Taqueria La Bamba is the type of restaurant where diners can get in and get out fast, or grab a burrito to sit and relax. Serving a hybrid of Salvadorian and Mexican cuisine, the menu presents familiar staples like burritos and tacos just across the page from a dishes like tamal de elote frito, a deep fried sweet corn tamale with sour cream and refried beans. La Bamba is a staple of San Pablo Avenue, and for nearly twenty-five years the restaurant has served a loyal following of diners who come back time and time again.
Immediately upon entering the restaurant, my co-patron and I were struck by the openness of the restaurant's floor plan: a large kitchen consumes a solid quarter of the restaurant -- anchored by a corner -- and an area of tables and chairs surrounds it. There is an additional space off this main room with a patio feel to it. A wide door to the outside and a concrete floor help provide an environment that conjures memories of family meals outside on warm summer evening. The basic structure to La Bamba is simple, but it provides a great space for casual dining.
The food at La Bamba, too, is just as straightforward. As a sort of litmus test, I ordered their vegetarian burrito. My companion, also a traditionalist, chose the regular beef burrito. We mentioned that we were dining in upon ordering, but our food came wrapped in foil all the same. Thought initially a little confused, by the end of the meal we were happy to have the foil to wrap up the remaining halves of our large burritos.
Flavors of cilantro, jalapeño, and tomato washed over us upon the first bite into our burritos. The ingredients used in La Bamba's food may be simple, but their use of them is not. The technique used in seasoning their rice and vegetables is on key -- each element rings clear and combines well with the other pieces to create a harmonious balance of flavors. The only critique we had, albeit it a small one, is that the beans and meat in our burritos were a bit on the chewy side. This was no detriment to the whole of the burrito, however, as the flavors of everything else more than made up for the difference in texture. Our dishes were hard to put down once we put on the house-made orange chile salsa -- the only thing that stopped us was the size of our stomachs.
Looking around at what others in the restaurant ordered, I know I'll be returning for much more from Taqueria La Bamba -- and next time I'll be focusing on the Salvadorian menu. Patrons with stacks of papusas and enchiladas sat around us, and it was clear they were enjoying the meal. With such reasonably priced food -- just $6.10 for a regular burrito -- and such a diverse menu, it'll be hard not to visit Taqueria La Bamba again.
Taqueria La Bamba
12345 San Pablo Ave., Richmond
Tel. (510) 235-2288
Sun - Thurs: 11 am. to 9 pm.
Fri and Sat: 10 am. to 9 pm.