Until a few weeks ago, I had never been to La Super Rica, despite many trips to Santa Barbara, and many, many years of Julia Child fandom. James, on the other hand had been many times. It was his "neighborhood taco shop" when he lived in Santa Barbara (for part of the time anyway) and for whatever reason he didn't seem all that impressed with it. He said it was overrated, not that special, just the place Julia "happened to go."
You all know I love my husband dearly, but on this count, he was wrong. Just a look at the menu tells you this is no ordinary taco shop. We arrived at about 2 in the afternoon, so we weren't quite hungry enough for a full meal, but we wanted to give the place a legitimate try. There are two things to keep in mind as you choose - one, they make their own fresh corn tortillas and they are FABULOUS. And two, they use some kind of special white cheese that turns super creamy when it melts and is completely and totally amazing. Exhibit A...
This dish, the Super Rica Especial consisted of two fresh corn tortillas topped with chopped sauteed pasilla chiles, marinated pork and chorizo and a layer of that incredible cheese. I had heard (or read) that the thing to order here is the "Rajas" - which turned out to be a melting concoction of cheese, onions and peppers on a tortilla. We also had a quesadilla - which James said he ordered when he used to live nearby. The quesadilla is two smallish tortillas with the cheese sandwiched between. You can see the aforementioned meltiness - and the crisp edges....
The Rajas are an almost indescribable dish. A perfect balance of sweet, savory, intense and rich. I can only assume the peppers and onions must cook for hours - probably in some broth and a little lard - and are mixed with melting cheese to form something like a thick fondue just before serving. It's truly wonderful and absolutely, positively, worth a special trip.
I snuck a peek into the kitchen - where they were cooking up the food to order with fresh ingredients. None of those frozen bags of taquitos or gristly carne asada meat here. Nosireee.
To top it all off, the place had style. I loved the chalkboard, the turquoise and white retro architecture, the font on the windows and the expansive white sailcloth covered dining area. (Todd Selby - if you're listening, I think you could do some good work here!)
I am told the lines can be insane - especially on the weekends. All I can say about that is: 1) it's worth it, and 2) If you go on a weekday at 2 PM, you won't have to wait long.
Oh, and if some jaded Santa Barbaran tells you it's not that great, don't listen!
La Super Rica
622 N Milpas St
Santa Barbara, CA 93103
Cash only - open 11 AM - 9 PM most days, 9:30 on weekends.
(James also says the Pozole is good.)