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A Taste of Mi Tierra in Santa Rosa

Mi Tierra Molcajete

Mexican food is one of the hallmarks of Sonoma County, and having a taste of Mi Tierra in Santa Rosa has confirmed that. We can thank our vibrant Latin American population for the rich cuisine found in restaurants, food trucks, farmers’ markets and even grocery store delis all across the region.

There is more to celebrate than simple tacos, burritos and fajitas, however. At Mi Tierra, the Magana family showcases complex recipes like molcajete, a savory stew served in what is also called a molcajete, an ancient, stone mortar and pestle tool used to grind things like chiles and spices.

The mood: Be warned, it’s noisy here at night, between the usually packed crowds and the location just a sidewalk away from the intersection of Sebastopol and Stony Point roads. The long, narrow, 30-seat restaurant is a favorite for boisterous customers enjoying their margaritas, and it can be tough to converse on the 50-seat patio separated from traffic by little more than a white picket fence. But that’s part of the festive feel, amid a colorful décor accented with landscape wall murals and brightly painted wood Plaza Tequila chairs. For a quieter experience, come for breakfast or lunch.

To eat: A molcajete is basalt tureen favored since the stone retains volcanic heat, all the better for keeping this hearty dish hot.

Two can easily fill up on the generous portion served here ($20.95), the dark red, spicy broth stocked with cilantro shrimp, steak and chicken strips, charred chorizo, sliced onion and mushrooms, tomato chunks, panela cheese, and grilled sour-crisp nopales strips. With sides of rice and beans and flour tortillas handmade by a cook working a hot grill on the patio, it’s a feast.

Jack cheese is a popular accent as well, melted atop generously portioned dishes like steak alambre topped with chorizo, crisp bacon and vegetables ($17.95), the plato Cancun of shrimp tossed with mushrooms, green onion and tomatoes over rice ($18.95), or a camarones jarochos platter of sautéed shrimp, octopus, scallops, white fish, calamari and crab leg swimming in chile de arbol red sauce ($18.95).

Be sure to try the fish, too, like a whole tilapia fried crispy then smothered in onions, bell peppers, tomato, mushrooms and a fiery chile sauce ($17.95). And yes, it’s fine to use your fingers to pick the meat off the delicate bones.

If you’re going to get a burrito, meanwhile, live large and order the gordo macho – maybe for the entire table, since it’s so huge. Your server will stagger up, presenting a heavy, football size beast triple stuffed with meat, refried beans, rice and cheese buried in sauce, guacamole, sour cream, tomatoes, onions and cilantro ($29.95).

To note: The pastor is the real deal – you can see the rotisserie in the evenings next to the tortilla griddle, where the pineapple-chile marinated pork is sliced to-order. Try it atop a quesadilla ($8.50), keeping things simple so you can really appreciate the meat’s flavor.

To drink: A michelada  is a thing of beauty, mixing beer, lime juice, spices and peppers garnished with chile-salt dusted lime, orange, jicama and cucumber, all served in a real, carved out pineapple ($10.95).

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