This Hole-in-the-Wall Life

Critical Masa: Lucias Tacos y Mulitas

Mexico is a country where the melding of disparate traditions to form bewildering wonders is the national religion, yet nothing is quite as gloriously mestizo as a mulita. It's masa with an identity crisis: two thick discs encasing steaming heaps of cheese and meat, as earthy a meal as possible. A mulita is not quite a quesadilla, not quite a gordita, not quite a taco, but a bit of all three. Mostly, it's heft—no subtlety, little in the way of spices or flavoring, but with all the necessary ingredients for it to sear into your mind and gut.

Mulitas are still relatively rare in Orange County despite a large presence of immigrants from Mexico City and Puebla, where the dish originated. But their undisputed shrine is Lucia's Tacos y Mulitas, a claustrophobic dive in Huntington Beach where blue-collar Mexican and gabacholaborers stand patiently to buy this cheap, filling meal. The bilingual menu on the wall consists mostly of the meats available—the expected carne asada, chicken, chorizo and al pastor options, but also cow tongue, brain and head for the more adventurous. Everything is prepared fresh—you know this because women pat-pat masa into irregular tortillas that exhibit a taste containing millennia of tradition—yum!

Lucia's tacos deserve their own article, so cheap, tasty and huge they are; burritos and tortas are similarly enormes. Weekends bring some of the best menudo not stewed in SanTana; I don't think the pan dulce is prepared there, but their choices (gingerbread cookies shaped like pigs called cochinitos, dense coconut bars) suggest someone at the restaurant has a bit of a baker's flair. Enjoy the above items some other time; focus on the mulitas. The preparation is perfect—two thick slabs of masa as large as 45-rpm records are griddled until slightly burnt alongside your choice of meat. Once the masa and meat are ready, the cooks combine the three together and add Mexican cheese—milkier and less sharp than most American cheeses. The mulita is griddled again until the cheese melts and fuses everything together. Then the mulita is ready. You choose how much salsa, cilantro, onions or strips of chilled cactus and jalapeño to add. One mulita is enough to fill you for the day; two is sheer gluttony, but God forgives.

Lucia's Tacos y Mulitas. Photo by Jonathan Ho
Lucia's Tacos y Mulitas. Photo by Jonathan Ho

LUCIA'S TACOS Y MULITAS, 16952 BEACH BLVD., HUNTINGTON BEACH, (714) 842-2404.

 
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