Zocalo Restaurant Review by Kristen & Guy
If you know any Spanish … or if you’ve ever strolled through a busy Mexican plaza … you may be familiar with the word zocalo. The English translation: a public square or plaza in the center of town. The Sacramento translation: the place you go to impress out-of-town friends, have some kicking Mexican comida, and see—or be seen—downtown.
Our visit to the hopping Hispanic eatery, just blocks from the State Capitol, took place on a Thursday night—arguably the best mid-week party night. The place quickly filled up with a post-work crowd …and the bar quickly filled with a bevy of cosmos, mojitos, and more. We began with the Tamales de Pollo and ended up in a battle for bites of the chicken-filled masa tamales. They were wonderfully moist and served with a great cream sauce and avocados. Tamales are one of my favorite Mexican foods, and these undoubtedly ranked among the most flavorful and tender that I’ve tasted. My only complaint is that the tamales don’t come in an entrée option. That left us no choice but to try something more.
We had a tough time settling on just one entrée from the menu, so we decided to each pick one, and share. My pick … the Tres Tacos with chicken. In my opinion, it’s hard to screw up a taco, but these honestly were beyond perfection. For one, they were what my dad likes to call “two handers”—so big you’ve got to grip ’em with both hands and succumb to the fact that you’re facing a drizzle of black bean infused spicy salsa rolling down your chin. Mmmm … well worth the mess. Guy was a little disappointed; I only shared one with him.
Of course, no meal is complete without dessert. And once again befuddled when faced with eight delectable options, we decided to order not one, not two, but three different postres. Between the Pastel de Nieve (mocha ice cream pie with an oreo crust), the Platano Macho (miniature pan-fried bananas with brown sugar and cinnamon), and the popular Mexican dessert Churros, my heart belonged to the Churro. These aren’t your ballpark variety; this crunchy, sugary, legendary dessert is filled with a vanilla cream and served with vanilla ice cream. I went to bed dreaming of those churros. I promised our handsome Hispanic server that I would soon be back for more. And I guarantee, I will be.
In the 10 years that I've been gone from the area, Sacramento has really come into its own regarding restaurants. Before, there were just a handful of good eateries to choose from. Now, there are so many its almost impossible to make a dining decision. Yet, there's one particular restaurant that I end up returning to again and again: Zocalo in Midtown. Not only does it have fabulous food, but the atmosphere can't be beat. According to their website, the decor and architecture were inspired by the majestic town squares of Mexico; zocalos being the centers for political and social gatherings (Perfect for all those State Capitol workers.) Warm colors, interesting artwork, lots of wrought iron and a goodlooking, well-stocked bar are just a few of the eye-catching sights you'll see inside Zocalo.
However, on this occasion my attention was focused on the food. To be completely honest, my M.O. is to order the same menu item every time I visit. I'm willing to mix it up with different salads, appetizers, beverages and desserts, but don't ask me to pass up my favorite dish--the Enchiladas en Mole Poblano. I may stray in other areas of my life, but I always stay true to my mole! These delicious chicken-filled tortillas are completely smothered in sweet and spicy mole. Perfectly paired with one of Zocalo's signature margaritas, I predict this entree will become a recurring theme in your life too. My dining partner (and Sacramento & Company co-host) Kristen Simoes enjoyed the Tres Tacos with Chicken (minus one taco, which I enjoyed.) A word of warning: All of the entrees are ample, and if you order appetizers like we did (the requisite order of tasty chips and guacamole as well as the excellent Tamales de Pollo) make sure you leave room for one (or two, or three) of their delectable desserts. Unable to make a decision, Kristen and I ordered the Pastel de Chocolate (perfect for all you chocoholics), the flan (wonderfully creamy) and best of all, the churros (the best I've ever tasted outside of Olvera Street in Los Angeles.)
So if there's ever an evening (or afternoon) when you can't decide where to dine, take a trip South of the Border to the Northeast corner 18th and Capitol to enjoy the cheerful hospitality of Zocalo--a place where they put the ole in mole!