Although Laura, Elissa, and I did most of our growing-up in Sacramento, we also spent a significant portion of our formative years in Santa Barbara. I have two main food memories from our early years in Santa Barbara: McConnell's Ice Cream and La Super-Rica Taqueria. Luckily, both are still around and thriving, which means that I can satisfy my hunger and nostalgia at the same time. Last weekend, Sean and I decided to take advantage of the Martin Luther King holiday and take a road trip to Santa Barbara. The Super-Rica was a must-visit destination while we were there.
The Super-Rica has been in the same corner location on Milpas Street since 1980. It is a humble white building with bright turquoise trim, and you can also recognize it by the near-constant line out the door. The Super-Rica became famous in the 90s because Julia Child (who had retired to nearby Montecito) went on record saying it was one of her favorite places to eat. My tip for beating the line is to arrive just before opening at 11am.
After waiting your turn, you order at a window that peeks into the kitchen. There is always a woman making fresh tortillas front and center, and man, those tortillas are good. The menu is written on a chalkboard to the right of the window, and don't miss the daily specials on a second board, just above where you order. The menu includes tacos, quesadillas, and a few other specialties with various combinations of meats, cheese, and vegetables. The restaurants is cash-only, and I always seem to end up over-ordering, both because everything looks so delicious, and because I definitely don't want to wait in line again if I want seconds.
This trip, I had to order all of my favorites on the menu, starting with No. 16, the Super-Rica Especial: roasted pasilla peppers, marinated pork, and melted cheese over those homemade tortillas. (Actually, Sean and I had to order two of those in order to avoid creating any marital strife). No. 6, the rajas taco, is also a must-order, in my opinion. It combines sauteed pasilla chiles, onions, herbs, cheese, which meld together into a sum greater than its parts. Rounding out our lunch menu on this trip was a chorizo quesadilla and a chile relleno in cream sauce (off the daily specials board). It may be because I grew up eating them (I think Super-Rica quesadillas might actually be the reason Laura, Elissa, and I are so tall), but I think the quesadillas are very special here - they really highlight those delicious tortillas and you always get a little crispy cheese around the edges where it oozed out onto the grill.
I am equal parts proud and ashamed to say that Sean and I polished off this whole table of food, and it was worth the food coma that followed. It's very difficult to pick a favorite among these all-stars, but on this day, the rajas taco was the winner in my book. The chiles, onions, and cheese melt together into a smooth, rich concoction that is somehow both sweet and savory at the same time. Adding a little of the green hot sauce on top gave it just the right kick.
Sean and I each also ordered an agua fresca de sandia (watermelon drink), which was a very refreshing accompaniment to all this food. The drink had lots of chunks of fresh watermelon, which made it impossible to drink with a straw, but left you with no doubt that it was made with actual watermelon.
If you find yourself in Santa Barbara, I highly recommend a stop at La Super-Rica. Come with an empty stomach, a little patience, and cash in your wallet and you will be rewarded with some delicious, comforting food.
La Super-Rica Taqueria
622 North Milpas Street
Santa Barbara, CA 93103