I have been living in Roseville for nearly 10 years, and we've been visiting Denio's Farmers Market and Auction for nearly 10 years, but we'd never been across the street to Joseph's Auction Town, a lesser-known and much smaller operation. I have lately been doing a lot of walking, for health reasons, and to keep my weight in check, and while walking by Auction Town, I've noticed that it has quite a few small, unique restaurants, that specialize in fine Mexican cuisine. During the course of a 9.54 mile walk on August 5, 2007, I decided to check out Las Cazuelas Mexican Restaurant, which is located inside building "A," which is Auction Town's premier building.
Photo: Las Cazuelas is located in a small building, within Building "A" at Joseph's Auction Town, in Roseville, CA.
You enter the center of the building, and walk in the direction of the parking lot, and you'll notice that Las Cazuelas occupies a small, self-contained building, within the main building. Las Cazuelas is a small diner that is locally owned and operated by the Sanchez family, which specializes in Mexican food, but they also have a few American favorites, such as fried chicken, hamburgers and cheeseburgers. At the entrance to the building, they've erected a sign that lists their specialties: Menudo, carnitas, birria, tacos and burritos. Las Cazuelas is open Saturday and Sundays only, and keep the same schedule as Auction Town does. They're closed during the week; I find it amazing that the owners can make a living operating only two days a week. The Sanchez family has been operating the diner for two years, and about the only changes that they've made was to change the name to its current name, as the restaurant was formerly known a "Mi Pueblito." Even the menus still bear the name, "Mi Pueblito," and the prices haven't changed in two years. The Sanchez family certainly know how to run a restaurant.
Actually, calling Las Cazuelas a "restaurant" is stretching the meaning a bit, as I would describe it as a diner, as the dining area is quite compact, but very comfortable. There is an "L-shaped" counter with seating for about a dozen diners at the counter, where you can watch mom and pop in the kitchen, and chit-chat with the friendly waiters as they perform their duties. I chose a seat at the counter, so I could be close the action, command a "primo" view of the operation, and visit with the staff and customers. However, if Las Cazuelas Mexican Restaurant prefers to be called a restaurant, instead of a "loncheria," it's ok with me, as they serve unbelievably delicious Mexican food, no matter how the place is categorized.
Photo: Tnese gentlemen are enjoying a breakfast of menudo in Las Cazuelas rather small and plain dining room. The counter is to the immediate left of the photo, as I'm taking this photo sitting at the counter.
I sat down at the counter and grabbed a printed menu, even though I knew that I wanted menudo for breakfast, just to see what entrées their menu includes. For stews, in addition to menudo, pozole and birria are on the menu, along with tortas, tacos burritos, enchiladas; the usual, pub-fare Mexican food. Las Cazuelas also features combination breakfast and lunch plates, all priced at less than $7.00 for a complete meal. A breakfast combination that really caught my eye was two fried eggs to order, refried beans, and a stack of corn tortillas for only $3.95! If you don't care for Mexican food, their menu includes hamburgers and fried chicken. Normally, if a Mexican restaurant offers ANY traditional American food, I avoid it like the plague, but Las Cazuelas is the exception to my rule. I also tend to avoid restaurants where the staff speaks English; at Las Cazuelas, the staff speaks as good of English as I do. Again, Las Cazuelas is the exception to the rule, as the price, quantity and quality of their meals can't be beat. As I was glancing at the menu, one of the waiters, a lad of about 18 years of age, politely asked me if I needed more time, and I replied that I was ready order menudo for breakfast. He asked me what kind of tortillas I wanted, corn, of course, if I wanted all of the fixin's, yes, or course, and if I wanted a piece of the cows hoof? What? I have not been asked that question since my last visit to Tijuana! ¡Viva Las Cazuelas! They just gained a HUGE block of points in my book! Darn right I wanted a piece of the cows hoof!
During my visit to Las Cazuelas, the restaurant was staffed by four folks, Mr. and Mrs. Sanchez, the owners, their son, and an older cousin who's going to college and works for his aunt and uncle in the restaurant on weekends. Mr. Sanchez is the primary cook, as he was busily working the range, cooking eggs, tortillas, bacon, sausage, etc. on the griddle, and didn't have a lot of time, nor the inclination for conversation. Mrs. Sanchez was also very busy, as she was tending to the stainless steel tubs that contain cooked menudo, posole and birria, plus checking the big pot on a back burner that had beans cooking. I noticed that she also seemed to check the salsa quite a bit, and judging from the vegetables and the cutting board located near the range, its quite apparent that their salsa is made in-house. Their son takes orders, takes money, makes change, and provides customers with complementary chips and salsa. The cousin waits tables, talks to the customers, and busses the tables after the customers leave. I noted that all of them work together as a team, and everybody seems to know what to do, and when to do it.
Photo: The youngest waiter writes a take-out order from a customer. This photo illustrates the size of the counter, and the size of the main dining room. The kitchen is out of the photo, to the left.
While I was waiting for my order to arrive, I also got a chance to check out the decor, and mingle with the staff and customers. The dining room is quite small, with room for about 8 tables, with four chairs each, plus about a dozen seats at the counter. The kitchen and food preparation area is behind the counter, and all of the activities of the staff are plainly visible from the counter and the dining room. The walls are painted tan, and are decorated with posters, strings of artificial flowers, ceramic strings of vegetables, and sombreros, placed over colorful blankets. There is Mexican music playing in the background, but its not intrusive, and you can carry on a conversation without raising your voice. All of the customers are locals, as Las Cazuelas doesn't advertise, except by word of mouth, and most of the clients seem to be of Mexican decent, except there were a few Norteamericanos enjoying the restaurant during my visit, including an Anglo lady of about my age who told me she operates a booth in another building. She had overheard me ordering menudo, and she commented that to her, menudo smells good, but she just can't get over the fact that it contains tripe. I suggested that she put those thoughts aside, order a bowl of menudo, and just sit back and enjoy it. The illumination is provided by naked fluorescent lights and light from the outside windows. The decor isn't fancy, but its clean, comfortable, and very down-to-earth. The total package is a cross between a loncheria in Tijuana, and a 1950's Route 66-era roadside diner, which makes the dining experience at Las Cazuelas both unforgettable, and very attractive.
When I placed my order, the guy who took it wrote it down on one of those little notepads like waitresses used to use, way back in the 1960's. He then placed my order one of those revolving wheels that orders are clipped to, which were in common use before computers took over. Las Cazuelas has an electronic cash register, but it doesn't seem to be in use, as its covered in shrink-wrap plastic. Change is made from a locked drawer, with bins that contains coins and bills, just like the way change was made years ago. Completed, paid-for orders are impaled upon a stainless steel order holder, with the most recent order on top, and the older ones on bottom, just like they did 40 years ago. There is absolutely nothing about Las Cazuelas that is high-tech, but the lack of computers, the Internet and modern technology adds to the charm of the restaurant, and probably contributes to the outstanding quality of the food.
Photo: Mrs. Sanchez prepares an order in the kitchen, as her son looks over another order that he has written.
While waiting for my order, I was provided with a basket of tortilla chips, salsa verde, a runny red salsa, and a small bowl of salsa cruda. I have to admit that it was a very pleasant experience, sitting at the counter, munching on chips and salsa, observing the operation, and mingling with the staff and a few, friendly customers.
Mrs. Sanchez ladled my bowl of menudo out of a large staidness steel warming container, flanked by other containers containing pozole and birria, into a large bowl. She placed the bowl on a plate, and added chopped cilantro, diced white onions, and key lime halves. He son brought my order to me, along with a tortilla-warmer that contained four fresh, corn tortillas. He asked if I wanted more chips, and of course I did, so he brought me another basket of chips, and another small bowl of salsa cruda. With a fresh basket of chips, salsa cruda, and a steaming hot bowl of menudo in front of me, I was ready to conduct business.
Photo: Lourdes Sanchez dishes up my menudo, from a steaming stainless steel pot. Note the griddle, the range and the warming shelves to the rear, and her husband to the extreme right of the photo.
The menudo I enjoyed at Las Cazuelas Mexican Restaurant is the best menudo that I've ever eaten in Roseville, and probably the best menudo that I've ever eaten in California. Sure, I know I'm capitalizing on absolute superlatives, but in the case of Las Cazuelas menudo, the descriptions apply. The menudo and the tortillas are made in-house, and they're made from locally-produced, fresh ingredients. The flavor is spicy, but not hot, the smell is aromatic, and delicious, no doubt due to the fact that the stew contains part of the cow hoof. Unlike many other restaurants that serve menudo, Las Cazuelas doesn't skimp on the portions of tripe and hominy, as your serving of menudo includes balanced, ample portions of both major ingredients. The color of the stew is brick-red, and the taste is earthy, and it tastes the way quality menudo tastes, in northern Mexico. Add the cilantro and onions, and squeeze in the lime juice, and you have a breakfast fit for champions. If you're a lover of menudo, you've got to visit Las Cazuelas. Oh yes, the tortillas arrived hot and moist, and compliment the menudo, to make an outstanding breakfast. The price? For all the chips and salsa I could eat, a large bowl of menudo, and a stack of corn tortillas, the price came to a very reasonable $5.90, including tax. I gave the waiter $7.00 and told him to keep the change.
I complimented the elder waiter on the menudo, and I told him that their menudo is the best that I've ever eaten in Roseville. Naturally, with a grin, he thanked me. The lady sitting next to me piped in and said that Las Cazuelas serves the best Mexican food in town, and a couple of customers sitting at a nearby table, themselves enjoying a breakfast of menudo, chimed in and agreed that Las Cazuelas Mexican Restaurant serves the best Mexican food in Roseville. I believe, in the interest of science, have to pay a few more visits and order other entrees and combinations from their menu, so I can substantiate that claim the claim that they serve the best Mexican food in town. Whatever the claim, the other items on the menu, must be good, as the restaurant is very busy, with a constant stream of customers. Unlike the taco trucks parked in a vacant lot across the street, most of La Cazuelas diners prefer to eat at the restaurant, but Las Cazuelas will be more than happy to prepare orders to go, if that is what the customer prefers.
Photo: My fine breakfast of chips, salsa, menudo and corn tortillas. I wish the camera could capture how delicious the menudo really smells and tastes... it's a quality product, the best menudo I've eaten in Roseville!
Don't feel uncomfortable if you don't know a word of Spanish, as the staff at Las Cazuelas speaks English like your next door neighbor, and they're friendly, and seem to really want to make you feel at home. Although most of the customers prefer to speak Spanish, don't be intimidated, as they're a jovial and friendly bunch. If you desire the finest Mexican cuisine in Roseville, enjoy a fun dining experience, and you don't want to break the bank, you owe it to yourself to pay Las Cazuelas Mexican Restaurant a visit. Highly recommended!
Las Cazuelas Mexican Restaurant
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