Las Delicias de Abuelita
2050 E. Main St.
Las Delicias de Abuelita roughly translates to “Grandma’s delicacies” — which gives a nostalgic tug on the heartstrings, as well as mouth-watering anticipation. My friend and I had a good laugh when it was confirmed by Aaron (the son of the eponymous “abuelita”) — that the literal translation is “the delicious grandmother.”
The home-style vibe of this walk-up food stand (formerly a barbecue spot) does not disappoint when it comes to authenticity. We asked if “La Abuelita” was around, but Aaron reassured us that although his mother, Maria Celia, was not there the day we visited, abuelito was! The family’s goal is to provide customers with the tastes and experiences that he and his family had while they were growing up at Celia’s house when she would make her delicious homemade tortillas for everyone.
Las Delicias de Abuelita is a small eatery with a walk-up window and friendly employees ready to help. A handful of blue wooden picnic-style tables and benches on the side provide seating. (Fair warning for those expecting a traditional sit-down restaurant, as we were: This is more of a take-out joint.) As we walked up to order, a local unwrapping his tamal smiled, and he told us that we would not be disappointed by anything we ordered.
We chose familiar dishes, including the traditional sope ($5.75), a tamal verde ($2.25), a veggie taco with potatoes ($2.50) and the chile relleno combo ($8.50). We chatted with Aaron through the window about his business ventures with Las Delicias and his Blue Light food truck that sells food during Majestic Theatre concerts as well as at UC Santa Barbara sports events and farmers markets on campus. We were pleasantly surprised that by the time our chat ended, our food was ready.
The menu offers a variety of traditional favorites, including quesadillas ($8), tortas ($7.50), tacos ($2.50-3) and burritos ($8.50), alongside other “delicias” like bowls ($8), and a kids menu featuring chicken tenders and smaller versions of the traditional meals. The traditional sope, which is normally smaller and comes in two or three per order, was quite large and easily split between the two of us. Our most accommodating host offered to do 50/50 sope toppings of chicken and al pastor. The sope piled high with crispy lettuce topped with sour cream and queso fresco provided a nice counterpoint to the warm meats and beans. Al pastor, a house specialty, was not your everyday marinated pork. My favorite was the veggie taco in a crispy fried tortilla shell. As a meat lover, I was surprised that I forgot I was eating a veggie taco because of the amount of flavor in the potato taco.
The chile relleno combo plate included rice and beans, all average in taste. The chile relleno, which had a thick layer of egg batter covering the cheese and crunchy pasilla chile, was not my favorite. It might be better in the chile relleno burrito. The green tamal with chicken was a winner (and these can be ordered to-go and for Christmas). One bite provided different waves of flavor from the light and fluffy masa and subtle chicken to an abrupt kick from the homemade salsa verde. We were given the cheese and jalapeño tamal by mistake, which was a little too gooey in the center for our liking. We forgot to order the homemade tortillas, so when Aaron came out to eat a burrito during his lunch break, we asked him if we could try one. He happily turned to “abuelito” and explained our request in Spanish. A few minutes later, abuelito returned with warm tortillas and more salsa, which lived up to our expectations. I scooped up some of the beans into the tortilla, both lard-free. Even if there was nothing to put on the tortillas, I would be perfectly happy eating them au natural.
This two-month-old red-roofed business seems to rely on customer satisfaction and word of mouth. Having a high school right across the street, the menu this adjusted to offer a $5 burger and fries meal for the students and all the prices are kept affordable. We pigged out for $19. Plans for the future include cooking chicken on the outdoor grill on Sundays, accompanied by mellow live music. While still working out a few new business kinks, Las Delicias is definitely on the right track with new ideas to become a successful and very delicious stop on your way home to grab food to-go or chomp down in the patio, when you’re craving some authentic Mexican food.