BiteClub, Santa Rosa

El Rinconcito Yucateco

Authentic Yucatan cuisine makes El Rinconcito Yucateco is good eating no matter what the dialect.

El Rinconcito Yucateco

El Rinconcito YucatecoLeave the English to Spanish dictionary at home, because panuchos, cochinta pibil , prickling fresh salsa and rellenos negro are international signs of a serious cook in the kitchen. No matter what your native tongue.
Surrounded by vacant storefronts at the western end of Sebastopol Road, El Rinconcito Yucateco modestly proves what even the most novice of food nerds knows: Authentic Yucatan cuisine ranks among the best in the New World. It isn’t by accident that many of Sonoma County’s best restaurants are staffed by cooks from this long-isolated southern tip of Mexico.
Based in ancient Mayan food traditions (corn, wild game, pumpkin seeds, chocolate, tomatoes, and chiles), the Yucatan has , over the years, commingled the foods of European trade partners and conquerors (oranges and pork from Spain, cheeses from Holland) into a complex and much-loved food culture.

Poc Chuc

So it’s little surprise that the Bohemian’s Gabe Meline wrote a touching love letter to the four-month old  El Rinconcito Yucateco last April, including a short bit about Cazares’ mother sending her handmade recado negro — a sort of black paste made with burnt dried chiles that’s rarely found in the states. That kind of tease is gastro-crack for foodies, which inevitably sent legions of salivating gringos to the restaurant, including the ever-sniffing Chowhounds who’ve been hitting the restaurant en masseSo, when I order the relleno negro, it’s obvious I’m far from the first white chick to do.
“It’s soup,” says Bianca Castillo, owner Lupe Cazares’ stepdaughter, looking at me pitifully. “Yeah, I want the relleno negro,” I say.  “It’s soup,” she says again, clearly trying to manage my expectations. Here’s the thing: I have absolutely no expectations. I could be ordering donkey testicles for all I know.
I must look really confused. “Soup. It’s soup,” she tells me again. “Right, I say. What about the black mole? The stuff everyone’s been talking about?” I say pointing to the Bohemian article they’ve proudly tacked on the wall. “They made a mistake. It’s soup.”
I give up. Don’t make that same mistake, because it’s one of the house specialties — a thin broth with pieces of chicken, a hard-boiled egg and secret mom-sent herbs and spices, from what I hear. A sort of Mexican pho.  And nothing like donkey testicles.
Conchita PibilWhat I can rave about first-hand are the fried panuchos (a sort of skinny pupusa filled with mashed black beans and fried up crispy) capped by savory pickled onions, cabbage and avocado and a special habanero sauce; Poc Chuc, slivers of pork seasoned with black pepper; and meltingly tender cochinta pibil, a spicy, oily slow roasted pork marinated in citrus that blows the pants off any pulled pork you’ve ever eaten. With chips, salsa, rice and more black beans than any human should consume, the feast set me back a paltry $30.
That kind of value translates into families, fellow Yucatan expats and neighborhood folks gathering around the tables for daily specials, sopes, an extensive selection of seafood and whatever else the family serves up each day.
El Rinconcito Yucateco is good eating no matter what the dialect.
El Rinconcito Yucateco, 3935 Sebastopol Road, Santa Rosa. 707.526.2720.

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10 thoughts on “El Rinconcito Yucateco

  1. Went to this restaurant, expecting to eat Cochinita Pibil, last week and the menu was nothing more than everyday Mexican food. I didn’t see any hint of Yucatecan food anywhere. Disappointed for sure. We ended up at Sazon eating great Peruvian food.

  2. Driving by today on my way to work I thought I saw a sign outside that said “under new ownership.” I didn’t have time to stop and check it out. Does anyone know if this is the case?

  3. Went for lunch with a pal today….she had the first thing on the menu …….teacup sized tortillas w/ a smear of refried black beans, chopped lettuce, chopped chicken, a thin slice of avocado and pickled onions – “meh”….
    I had the beef empanadas – very good but they needed something …….I kept thinking some lime juice would have helped or some tomatillo salsa……..now, two and a half hours later I have TERRIBLE heartburn and I NEVER EVER get heartburn, esp. not from mexican food…….maybe I’m just not a Yucatan cuisine person, I don’t know….
    The raspberry iced teas were very good..
    The owner came out and spoke with us – nice fellow – and his niece waited tables…. great service.
    Heather, please take this off the cheap eats list – we had as described above + 2 two-dollars tacos to go (for my friend’s dinner) and the total, with tip was $28 and change. “Cheap” would be getting change when I pay with a twenty……..

  4. Ok, we went. I tried the Panuchos based on Heather’s description. I love cabbage with any mexican food, and die for pickled onions on anything.. Well, they came with iceberg lettuce and the shredded chicken had just come out of the refrigerator – COLD! I was instantly disappointed. My hubby got the Poc Chuc and loved it – intense black pepper and citrus flavors. The sweet young waitress took my suggestions in stride (cabbage instead of iceberg, please) and apologized for the frigid chicken, since it was supposed to be served hot. We loved the chips and salsa – creamy tomato base with chopped fresh onions, cilantro, etc. We ended up getting an order of Cochinita pibil to go, just to experience a bit more of this food. The waitress took the panuchos off our bill, which was totally unnecessary, but incredibly nice (she got it in her tip). We’ll be back for sure. When orderng the panuchos, ask for the “slaw” they put on the large plates- cabbage & cilantro in a bight lime dressing, it will make the panuchos zing with flavor!

  5. Went there last night. I know Yucatecan food and this stuff is the real deal. Absolutely no chi-chi’s or taco bell style gringo-ized crap here! Cochinita pibil is one of my favorites, and was outstanding. However, the Poc Chuc was out of this world. The guy doing the cooking seems to really know his technique, as every dish was finished off perfectly–cooked and seasoned just right. Most “hot” elements are on the side, or condiments, which is how it should be (and how they are served in the Yucatan). The little things tell you they are committed to doing right: the chips are made on-site, not from a food service vendor (once you try them, you can spot them again) and the salsas were fresh and authentic.
    Very reasonable prices for the quantity and quality. The family and staff also were very friendly and the service as good as it gets at a simple eatery like this. The staff speaks very good English, and I would say the clientele was surprisingly at least half Gringo. I think the family is a little surprised that Foodies are seeking them out in large numbers, but when you do things right . . .

  6. Heather, go back for the relleno negro. If Blanca is worried you’re not going to be happy, go to the chef directly and ask for it. It’s fabulous. After I ordered it, I decided that every time I go there I’m just going to order something I haven’t had there before. I’m working my way through the entire menu and have loved everything so far. The chef loves food. Make sure to try the habanero salsa he makes fresh every morning. “A little dab’ll do ya,” it’s strong stuff but heavenly.

  7. I recently found this place (a friend moved into the neighborhood) and think about the food almost daily. I have vowed to try something new each time because EVERYTHING on the menu sounds tasty and the items I have had lived up to my expectations and then some.
    LOVE this place!

  8. I had the cochinita pibil today for lunch. It was delicious! The black bean dip was great too. One word of caution, the little square pieces that look like green chilies are actually chicharron, blech! No doubt it’s part of what makes the pork so tender but I can’t stand the mouth feel of slimy pieces of fat. They’re easy enough to avoid/pick out though, so I would still recommend this dish. I can’t wait to go back and try the panuchos!

  9. I *love* Yucatecan food and was very happy when this opened. My ex-hubby is from Yucatán state, and I’ve traveled there many times. The yucatecos here and in San Rafael are fairly close-knit, mostly from the cities of Peto and Oxkutzcab; and many can trace their migration here to a certain deceased Irish priest. If you speak Spanish, have a conversation with a yucateco, and see if you can pick up on the distinct accent.
    The food, like the region, is different from regular Mexican faire, sort of with a Central American/Caribbean edge to it. They use black beans instead of the regular pinto beans, and make their tamales in banana leaves rather than corn husks. The infamous chile habanero is hotter than hot, so use it sparingly on your food. (BTW people, there is no ~ on the n. “Habanero” refers to someone from Havana, Cuba.)
    As for the food at Rinconcito Yucateco (Little Yucatecan Corner), I had the panuchos (my fave!) and the relleno negro and both were wonderful. I think they have salbutes as well, which are panuchos minus the beans. I like this restaurant better than Mateo Granados’ cooking because his is a little too California trendy for me. This is authentic comida yucateca at it’s best.

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