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100 Favorite Restaurants: Taco Heaven

Sheila Gibson Stoodley

Isidoro Gonzalez opened La Super-Rica in Santa Barbara, Calif., 28 years ago because he wanted to serve tacos like those that he had eaten while living in Mexico City in the early 1970s. Gonzalez, who is now 58, piled grilled meats, fresh chilies, vegetables, and melted Monterey Jack cheese onto corn tortillas and quickly gained fans. His greatest champion was Julia Child, who first approached his take-out window in 1982. She became a regular customer and a friend, paying her final visit two months before she died, in 2004. “Many times, when she was interviewed in magazines, she would mention us,” Gonzalez says. “She put us on the map, and she kept us on the map.” As many as 500 people patronize the taqueria daily, standing in long lines to satisfy their cravings.

Two of the winemakers we polled chose La Super-Rica as one of their favorite restaurants: Steve Beckmen of Beckmen Vineyards in Los Olivos, Calif., and Justin Smith of Saxum Vineyards in Paso Robles, Calif. If the stand were licensed to sell wine, Beckmen would pair his 2005 Beckmen Purisima Mountain Vineyard Marsanne with La Super-Rica Especial, his favorite menu item. For this dish, Gonzalez stuffs bell pepper–sized spicy chilies with marinated pork and vegetables. Beckmen usually requests melted cheese on his. “The Marsanne has the weight to hold up to the richness of the dish,” he says, “and it is crisp enough to handle the spice.”

Smith’s favorites are Rajas, slow-cooked poblano peppers, onions, and melted cheese on a tortilla, and a fundito, or bowl of cheese, with bacon. Smith would pair both with the 2005 Saxum James Berry Vineyard, a Syrah-based blend. “The wine has the tannin to cut through all the cheese,” he says, “the sweet fruit to hold up to the spice of the poblano peppers, a nose of smoked meats that would complement the bacon, and the acidity to hold it all together.”

La Super-Rica, Santa Barbara, Calif., 805.963.4940

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