It's no secret that the lines at Sol Food in San Rafael have been creeping down the block lately. What used to be a little hole in the wall Puerto Rican joint is now a booming, booming business. But right across the street on Lincoln Avenue is a reason to ditch that long wait for some of the best Mexican food in the Bay Area.
Living in California, you forget that not everyone has good taquerias close to home, work, school, the freeway--you name it. When you talk to people living in, say, Seattle they'll tell you that really good authentic Mexican is tough to come by. So when my sister and her boyfriend were visiting (from Seattle) last weekend and mentioned a hankering for some legitimate mole, I know we had to go to Las Camelias.
Las Camelias is the baby of chef and owner, Gabriel Fregoso who grew up in the very small town of Cuautla in western Jalisco. His mother and grandmother were big cooks, and in 1976 Gabriel came to Marin and started working at the Lark Creek Inn in Larkspur. He worked his way up to the position of cook, and a few years later opened Las Camelias using his mother and grandmother's recipes. In a county where restaurants open and shutter in the blink of an eye, thirty-two years in business is a pretty big deal. Gabriel's doing something right.
When you walk in, the first thing you'll notice is the warm, rustic atmosphere with heavy wooden chairs and tables and thoughtfully chosen artwork. The servers will set you up with a "margarita" right away (they don't have a liquor license so they're really wine margaritas). But they still make their own in-house margarita mix and it veers far from the often overly-sweet store bought variety. Try one. Trust me.