BERKELEY’s BEST ●Restaurants
Picante 1328 6th St./Gilman St. Claiming to be the largest taqueria in the Bay Area, this casual spot has two indoor dining rooms and an outside area with a soothing wall fountain. Get in line (it moves fast), order at the counter, and then select a table. Service is fast. Menu choices include the expected burritos, tamales, tacos (prepared with soft handmade corn tortillas that you can watch being made in the restaurant’s little booth), quesadillas, and tostadas. Especially good fillings include carnitas (slow-cooked pork), manchmanteles (red “tablecloth strainer” chicken in a mega-tasty grilled pineapple-red mole sauce) vegetarian rajas con papas (Poblano chilies, potatoes, onions, and Mexican cheese), conchinita pibil (Yucatecan pork steamed in banana leaf and served with spectacular habanero-pickled purple onions), and chorizo y papas (spicy Mexican sausage and potatoes). I love the crispy flautas made with flour tortillas and the chilaquiles verdes (green) and rojos (red) available at weekend brunch. There is an additional charge for the non-gmo, organic, house-made tortilla chips that are made in small batches. An extensive vegetarian-vegan menu and children’s menu are also available. Among the drinks are aguas frescas (fresh fruit drinks), margaritas made with agave wine, and a large selection of Mexican beers. Complimentary salsas are superb and something I can’t get enough of. I’m unable to decide whether I like red or green the most, so I always use plenty of both, though I do lean towards the spicier red.
2020 pandemic update: Drive-thru service here involves ordering ahead by phone or on the website. I did this from the parking lot at Target, and when I arrived my order was ready to go. To pick up, I just drove up to their little red sidewalk hut, opened the car window, gave the lady my credit card, remembered to add on a tip, and she presented me with my receipt and with my big bag of meals. I ordered “the usual”--chicken flautas and fish tacos--and thankfully added in a bag of fresh housemade tortilla chips (they are sooo good!). Portions here are always generous, and my husband and I managed to stretch these two meals into lunch and dinner for both of us. I do, however, have a complaint. They did not include any of their famously delicious sauces, and they did not ask us if we wanted any--a big disappointment. Be sure to remind them you want some when you order.