Everybody knows that when you go anywhere near Santa Barbara, you are supposed to pull off the freeway and stop by La Super Rica, because Julia Child used to go there (which is an odd criterion by which to choose a taqueria, come to think of it), and because it does something marvelous with melted cheese. The idea of La Super Rica has been conventional wisdom for so long that even the reactionary anti-La Super Rica contingent is ready to start drawing Social Security checks any day now, and generations of taco fanciers have probably forgotten why their parents insisted on going to Lily’s for cow’s-head barbacoa instead.
Those barbacoa tacos are delicious, especially if you manage to forget their proximity on Lily’s menu -- and on the cow’s head itself -- to the grisly sounding tacos de ojo. But there can be something of an element of privation to them, as if you are doing penance for some scarcely remembered original sin.
And that original sin may in fact be those snacks at La Super Rica, which for so long seemed sui generis, but these days can be seen to have their roots in the antojitos of Mexico City, where plates of steak-intensive alambre, bowls of bubbling queso fundido flavored with chorizo, or even the so-called Especial with pork, cheese and chiles are as common as hot tortillas made to order. For one reason or another, some people enjoy being horrified by cheese.
One afternoon when nobody is watching, and the Internet scolds are off busily clucking at the white sauce on someone’s fish taco, you pull off the 101 at the Milpas exit, head north a mile or so toward the hills, and find a parking space near the low shack that still looks pretty much the same as it did when Ms. Child used to stop by for gorditas. You wait in the line, which is no shorter than it was when Reagan was president, and you ask for a couple of tacos de rajas, because it is the right thing to do.
And then somebody hands you the tacos, maybe five, maybe 20 minutes after you order them, and the masses of cheese, onions and sauteed chiles overwhelms the hot, freshly made tortillas, and it seems for the next minute or so to be the most delicious thing you have ever eaten in your life. Are there mushrooms in there too? I believe so. Are the tacos authentic? It doesn’t matter. They taste purely of Santa Barbara, and on a warm October afternoon, it is enough. 622 N. Milpas St., Santa Barbara. Closed Wednesdays.
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