Located on San Pablo Avenue in Berkeley, Casa Latina Bakery is a popular spot in the neighborhood. After driving by it so many times – en
route from Oakland to Berkeley – it was time to finally check out this sometimes bustling taqueria.
In the main dining hall, paintings of Frida Kahlo line the walls. The dining area has several tables along the wall and there are two larger tables in the middle of the dining room. There is also a small platform/stage in the back of the room. It was not immediately clear if they ever have live music. (I hope they do).
Casa Latina offers a variety of taco options. Their Tacos de Plaza are served with two small tortillas and with a choice of salsas: mild salsa fresca, medium green tomatillo salsa, and a spicy chile de Arbol salsa. Choices for taco fillings include Pollo Asado (grilled chicken), Carnitas (pork), Carne Asada (steak), Chorizo (Mexican pork sausage), Al Pastor (pork marinated in adobo seasoning), and Barbacoa (slow-cooked shredded beef). In addition to Tacos de Plaza, Casa Latina has options such as Tacos Dorados, Taquitos de Papa (rolled potato tacos), a veggie taco (includes black beans, mushrooms and spinach), shrimp, grilled fish, and beer battered fish tacos.
Outside of the tacos, Casa Latina offers expected taqueria options such as burritos, nachos, quesadillas, and pupusas. Being a bakery, there are also a number of baked goods available. As you walk into the restaurant, you’ll see display cases full of delicious looking baked goods. I am not well versed in Mexican pastries so on this visit I passed.
One of the things I really liked when ordering was the cashier asking which level of heat I wanted for my tacos. Naturally, I requested the spicier salsa. I normally assume ‘spicy’ at a restaurant means they added a jalapeno to the salsa. The spicy salsa at Casa Latina was not the typical spicy. It was right kind of heat: just enough to feel your taste buds light up, but not enough to clear your sinuses.
For this visit, I got 3 tacos: 1 Asada, 1 Chorizo, and 1 Barbacoa. These tacos were outstanding. On first look, I thought the steak was a little overdone but I think it was just the charring from the grill. The steak was tender and well-flavored. The Chorizo was pure spicy goodness. Paired with the spicy salsa it was heat heaven for a spice hound like myself. The barbacoa was a little disappointing. While the flavor was nice, I got mostly fat on my plate.
All in all, I really liked Casa Latina’s well-prepared, bright, vibrant food. It’s an awesome place to host a group or to meet a friend. The restaurant is busy but not too loud. There was great artwork on the walls, as well as some good people watching out of the windows that look onto San Pablo Ave. While some of their offerings are pricier than other taquerias in the area ($6.50 for a fish taco), Casa Latina executes their dishes with authenticity and skill. If you’re in the neighborhood and looking for a more refined taco experience you should check out Casa Latina.