Salsa aficionados, your moment has arrived. Lift the stainless steel lid of the salsa bar and reveal a dozen options from dark and oily to bright and creamy. On a recent visit, they included: freshly made chipotle, verde, habanero, pico de gallo, chile de aceite, roja, chile de arbol and guacamole salsas, fresh lime and habanero slices, sliced pepperoncini and pickled jalapeño. Somewhere in that field is the tang and heat you have been looking for, the oily chile de aceite — spiked with chile japones and chile de arbol — and the habanero being closest to the top of the Scoville chart.
If molotes ($11) are hiding in the corners of other Humboldt menus, they’ve escaped our notice. There are meat options, but cheese is the move, warm and stretchy under a fried shell of corn and flour dough. “I used to eat them when I was little,” says Torres, who is originally from Guerrero, Mexico, but came to Humboldt at the age of 15. “I loved those since I was little … and I wanted to make it here.” The trio of ovals topped with shredded lettuce, crumbles of cotija cheese and crema come with a side of soupy refried bean dip, and makes for a more than substantial appetizer. They’re also fine foundation snacks with which to further explore that salsa bar.
The costillitas ($16) are a stronger statement of flavor — pork rib chunks stewed in a deep red sauce worth scooping up with the accompanying soft, salty, broad corn tortillas. The color comes from dried chile California and the little bit of heat is from chile de arbol. The rice and mild, creamy refried beans are a fine accompaniment to the juicy pork that’s easily coaxed off the bone.
And if you’ve been dreaming about the tacos you ate at a local wedding or quinceañera, good news: The restaurant’s namesake Paco Escobar, sought after caterer for parties around the county, is in the kitchen with Torres. And with all those salsa options, you're going to need more tacos.