The delights of modest little Taco Deli, a bright takeout place in a La Canada strip mall, range from warming soups to gut-busting tortilla-based dishes, but the overall emphasis is on light, fresh healthy food from Mexico and Central America that tastes great and is prepared with a smile.
I eat here at least once a week and am a devotee of the fish bowl: grilled tilapia over beans (pinto or black) and rice, with a fresh salsa on top. My friend Jacquelyn ate the BLTs every week for a year, but I’ve recently converted her to my other favorite , the tuna, which you can have on a sandwich or topping a rather pedestrian salad. The tuna is light on mayo and mixed with apples and celery—delicious and refreshing on a warm day. Jac likes the turkey wraps. I like the quesadillas. You can see that Taco Deli is the right name for a place that will make you a sandwich quicker than you can say burrito, or a taco as fast as you can say “ham on rye.”
The soups, as I said, are fantastic, and the flu-busting chicken has something of grandma’s (or it abuelita’s?) magic about it. The best and most mysterious part of Taco Deli is the truly excellent juice bar. They’ll make you a smoothie and often have homemade lemonade, watermelon juice and/or horchata in big glass jars on the counter. But the capper in this tiny joint is the high-end, made-to-order juices—you can get staggering, super-healthy combos of beet, carrot, apple, ginger, wheatgrass, kale, whatever they’ve got in their case at the front of the store. The juices really set this place apart, and many people come here for the drinks alone.
If you crave the flavors of Mexico but don’t want to feel weighted down, this is the place for you. And if you’d really rather have a pastrami sandwich and a Coke than a shrimp taco and a ginger-apple fizz, I think you are loco or meshugga, but we can meet at Taco Deli.
Taco Deli, 456C Foothill Blvd., La Cañada, 818.790.3354, tacodeli.net. Mexican/American. B & L daily, D Mon.-Sat. AE, MC, V. $