A taste of authentic Oaxacan gastronomy in Escondido, California - Featured blog post

3:53:00 PM

Disclaimer: This is a sponsored blog post. Although we were compensated to write this post and dine at the business described below, all opinions are 100% our own. All photos and content in this blog post are copyrighted and belong to Just Happiling. You do not have the right to redistribute this information, unless you have our written consent.

Last weekend, was the 207th anniversary of the Mexican Independence. Since I am Mexican, and my husband is half Mexican, we decided to honor our ancestors and celebrate Mexican Independence Day with a delicious feast. We thought, that the best way to commemorate the celebration, was to visit a restaurant that prided in having flavors as authentic and close to the Mexican culture as possible. That is how our culinary adventure lead us to 'El Tejate Restaurante: Gastronomía Oaxaqueña', located within the Mission Escondido Shopping Center at 205 W Mission Ave, Escondido, CA 92025.

We arrived a little before 6:00pm. Since it was the weekend, and a Holiday, we were a little worried that the restaurant was going to be packed, and that the wait was going to be long. However, the impression was totally different. Although the place was about 60% full, due to private event, and another percentage of the tables outside the event were reserved, we really didn't have to wait long to be seated nor to be attended. This made me feel relieved regarding waiting times, considering that we had skipped lunch, and were really hungry by the time we got to the restaurant. In fact, they attended us so fast, that we had to ask for a bit more time twice. So by the third time, we had to confess that it was our first time there, and we were open to suggestions.

As you can see in the picture above, the place has good illumination, and gives a warm welcoming feeling. The tricolor decoration hanging from above, I imagine was in celebration of the Mexican Independence Day, celebrated on the date we were there.

The staff that was attending us at the moment, consisted of two young ladies, who were very courteous and patient with us. When we shared that it was our first time at the restaurant, the young lady that was with us, kindly made some recommendations, and took her time to explain different dishes they offered, which was very helpful when we finally made up our minds. It was a very gratifying surprise to find out that she was actually the daughter of the owner of the place. To be honest, it gives you a totally different feeling when you know that the place you are receiving services from is a family-run business, and that in a way, you are also helping support it, as a customer.

Since the order was going to be to go, we went for main dishes only, and decided to skip on drinks and desserts, although they sounded quite tasty. We went ahead and order; mole negro, one of the popular 'tlayudas', and a meat platter called 'Parrillada Oaxaqueña'. While we waited, I was really into appreciating the thematic decoration inside the restaurant. The framed prints on the walls portrayed different aspects of the Oaxacan culture, and you can also find other beautiful and more traditional pieces in different areas of the place. There was also music playing in the background, however, since there was an event happening right next to us, I wasn't really sure if it was coming from the event, or if it was part of the normal restaurant feel. Whichever the case, it made the wait quite pleasing.

Considering that most, if not all, of the dishes on the menu are made from scratch, the wait wasn't long at all. I had read some negative reviews regarding waiting time, but to be honest, we didn't have that problem at all. I mean--if you are used to ordering fast food, and want your food served right away, this is not the place for you. However, if you are patient, and willing to wait the average 'restaurant' time, you'd be surprised on the gem of a place that you may have been missing out all this time. We waited only about 10 to 15 minutes, and we were all set and ready to go. So far, we were having a great experience as customers.

I shared with the daughter of the owner, that I was writing a blog post about our experience at 'El Tejate Restaurante', to which she invited me to meet her mom, who was also on location. It always brings me great joy to meet the owners of the different businesses, and learn a little about their story.

Doña Lucy, the owner of the restaurant, shared with me that alongside her husband, she had started the business at the Swap Meat, and soon they had grown enough to expand into their current location. She also shared that she is the proud sponsor of the Oaxacan 'Guelaguetza' Cultural Festival, which will be celebrated this October 15th, 2017 at the San Marcos University. You can read more about this event here: http://cocio.org/2017-guelaguetza/

She also shared with me, that they had won for the best tamal at the 'Escondido Tamale Festival', two years in a row, and that they were working towards going for their 3rd win this year. She shared that this year, the 'Escondido Tamales Festival' will be held at Grape Day Park in Escondido, on November 11th, 2017. 
Read more about this festival here: http://www.escondidotamalefestival.com/If you are already a fan of 'El Tejate Restaurante', you can show your support at the event. 

Doña Lucy shared a little about her family background, and how, although hard, she was able to keep running the family business after her husband's passing, making next year, a very important milestone for the restaurant, which marks their 10th year anniversary. I felt very honored to hear her story, and to learn about their accomplishments as a family business. It is places like this, that makes me want to support what they are doing in any way I can, and help spread the word, in hopes that you will have as great of an experience as we have. So with that being said, let me get back to the review with what all of you've been waiting for; the food.

The 'Mole Negro'
The Mole Negro is a very traditional and delicious dish, which comes accompanied with yellow rice. I must say that I am not a big fan of 'mole', but my husband is, and he wanted to have some. In my case, I am just picky, and that is why I don't always choose to order mole. Because if it is not made in a particular way, I just don't like it. Well--I totally loved this one, and wouldn't mind ordering it again. In fact, the sauce was so delicious, that I was literally scraping it off the plate with my fork. I had read other people's reviews, and some said it was too sweet. Both my husband and I agreed that we don't know what they were talking about. For us, it was made just the right way; it was perfect. My husband had been depriving himself of 'mole' for a very long time, and I believe that he just found the place to indulge his 'mole' cravings for as long as we keep on living in the area.

The 'Tlayuda'
The Tlayuda is a very flat and large corn tortilla, which is then covered with a thin bean spread, sprinkled with cabbage, Oaxacan cheese, and topped with your choice of meat, some tomato and avocado slices. It was described to us, as a sort of "pizza". In a way, it did look like a pizza, I guess you could say it is like a Oaxacan-style pizza. I am glad we got to try this, it being a popular traditional Oaxacan dish, however as a comparison, we placed it against some really good competition between the mole and the 3 meat platter. It was good, but the other dishes won our favor. However, don't hesitate to try it yourself. There are several ways this dish comes served, and one of them may just become your new favorite meal.

'Parrillada Oaxaqueña'
OMG, omg, Oh My Gooooosh! Well, no surprise here. I am from the land where we are famous for 'Carne Asada', so serve me any type of grilled style dish and I will snork it all, ha. Let me describe this dish to you. A cocked and sliced nopal was the base for this plate. On top of it, three delicious grilled meats: Tazajo, Cecina, and Chorizo. Then, it is topped with Oaxacan-style cheese, my favorite. And to top this deliciousness, a side of grilled onions and jalapeño peppers. I died and came back just to have another bite. When we got home, I couldn't wait to eat this. I chopped all the meats up, mixed it up, and we ate it as taquitos. Just writing about it right now, gave me the cravings. This was so good, and it tasted even better with their salsa. A word of advice, it is spicy--but spicy good. So if you don't want to burn yourself, you don't have to add it to your food. It is so good with and without it.

I believe that now you have an idea of which one plate I will be ordering again, because--we are definitely going there again. I think we might have just found our new favorite Mexican restaurant, and the best part? There are still so many other authentic Oaxacan dishes to try. Did I mention the salsa was delicious?

Oh and yes, we did try the 'Chapulines' (an insect from the grasshopper family), which is also part of the traditional Oaxacan cuisine, although mostly consumed as snacks. I must say that we did not order them, because we weren't really sure we wanted to try them. However, we were given a sample, just to try them out, and since things happen for a reason, we chose to hop on board. After all, this was a culinary adventure right? And so we did, it was a funny experience because we were hesitant to do it, but after a while and getting brave, we finally did it. I believe the looks of it is what mostly discourages you. But if you place them inside a taco, and you don't see the texture of the chapulines, the fear fades away. The taste? It tasted very similar to dried shrimp, in my opinion. Not bad at all, however, not something we'd choose to try again. It just wasn't our thing. I do know that in many places of Southern Mexico, such as; Puebla, Tepoztlán, and Cuernavaca, not to mention Oaxaca, they include 'Chapulines' as part of their artisan traditional food, plus, they are a good source of protein. So why not give them a try to share the experience. At least you can tell your friends that you've tried grasshoppers; how cool is that for a conversation starter?

All in all, we were very glad that we got to celebrate our Mexican heritage, and have such a wonderful and interesting experience at a local restaurant, even while being so far from home. In my opinion, I felt like if I was eating somewhere back in Mexico. I am not surprised that this was my experience, considering that Doña Lucy, the owner, shared how she tries to make the flavors as authentic as possible, by making sure most of the ingredients are either exported from Oaxaca, or made from scratch. The best and my favorite part is, the tortillas are organic! I know, your mind just got blown away. NO OTHER Mexican place that we know of, aside of a fast food franchise, are selling organic tortillas in their dishes, at least not around the area. This just makes our lives so much easier now that we can go out and enjoy Mexican food without GMO worries. And regarding taste, I must say that I could totally tell the difference. Before we ate here, we had been to many Mexican restaurants around, and although close enough, none tasted like the real deal; that is, until now. Now that we have heard the mermaid song, and have been bewitched by the serenade, both my husband and I have agreed that this is our new Mexican-to-go place to dine in. Who would have known? It is so hidden from plain sight. This is why, you should never underestimate a restaurant by its store front, because you can literally have, as my husband said "a hidden gem", right in front of you.

So that's it. I hope you enjoyed this review, and get really inspired to visit all those hidden gems in your home town. And if you happen to live in Escondido, CA or surrounding neighboring cities, or even found yourself just driving by, come visit 'El Tejate Restaurante', and have a taste of authentic Oaxacan food. We would love to hear what your experience was, and what you ordered. We might just want to try it ourselves the next time we go visit. If you want to stay up-to-date with any news regarding 'El Tejate Restaurante' follow them on Facebook here: https://www.facebook.com/El-Tejate-Restaurant
Other social media venues coming soon. So be on the lookout for new events, promos and more, at El Tejate Restaurant, here in Escondido, CA. Until the next time, remember to smile, not only because it's contagious, but because every day is a new opportunity to try something new and have a fun adventure. ¡VIVA MÉXICO!


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