As any Santa Cruz, CA, resident will tell you, Taqueria Vallarta is more than just another taqueria- it is a religious experience. To know Vallarta is to know perfection, to taste a Vallarta burrito it is to taste the lips of God. Something about the flavor of the cheese and salsa (and the carne assada, according to my meat-eating friends) and the proportion of these to the beans, lettuce, and sour cream is just right.

There are now three Vallarta locations, the original on Soquel, #2 out in Capitola, and the new #3 downtown on Pacific. Although the food is the same at all three, the feeling of the first is by far the best. Walk in the doors and you will first be hit by yummy-Mexican-food smell accompanied by the sound of a throng of people enjoying it. Combined with the warmth from the kitchen and the patrons, it makes for a very cozy feeling. The counter is directly ahead, but if you look to either side while waiting in line (and unless you go early in the morning, you WILL wait in line), you will see two wall-filling allegorical murals depicting life in Mexico- the struggle between life and death, the land being supported by the workers and the dead. The clientele tends to be either college students or Hispanic families, which is always a good sign at a taqueria.

If you're ever in Santa Cruz and need a bite to eat, this is the place to go. In fact, if you're ever in Santa Cruz and are anything less than full to the point of intestinal rupture, this is the place to go. I've known people to drive hundreds of miles to Santa Cruz just for a Vallarta burrito, and, having done it myself, I can say that they were wise to do so.

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