Taqueria La Estralla is a family business through and through. The Mexican restaurant opened 10 years ago to help one family support themselves, and since then they’ve opened their home kitchen for the entire city to enjoy.
“My brother, Armando, opened the restaurant so that our younger siblings wouldn’t have to work for someone else,” explained Alicia Carmona, who was working the register when I went in for lunch one day. “He thought it would be a good way to show us hard work and responsibility, and 10 years later, it’s been a success.”
Alicia also explained that La Estrella is an effort to bring authentic, home-style Mexican food to the people of Richmond. “There are a lot of Mexican places in Richmond, especially around here on 23rd Street, but not all of them have the flavors we do. We want to give people a good lunch that tastes good, but that is also good for you, too.”
La Estrella certainly tastes good, but I’m not sure if it’s good for you. I ordered one of their signature dishes, potato flautas, and while the flavors were delicious, it wasn’t an especially healthy meal. Stacked high on the fried, potato-filled flautas — which are like rolled up tacos — were shredded lettuce, tomato, cheese, and sour cream. The fresh flavors of the vegetables were a balanced counter to the fried flavors of the potato and tortilla. Together these ingredients made the dish both savory and sweet.
One essential part of any meal at Taqueria La Estrella is a trip to the salsa bar. There aren’t as many salsas as other restaurants — just one red salsa, one green salsa, and some pickled vegetables — but the flavors of each are above average. As someone who regularly puts salsa on each bite of my burritos, I was happy to find such flavorful sauces. Before you use all of your salsa in one bite, be warned: the dishes you are given for salsa are a little small, and it’s $1 per refill.
La Estrella is perhaps best known for their flautas, but the taqueria’s menu also lists several home-style dishes. Their stew of beef, potato, corn, and carrots is one example. It’s an interesting dish of broth with big chunks of each ingredient — half a corn cob, a whole potato, two big carrots, and two hunks of beef. The pieces are so big, in fact, that one has to wonder how they could be eaten with a spoon alone.
It’s dishes like this that make La Estrella stand out. The place is unapologetically homey, while still being a business (remember the $1 salsa refills). It’s the kind of local business you feel good supporting — not just because the owners are members of the community, but because the food is so flavorful and unique, too.
Ten years ago the Carmona family set out to make a family business, and they’ve done it right. With the right balance of fresh flavors, family friendliness, and business efficiency, La Estrella Taqueria is a stand out establishment.
La Estrella Taqueria
325 23rd Street, Richmond
Sunday - Thursday: 10 am to 9 pm
Friday and Saturday: 10 am to 10 pm
View their Yelp page here.