1300 Contra Costa Blvd, Pleasant Hill | 925.682-444 | website
Tues – Sat 10.30am – 9pm |Sun 10.30am – 8.30pm | closed Monday
I have to tell you about this hidden gem out in Pleasant Hill, where you will find a charming restaurant serving delicious homemade Mexican cuisine. It is tucked away in one of the many strip malls along Contra Costa Blvd, a bright cozy spot serving regional specialties made with natural meats that are grass fed and free of any chemicals. SFGate scoop first mentioned them here, then a fuller article here got my attention, a mention in Diablo Magazine here, and then this feature in Diablomag’s article about the best tacos here, finally convinced me that I needed to track this spot down. The chef/owner Oscar Patlan can be found cooking behind the front counter, you can tell that he takes joy in seeing people enjoying his tasty and fine cuisine – look at that smile! He has worked as the chef de cuisine at Prima Ristorante inWalnut Creek and Esin Restaurant in Danville and makes his own chorizo, tortillas, salsas, a variety of desserts – even the chips!
There are a couple of facts about this restaurant that may present obstacles for those expecting a taqueria experience. First and foremost, this is a restaurant not a taqueria, and you will not get a basket of tortilla chips with salsa served complimentary with your meal. Instead, if you ask for chips and salsa, you will be served a basket of ethereal potato chips dusted with chile powder along with a spicy salsa that you will be charged $2 for. Actually this is quite a reasonable sum as these are the best potato chips ever – paper thin and light as air and are addictive as all get out! Additionally, your dish may not be accompanied by beans and rice, and many of the daily special entrees are priced around $13, which with chips and a refreshing agua fresca can add up… But if you are willing to accept these provisions, you are truly in for a treat!
My first visit I was dumbfounded by the choices at the register where you place your order, the gracious proprietress recommended the Chile Verde, made with Homestead Farms all-natural pork, served with grilled tomatoes and nopalitos, spanish rice, organic whole black beans with epazote ($13.95). I paid, and followed her as she carried my glass of chilled ice water and flag with my order number to the table of my choice, where I sat munching the delicious chips with dip.
The tender slow cooked pork falls apart with the poke of a fork and is swimming in a pool of flavorful spicy sauce along with slices of fresh tomato and nopales and sprigs of fragrant cilantro.
The fresh homemade corn tortillas are light as air and griddled to a delicate crisp
Wrap the succulent meat in the griddled tortillas and drizzle with spicy home made salsa… are you drooling? I am! It was so good. I couldn’t finish it and got the rest boxed to go, which made for a very fine breakfast the next day.
One of my favorite dishes was the Quesadilla ($6.95), a handmade Corn Tortilla griddled then folded, artistically garnished with mexican crema, queso fresco,pico de gallo, julienne of lettuces and guacamole
The chicken tinga filling set my tastebuds a tingle, tender pulled chicken braised with caramelized onions and spicy chipotle sauce, it was marvelous on melted cheese, the squiggles of sour crema and queso fresco added rich flavors, atop the delectably crisp texture of the griddled corn tortilla. A taste extravaganza!
The Chile Relleno was excellent too, a spicy pasilla chile filled with pulled chicken that had been braised with caramelized onions and light chipotle sauce, topped with melted cheese and a pile of fresh peppery watercress, that I absolutely loved. It was not battered and fried and I didn’t mind that at all…
The chicken filling was dotted with dried currants and crunchy green almonds, drenched in the savory sauce.
The Huarache topped with tiger prawns ($12.95). The huarache is a fresh handmade shoe shaped corn tortilla, layered with pinto beans refritos, prawns, lettuce, queso fresco, roasted tomato and fresh avocado, paper thin slices of red onions tossed in a flavorful vinaigrette.
The Shortribs ($14.95) are made from juicy, tender Homestead Farm all-natural pork slow cooked in pasilla sauce with grilled calabacitas (zucchini) and 2 of those delicious corn tortillas. Loved these too… pretty much everything I’ve ordered has been something I’d order again, this – I can’t stop thinking about!
The meat was slow cooked until tender, velvety rich and infused with the spicy sauce, this was one of those times that I wished for rice and beans, even though I didn’t really need them, as in the end I couldn’t finish the plate…
The tacos are simplicity itself, a double layered corn taco served with the filling of choice and topped with onion and cilantro, which allow the outstanding flavors to shine through and are a bargain to boot. This is the famous Chorizo taco ($2.65), made in-house from all-natural pork, ground fresh and mixed with chile, cumin, salt, and vinegar; aged for several days in natural casing; and then cooked to order on the griddle. It is incredibly delicious, the mound of crispy, spicy, meaty morsels feel light as air, topped simply with chopped onion and cilantro, served with lemon wedges, a few slices of radish and house salsa. Chef Patlan prefers to serve a wedge of lemon which he says tastes fresher than lime, which can sometimes be bitter.
Luscious slices of beef fill the Carne Asada taco ($2.65), topped with fragrant onion and cilantro and the spicy salsa.
The Tiger Prawn taco ($2.75) was a lovely presentation of grilled prawns on top a mound of lettuce that was light and refreshing, although messy.
These are the dishes that I have enjoyed so far, I still have to try the Empanada and especially their lunch special the Pambazo, a torta made with chorizo. So many dishes to try! If you are in the area, El Aguilo is definitely worth taking the time to check out!