We can’t tell if we love El Huarache Azteca because we love sitting beneath the sepia-toned mural of that hunky Aztec warrior or because they don’t make many concessions to gringo tastes: You think you know what a quesadilla is? No floppy giant wheat-and-cheese bomb, El Huarache’s is a small, just-pressed tortilla folded around melted cheese and crisped on the comal. And its huaraches, sopes, and other antojitos are light and crispy, filled with succulent braised meats or squash blossoms and huitlacoche (corn fungus, yum). Go, go, go on weekends for the lamb barbacoa — where the cooks wrap the lamb in maguey leaves and re-create the pit grill experience, selling the melting, shredded meat by the pound with a stack of fresh tortillas — and the clear, delicate barbacoa consommé made from the drippings. It’s the best meat by-product ever.
Two locations: Berkeley, 510-528-1881;