There’s no real mystery as to what Homemade Tortilla restaurant does best. This tiny Roseland taqueria, far off the beaten path, is a Master of Masa*, hand-making fresh corn tortillas, gorditas, huaraches, sopes and pupusas daily. Let’s just say after two trips, grocery store tortillas are dead to me.
Mexican Food 101: If, like me, you’re not as well-versed in Mexican cuisine as any self-respecting Californian should be, here’s the fork-1-1: Masa is a kissing cousin to cornmeal, mixed with water and fried. Like any dough, it can be shaped and cooked in a thousand ways. Most folks don’t bother making them from scratch anymore, but once you’ve tasted the real deal (like a warm, perfectly cooked baguette), you don’t go back. Gorditas, sopes and the like are simply different masa delivery devices.
Now that you’ve got that chewy, light base, Homemade Tortilla piles on the goodies — carnitas, al pastor, asada, lettuce, queso, nopales, salsa verde — and you’ve got a mix and match extravaganza.
Best bets: The Huarache (named after a sandal because the base looks like a footprint) can be topped with meat, then gets lettuce, salsa verde and sour cream ($6.95) has the texture of pizza dough, but with much more flavor, and is a full meal. Sopes are English muffin-sized discs of fried masa ($2.95 each) can be topped with queso and the other above fixings. A favorite: Gorditas stuffed with al pastor ($4.95), which are crispy and decadent. And if you’re craving a torta (sandwich), the Pambazo is a four-napkin feast with chile-sauced soaked and fried bread filled with chorizo and potatoes (papas con chorizo, $6.95). Don’t miss a side of curtido, a fermented Salvadoran slaw similar to sauerkraut.
Horchata (cinnamon rice milk) washes it all down like a champ, though I’m still pretty partial to a tart-sweet Jarritos Tamarindo (tamarind soda) to really keep my tastebuds buzzing.
Homemade Tortilla makes it easy on non-Spanish speakers with pictures on the video menu board and friendly English-speaking staff who will guide you through (and not make fun of you when you ask what flavor the Horchata is today) in a bright, clean environment. Not to mention that Fru-ta has a Michoacan ice cream store right next door for your post-tortilla desserting.
Let’s keep this spot our little secret, though. We don’t want just anyone hoarding our homemade tortillas.
Homemade Tortilla 2770 Stony Point Ave., Santa Rosa, (707) 521-9977. Open daily from 9a.m. to 9p.m.
*So, Steve Sando of Rancho Gordo is, without a doubt, one of the most knowledgable humans on the planet when it comes to authentic Mexican cooking. He was kind enough to make the distinction between mixing up Masa Harina with water (think of it kind of like using Bisquick for pancakes) versus the very old way of soaking and grinding the corn, then hand pressing them, as they do at El Molino Central in Sonoma. Sando wrote a great blog on making them from hand here.