Cocina on the Green
The incongruity of a Mexican restaurant on the grounds of a golf course lessens as you sit in a snug window booth at Cocina Mariposa (4750 Fairway Drive, Eureka), which you enter via the pro shop, and watch the sunset. On a recent rainy evening, when a lone golfer was whacking balls into the lake of the flooded Eureka Municipal Golf Course, it even offered waterfront dining. Besides, owner Marisela Salas was previously at Beau Pre Golf Course doing happy hour tacos on Fridays, so I'm declaring it an official niche.
Golf, from what I hear, yields frustration, which is an emotion best handled with tacos and/or breakfast foods, both of which are on offer. The fried fish taco on a homemade corn tortilla is a bright little pile of battered Alaskan pollack chunks, pico de gallo, red cabbage and chipotle aioli ($3.50). The green sauce is a tart addition for those who aren't quite up to the hot red salsa — don't be fooled by the presence of polo shirts, it's no joke. Salas, who learned to cook Michoacan dishes from her mother, Graciela, with whom she runs the place, offers a pro tip: The oil-based house salsa macha is less deadly on cold foods. Proceed accordingly.
Happily, the machaca burrito, along with the rest of the breakfast menu, is available all day ($7.99). Also good news is the carnitas option with the scrambled eggs, cheese, pico de gallo and soft pan fried potatoes. It's wholly satisfying and, with a Ball jar of homemade horchata ($2.50), a complete meal as far as I'm concerned.
The barbecue chicken burrito may not speak to the traditionally minded but the sauced-up, char-grilled chicken thigh meat and the firm pinto beans are a sentimental pleasure for those of us who've lived in Isla Vista, California, or anyone who simply cannot get enough barbecue ($8.99).
To Fill the Happy Hours
If you've had the good sense to make your way to Five Eleven (511 Second St., Eureka) for its Tuesday through Saturday happy hour starting at 5 p.m., I sincerely hope you ate. The duck fat French fries — served in a steel cup with a triumvirate of ketchup, green goddess dressing and Sriracha aioli — are impossible to refuse at $4 ($6 regular small plate). They are also the most perfectly crisp hand-cut potatoes and a testament to the transformative power of rendered duck fat.
Right below on the menu is the polenta crostini, a grilled slab that is toasty along its edges and smothered in crimini and wild mushrooms in a velvety marsala sauce ($8 happy hour, $13 regular small plate). A sprinkling of parmesan and fried sage leaves boosts the depth of flavor and, rich as it is, one might consider struggling against instinct and splitting it to save room for further exploration.
As happy hour stretches into dinner and dry-aged steak beckons, consider delaying the main course (or a softshell crab taco) in favor of a platter of a half dozen oysters ($10 happy hour, $15 regular small plate). The local Kumamotos arrive simply with a wedge of lemon and an airplane-hooch bottle of housemade hot sauce. Chef Josh Wiley's first foray into fermenting chiles has produced a light, clean heat that enhances rather than masks the flavor of the oyster and its briny liquor. For $4 you can slip the bottle into your pocket and see what else it complements at home.
Share your tips about What's Good at local eateries with Jennifer Fumiko Cahill, arts and features editor at the Journal. She prefers she/her. Reach her at 442-1400, extension 320, or email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @JFumikoCahill