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What's Good Roundup

Western Mexican and a café with a difference



Las Michoacanas' Regional Redo

Muscle memory still brings the odd patron to Las Michoacanas (1111 Fifth St., Eureka) thinking it's still Rita's. Don't feel bad for them. New co-owners Socorro Sanchez and Perla Sanchez (no relation) have made themselves at home with a full bar (no margarita mix, just the real thing made to order) and a menu with Western Mexican specialties that reflect both women's Michoacán roots.

Those looking for tacos, burritos and enchiladas will find them alongside regional takes. For the enchiladas Michoacanas, the action is on the outside, with a mere swipe of red sauce and cotija cheese inside three homemade corn tortillas that are cooked in sauce and topped with carrots, potatoes, chopped cabbage, tomatillo sauce and more cotija, as well as a curl of crunchy cecina, flash-fried dried beef. The cecina, says Socorro, a Humboldt native, is sourced from the Bay Area but a must-have when visiting the Mexican state from which her family hails.

"Tacos ahogados, morisqueta, everywhere you go there's little booths that sell that," says Socorro. Perla cooks up both in the kitchen. The tacos ahogados make for a light appetizer — a trio of crispy fried mini tortillas filled with shredded chicken or beef and topped with cabbage and a loose salsa of tomatoes, onions and chiles. Douse them in the accompanying creamy orange sauce, which is a brighter, tangier showcase than usual for the smoke of chipotle.

The morisqueta is the heartiest, homiest option. Hunks of pork on the bone are cooked in a tart tomatillo sauce with just enough heat to warm your cheeks, then scooped over soft white rice with rich, scratch-cooked pinto beans. The brimming container is tricky to carry out but you'll be grateful to hunker down in the privacy of your own home and use your fingers to get every last morsel.

Back to the Grind

A moment of appreciation for grab-and-go coffee shops. There, early risers are accommodated and those of us who struggle with morning are soothed without fuss. There, the good people at the counter prep for the breakfast rush and brew hot coffee while many of us turn in our covers, thinking of reasons not to get up just yet. Nowhere is that succor more urgently needed than across from an institution like the courthouse. 

In July, Gaby Long , proprietress and chef at A Taste of Bim, bought the Grind Cafe (734 Fifth St.), with its front window view of Blake Reagan's floaty trompe l'oeil mural alongside the Humboldt County Courthouse. It remains a solid stop for a hot Humboldt Bay Coffee Co. latte and a bagel, but scan the full menu before you order your usual.

"We're keeping some of the traditional things, like we do the soups and the focaccia bread for paninis," but, says Long, "we have a little splash of island, like the plantains." The breakfast sandwich, for example, has soft scrambled eggs and cheese on an English muffin with jammy bits of plantain and curry aioli. "Back in the Caribbean, you eat a lot of plantain for breakfast. It's a healthy food and ... the sweetness really melds with the savory," says Long. If you're not already on board with plantains for breakfast, allow yourself to be converted. 

The plantains return at lunch beside paninis in the form of chips and atop a crispy, made-to order flatbread with a layer of hummus, baby spinach and sautéed mushrooms and peppers. There are pizza and barbecue flatbreads, too, but the veggie turns what's essentially a salad into party food, which is an achievement to be celebrated. 

The treats in the case are made on the premises, and you can't go wrong with a cinnamon or chocolate muffin. Hardcore sweet tooths and lovers of white chocolate might look to the hefty oat bars, which break open like geodes to reveal a layer of white chips under their crumb topping. The coffee list is standard, with espresso drinks and shakes. If you're not here to caffeinate, consider the pineapple ginger refresher, with its light fizz, house-pressed juice and the zing of fresh ginger. 

Long says by early October there should be beer and wine on the menu, meaning mimosas for Saturday brunches of biscuits and gravy and wine with charcuterie boards.

Share your tips about What's Good with Jennifer Fumiko Cahill (she/her), arts and features editor at the Journal. Reach her at 442-1400, extension 320, or [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter @JFumikoCahill.

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