Savor Twice

Neighbor Mexican restaurants excel and surprise

By Greg Sabin
July 2024

Two styles of Mexican cooking are on display at two Arden-Arcade restaurants. Separated by one block, their styles couldn’t be more different. Each excels at unique Mexican cuisine.


Taqueria La Perla Tapatia is a 3-year-old establishment on Marconi Avenue. When it opened in 2021, it was a modern little storefront that blended into a shopping center. Last year, it turned into an internet sensation when a ratings site listed it as one of the top 100 taquerias in America.

Just like that, La Perla went from a quiet, casual eatery to a destination foodie spot. Order a meal there and learn why.

The dishes, to borrow a phrase, are Instagrammable. Towers of seafood come out like architectural wonders, glistening with sauces and topped with thin slices of avocado. Molcajetes, hot lava-rock bowls filled with more ingredients than I can list, are a primordial wonder stew.

A gimmick dish—stuffed pineapple—is surf and turf on steroids. It’s a half pineapple, hollowed out and crammed with shrimp, pork, vegetables and sauce, covered with melted cheese. Gimmicky yes, but flavors are spot on, spicy, briny, savory and sweet.

The tacos are no afterthought. While some taquerias might feature three to four, or even five meats, La Perla offers nearly a dozen preparations, grilled or stewed, off the hook or hoof.

I’m a sucker for carne desmechada, shredded beef. Served in a double tortilla street taco, it’s a savory wonderland. Upgraded to the crispy taco—tortilla lined with cheese, lettuce, sour cream and salsa—it’s a food memory.

The décor is bright and fun. Video screens show sports, news, customer testimonials and banda videos. Booths are packed and upholstered. They belong in a 1964 Impala. The dining room is bright as an operating theater.

It’s easy to get lost in La Perla’s style and swagger. At heart, it remains a casual eatery, with friendly service and food that takes itself more seriously than you’d expect.

La Perla has two sister restaurants, Taqueria La Neuva Vallarta in Roseville and on Northgate Boulevard.


Around the corner is a longtime neighborhood favorite, La Rosa Blanca. This cozy eatery started as humble digs on Auburn Boulevard nearly 30 years ago. Its current location on Fulton Avenue is a step back in time.

From old-fashioned decorations to mariachi music on the hi-fi, La Rosa Blanca makes nostalgia feel new.

Every dish satisfies like comfort food. The straw basket of chips and enchilada plate arrive straight from the broiler, smothered in melting cheese and finished with a petite salad of iceberg lettuce, tomato and black olive.

These dishes are no surprise. They represent classic Mexican American cooking. But one plate is unique: Mama’s Chicken.

What seems like a simple chicken dish smothered in red sauce is more sweet, spicy and complex than expected. The secret? I won’t spoil it other than imagine it involves the soda fountain.

La Rosa Blanca is what I think of when I think of a local, family Mexican restaurant. La Perla Tapatia is what I’m going to think of when I picture the modern California taqueria. Experience both.

Taqueria La Perla Tapatia is at 2820 Marconi Ave.; (916) 550-2616; La Rosa Blanca is at 2813 Fulton Ave.; (916) 484-6104;

Greg Sabin can be reached at Follow us on Facebook and Instagram: @insidesacramento.

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