Neil Pacheco loves food. He shares his passion for Latino food (and non-food related) entrepreneurs on his La Morenita FM show, What’s Cookin’ Sonoma County and through a heavy social media presence. In 2019, he was included on North Bay Business Journal’s list of notable Forty Under 40 professionals.
Born in Texas, of Oaxacan roots, Pacheco moved to the East Coast as a child. He followed his wife Graciela to Sonoma County in 2004. A father of two kids, he stays busy with the radio show, his job as a hospitality host at Graton Resort and Casino, and as the director of Community Engagement at the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. We sat down over a plate of delicious tacos de mole at Tacos al Carbon (500 Sebastopol Road, 707.843.5966) to hear all about the local food he loves best. The list was long!
My wife cooks Mexican food at home, so when we go out for breakfast we like to eat a different type of food. We like to get a more Anglo breakfast at Costeaux French Bakery (417 Healdsburg Avenue, Healdsburg; 707.433.1913). I love their breakfast served with homemade bread and marmalade. I went there two weeks ago with my nephew and ordered the egg-white omelet with fresh coffee. I’m really big on hospitality and they do it well there. I also love Sam’s For Play Café (1024 Sebastopol Road, Santa Rosa; 707.528.0506). You’ll find a lot of business owners from Roseland at Sam’s early in the morning; If you want to find people, that is the best place. I order the basic: eggs, bacon, toast. I go there more for the family ambience, the community, the busboy Jose, and the servers. I know I’ll see friends, and the atmosphere is so friendly.
Taqueria El Paisa (food truck on Sebastopol Road, Roseland; 707.230.7592) is all about his tacos de cabeza. His tacos are very different. They are from Oaxaca and steamed instead of grilled, with a big, crunchy tortilla. And then there’s Tacos El Pelon (921 Sebastopol Road; 707.236.5286). It’s been on the street for a few years. He does the tacos from the Yucatan, the southern part of Mexico. They have a cochinita pibil (barbecued pork) taco, and you aren’t going to find anything else like that in Sonoma County. He also has the tacos de cabeza, but the sauce is different. It’s a habanero sauce—cilantro, onions, very basic. He also has the torta campechana, a combination of the cochinita pibil and the cabeza with onions, cilantro, and a sauce. He opens at five o’ clock in the morning. I’m surprised to see workers that early in the morning—people who work in the fields, in construction—lining up to buy his tortas and tacos to go. On Sebastopol Road, we also have tamales. Tamales Magos is across the street from Roseland Elementary School. The family has been here in the United States for years. They open early in the morning and they have six different tamales. Chicken with mole, pork with red sauce, and sweet tamals, which are served with champurrado.
Carlos Mojica, the chef and owner at Guiso Latin Fusion (171 North Street, Healdsburg; 707.431.1302) is from El Salvador. He’s very young, went to school at Santa Rosa Junior College, and is one of the best Latino chefs in Sonoma County. The restaurant only has about 10 tables, so my recommendation is to make a reservation two weeks in advance. He uses fresh, local, organic products. It’s a great place for a nice, romantic dinner or a special occasion. The atmosphere is intimate with great service. Last time, I had their pupusas, camarones borrachos, and a delicious steak special, perfect for two people.
I made a video recently about an ice cream vendor in Roseland and it got 25,000 views! They call him El Señor de Las Nieves. This gentleman makes homemade ice cream in a very old-style traditional way from Mexico. His flavors include sweet potato, strawberry, mango, and hibiscus. He starts early in the morning, traveling around to different spots on Sebastopol Road. If the weather is hot, he’s here. He’s part of the street vendor culture here in Roseland (various locations along Sebastopol Road, Roseland; no phone number).
I like to shop at Camacho Market (645 Sebastopol Road, Santa Rosa; 707.527. 0189). My community is very big on carne asada, especially when the weather gets good, and they have that. And they make their own chorizo. They have fresh produce—tomatoes, corn, cilantro, peppers. You can find everything for cócteles de camarones, and they have a special fish patty on Fridays. They also have a bakery. If you are celebrating a birthday or wedding, you can place an order for a specific cake. One of our traditions in the Latino community is to eat pan dulce with coffee or champurrado in the afternoon. The pan dulce is made fresh. It’s one of the most complete markets around.
What do you eat? Hankering to share your local food love with the world?
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