Flickr