If you can't decide on anything, go with the burrito - at least, that's usually how it goes with me. With a burrito, you really can't go wrong. There's always something to enjoy, whether it's a nice layer of fresh, seasoned guacamole; just enough sour cream; diced, juicy tomatoes; or tender meat, cooked and seasoned just right.
At Santa Cruz Taqueria, you get all the ingredients melded together and wrapped skillfully in a giant flour tortilla. Cook and recipe creator Bertha Perez wouldn't allow her food to lack in any area or ingredient.
Dino Ballin opened the restaurant two months ago with the intention to cook Perez's recipes. The recipes are both her family recipes and recipes she created on her own.
Santa Cruz Taqueria is located in the Lowe's Shopping Center, where Tacos Del Mar used to be. The restaurant has even more of beach feel than before, and the food has a new freshness. Photographs of surfers, Mexican pyramids and tropical islands hang on the wall, each in their own brightly colored frame.
The most popular menu items are the super burritos, loaded with the works: Your choice of meat, pico de gallo, rice, beans, cheese, guacamole and sour cream.
They are huge. One customer, who orders a super burrito daily, calls them his two-day burritos.
But it's breakfast that Ballin - and all of his friends - prefer.
"We have absolutely gorgeous breakfast plates," he said. "My friends come order breakfast at night."
For breakfast, you can have chorizo with eggs, juevos rancheros and favorites like ham and eggs or machaca.
Of course there are the breakfast burritos. You can order your own or get any of the breakfast plates (with the exception of juevos rancheros) made into a burrito.
When you visit Santa Cruz Taqueria, if you haven't already, look for the camarones, or shrimp dishes. While Lodi is falling in love with the new restaurant, many haven't discovered the shrimp dishes the taqueria prides itself in making.
What: Taqueria Santa Cruz
Where: 2533 W. Kettleman Lane
HOURS: 8:30 a.m.-9 p.m., close at 8 p.m. Sundays
Specialties: Burritos, shrimp dishes
From their kitchen to yours
Tip: Know your chilis
Taqueria Santa Cruz owner Dino Ballin says one thing most people don't know about Mexican food is just how many kinds of peppers are used.
"When they cook Mexican food, they think any chili pepper would work for any dish," he said.
And that's not the case.
Ballin buys at least seven peppers, and they each give the recipes an authentic flavor.
"The shrimp cocktail comes in a big goblet filled with tomato juice, clam juice, 12 pieces of shrimp, avocado slices, cilantro and celery," Ballin said. "It's just good."
If you don't speak or read Spanish, don't be intimidated. The always-friendly staff (and I've eat at this taqueria several times to know) is always willing to explain the different dishes and types of meat.
Ballin says his restaurant is unlike most Mexican eateries, and it's because of the way Perez cooks. At most restaurants, Ballin says he doesn't like chili Colorado. But he likes their recipe.
"She spends hours peeling dried peppers. I just love it," he said.