Clap your hands for papusas
Price is right for authentic Mexican, Salvadoran food at Rincon Sabroso
It's easy to miss Rincon Sabroso. This small and low-key Mexican restaurant is all but hidden alongside empty storefronts in the back corner of the shopping center at Rengstorff Avenue and Central Expressway.
But once inside, you'll find the place abuzz, with cooks behind the counter grabbing fistfuls of dough and slapping them flat to make papusas, a house specialty. Their clapping sound fills the air, competing with a TV in the corner and the jingle of the door as customers arrive for their takeout.
First-rate, authentic food explains the steady stream of customers, who have a well-developed menu (with pictures, if you examine the wall behind the counter) to choose from. Although it serves mostly Mexican food, Rincon Sabroso offers a few classic dishes from El Salvador, including papusas and fried plantains.
Owner Emerita Macias, the menu explains, is an entrepreneur at heart and once sold oranges with chili powder and water as a child to people passing by her hometown in Mexico. As an adult in the U.S. she operated a taco truck, expanding in 2004 with Rincon Sabroso.
The restaurant's decor is no-frills, as is the service. You have to ask for chips, and doing so gets you the pre-packaged variety — a far cry from the fresh restaurant-style chips found elsewhere.
But never mind the garnishes; people come to Rincon Sabroso for the good food and good prices. Most meals hover around $5, and locals will be hard-pressed to find a better burrito.
We sampled more than one burrito here, and found them to rival the papusas as the best thing the menu. The regular burrito ($4.25) comes with rice, beans, cheese, onion, cilantro, salsa and your choice of chicken, beef or pork. For an extra $1.25, the super burrito offers all that and avocado, sour cream and tomato.
Most Californians would agree that burrito-making is a science, and Rincon Sabroso has it down pat: Each ingredient blends and melds perfectly with the rest. But the tortilla — grilled on the outside to a slight crisp — is what puts it over the top.
It's also hard to go wrong the pupusas ($2), a Salvadoran specialty. These are thick, hand-made corn tortillas filled with a combination of cheese, beans and/or pork, and are served with hot sauce and a side of cabbage.
The regular quesadilla ($4) and enchiladas plate ($9.25) were well-proportioned and tasty, but otherwise unremarkable. We found the quesadilla, also available with meat ($5) or in a larger size ($7), to be a bit soggy.
We were intrigued by an amazing array of soups (sopas), ranging from chicken to tripe to goat meat ($6.50, $8.50 and $9, respectively). So we tried the shrimp soup ($12), which was bland, though plentiful in both broth and shrimp — more than enough for two people. (The shrimp soup is the tip of the iceberg for mariscos here, which include several fish plates and two types of cocktails.)
Indeed, all servings at Rincon Sabroso are generous, almost too generous. A recent "the special of the day," featuring three tacos with rice and beans for $7.50, was too much to finish. We tried all three of the meats, one on each taco, and found the chicken to be tender, the pork nearly overcooked and the beef practically crunchy.
Rincon Sabroso has a small vegetarian menu, including tacos ($1.25) and tortas ($4.25). And it serves horchata and tamarindo, both traditional and refreshing drinks, in small ($1.25), medium ($2) and large ($3).
In sum, most dishes at Rincon Sabroso are a good deal, but it's impossible to go wrong with the burritos or pupusas.
The phrase rincon sabroso translates as something like "tasty corner" — a hidden spot where delicious food awaits. And so it is.
122 N. Rengstorff Ave., Mountain View
9 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily
Credit Cards: Yes
Party and Banquet Facilities: Yes
Outdoor Dining: Yes
Wheelchair Accessible: Yes
Noise Level: Low
Bathroom Cleanliness: Fine