Natural, organic Mexican food is the focus at Sonoma Latina Grill, where everything is made from scratch—and it shows. Opened three years ago by Michael Tamayo (his family owns La Tortilla Factory, which is entirely separate from this venture—but I bet his tortilla-making skills have come in handy!), the place offers an open kitchen, patio seating, a customized interior featuring warm colors, ironwork and Fiestaware. The atmosphere is casual, and while many people order their items to go (it’s a popular stop for those traveling to and from San Francisco), others choose to stay and enjoy things at a more leisurely pace.
Tamayo sources all his ingredients as locally as possible, which is a breeze in the warmer months. And it’s this attention to flavor and detail that really brings the restaurant’s dishes alive. Each is prepared simply, to let the natural flavors shine through. Grilled items are done over an oak/pecan fire, which offers a mild smoky flavor that enhances rather than overwhelms.
We ordered mango agua fresca and horchata to accompany our meal (both delicious!). First up was a platter of street tacos, which had seven selections, each with a soft corn tortilla shell, fresh cilantro, onions and pico de gallo. There was also a choice of two hot sauces: habañero or jalapeño. We sampled the chicken mole, which had a sweet edge and a building heat; beef barbacoa, which is seared and then slow roasted (tender) and dressed with a mild sauce; picadillo, which is ground round mixed with onions and peppers, had an herbaceous flavor that went really great with the habañero sauce; carnitas (grilled pork) with mango salsa—not an obvious combo but they went really great together; grilled steak with sweet corn; grilled chicken (went well with the jalapeño sauce); and grilled fresh, flavorful vegetables.
My standby when I visit Mexican restaurants, especially for lunch, is often a grilled chicken quesadilla—and this one really hit the mark. Made with probably the best flour tortilla I’ve ever tasted, it had a perfectly crisp exterior, lots of cheese and plenty of chicken. It was served with fire-roasted salsa, tomatoes, cilantro, sour cream and guacamole.
A chopped Caesar salad with sautéed shrimp was a generous portion, with classic dressing and shaved parmesan, served with wheat tortillas. This could be a meal in itself, as it had plenty of fresh shrimp piled on top.
There are several dessert choices but the restaurant specializes in traditional Mexican wedding cookies, which are made with pecans, butter, flour, salt and powdered sugar. Soft and very light and crunchy, they’re a true treat. We also tried the ones made with cinnamon, sugar and organic applesauce, which were equally delicious. We couldn’t decide which ones we liked better.