Around town with Allison: Let’s taco ’bout Cholita Linda

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Allison Fong/Staff

Before I even get started with this piece, I can already hear all those people from SoCal whining about how the Mexican food here sucks.

“SoCal has the best Mexican food, hands down!”

“You call that Mexican food?”

“I will never eat Mexican food in NorCal.”

Now, I’m not here to start fights with anyone. I’m just here to speak what I know. I personally don’t believe in this SoCal versus NorCal bullshit — good food is good food no matter where you get it. So to all of you SoCal folk, hear me out because you won’t regret it.

In the Temescal neighborhood of Oakland sits a vibrant restaurant that serves mouthwatering Latin American street food. Cholita Linda, a local favorite, blesses the Bay Area with chef Vanessa Chavez’s tasty concoctions. I’m talking phenomenal fish tacos, Cuban sandwiches, delicious plates, and let’s not forget about the refreshing aguas frescas.

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The first thing you’ll notice when you get to this spot is how busy it is. Be prepared for a line because there will definitely be one. But don’t fret! The line moves fairly quickly. Take this time to think some thoughts, self-reflect or look over the menu and hypothesize ordering something but ultimately end up ordering exactly what you had intended to in the first place. What can I say? The Bay Area locals know where the party’s at! (Hint: the party will be in your mouth when you take a bite of those fish tacos.)

After you order, grab a seat inside and enjoy the colorful walls and decor or head outside to the cute patio. What I enjoy about Cholita Linda is the atmosphere that’s created by the music, fun decor and food. I mean, where else are you going to find decor like this?

What to order

Although anything from the menu is a solid choice, I highly recommend the Baja fish tacos. Crispy fish, salsa, slaw and crema on a soft corn tortilla are what dreams are made of. The first thing anyone thinks of when they hear Cholita Linda is its legendary fish tacos, and this dish definitely lives up to the hype. With the perfect balance of crunchiness from the battered fish, heat from the salsa and cooling of the crema, it’s no wonder why this is one of the restaurant’s most popular dishes. TLDR: You have to order the fish tacos because they will rock your world (you’re welcome in advance).

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Chef Vanessa Chavez has thought about vegetarian folk, too. Pick up a couple tofu tacos, which are made of seasoned organic tofu, slaw, salsa and crema on soft corn tortillas, for an insanely satisfying meat-free treat! If you’re vegan, ask for no crema!

What better way to wash down those amazing tacos than with a cup of agua fresca? Absolutely nothing. Cholita Linda serves a couple flavors of aguas frescas such as strawberry, mango and passion fruit, but if you’re anything like me, you’re going to have a hard time choosing one of these delicious flavors, so it’s a good thing you don’t have to! You can combine two flavors of aguas frescas, but my personal favorite flavor combo is definitely strawberry and mango. Don’t just take my word for it — go and try it out. You’re welcome (again).

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Grab your friends and head down to Cholita Linda for the amazing atmosphere, delicious food and refreshing drinks. Note: To all our SoCal readers, please give this place a try. Please. Cholita Linda will always hold a special place in my heart (and belly). I hope it does the same for you.

So I leave you with this: Believe in the hype. Order the fish tacos. Tell your friends. 

Allison Fong writes the weekly blog column on places and activities to try in and around Berkeley. Contact her at [email protected].