I’m about to say something sacrilegious right now—right now, at a time when the entire country (including myself) has just finished watching Julie & Julia while using scratchy movie theater napkins to dab their eyes and blow their noses in-between bites of popcorn with fake butter, all in honor of the woman that brought a passion for real butter to America.
Don’t get me wrong. I loved Julia Child too. But just because she had great taste in sole meunière, doesn’t mean she had great taste in tacos.
Joe and I were forced to swallow this bitter pill on Friday night when we brought the three kids to the lauded La Super Rica Taqueria in Santa Barbara as part of our road trip up the Central Coast. Lore has it Julia Child once stated on Good Morning America that she loved this humble taqueria, which, of course, gave it instant national cred and doubled its sales. (Child apparently proclaimed this in 1985, way before she moved to a retirement community in Santa Barbara in 2001, at age 89. She continued to frequent La Super Rica until a couple months before she passed away.)
Since then, La Super-Rica has gained cult status. The Times story, “Chasing the Perfect Taco” sums it up:
Just as I’m sitting down [at La Super Rica] with the owner, Isidoro González, a white-bearded passer-by leans in. “It’s not just a taqueria, it’s the best restaurant in town,” he says. Heart be still, it’s David Crosby. A fellow taco-hound! “You don’t have to continue any further,” he says, eyes twinkling. “This is it—this is the place.”
So when we arrived at The Place, Joe and I were ready to learn. We might have been twinkling. And I swear, it had nothing to do with David Crosby. We were not surprised to see a line of “taco-hounds” (good sign). Peering in the kitchen, we could see one woman hand-making every tortilla (also a good sign). We looked at the menu and it sounded delicious. I loved the funky white exterior and bright teal trim. We were ready.
But, I’m going to put it bluntly here: When the many tacos arrived, both Joe and I were shocked. I mean really shocked. The tortillas, as lovely and house-made as they were, were topped with dry (dry to even look at), under-salted steak, without even chopped onions or cilantro. And the three salsas to top the meat with were similarly bland and underwhelming. My chorizo was mediocre at best. Even stripped of our expectations, La Super Rica served us some of the worst tacos I’ve ever had. And I’ve had a lot of tacos.
Whether or not the taqueria has gone downhill in the past few years or Julia just didn’t get tacos, there’s still buzz about this place. The line was still there when we left. Joe and I chalked it up to a serious case of the emperor’s new clothes. Or maybe even more impressively, a sign of the continuing power of the word of Julia. And that, I get.