You’ve heard of tortilla soup, but how about sopa de taco? That’s what you essentially get when you order the tacos ahogados at Casa Diaz Mexican Kitchen in Mira Loma.
The dish — fried tacos smothered in a light tomato sauce — is a Guadalajara favorite. Ahogado means “drowned,” but most of the restaurants in Southern California that make them tend to at most splash some sauce to wet the tacos but rarely go full tilt.
Not Casa Diaz, an all-day diner. Instead of a mere sauce, the restaurant submerges its tacos in a thick, potato-based soup that Mexicans trot out during Lent to pair with chiles rellenos. Cooks pour so much broth over the three tacos dorados — stuffed with your choice of picadillo, tinga or potato — that their tips peek out like shark fins, with cabbage and cotija cheese floating around them.
Waiters will give you a fork and knife to cut up the tacos; the freshly fried tortilla chips are the spoons you want to use to scoop up as much of the caldo as possible. Crunchy, soupy and bright, Casa Diaz’s tacos ahogados make sitting in traffic on the 15 worth it.
Owners Araceli and Raphael Diaz are tapatíos, but their restaurant isn’t a Jalisco-only spot because, en mi opinión, Mira Loma isn’t just yet ready for that. The community, which has long attracted residents seeking the best of suburbia and ranch life in the area’s large lots and horse trails, has seen an influx of middle-class Mexican immigrants over the last decade. They’ve bettered the food scene; informal pop-ups on mini-ranchos happen with regularity, and restaurants are beginning to list specialties from Zacatecas, Sinaloa, Michoacán and more to attract specific diasporas.
But since no one Mexican expat group dominates Mira Loma like, say, Oaxacans in Koreatown or chilangos in Santa Ana, Casa Diaz is catholic in offerings and presentation. The large TV that hangs over the dining room skips among rancheras, Univision, KCAL-TV Channel 9’s block of judge shows and “Avengers: Endgame.” The small cocktail list features margaritas as well as Rob Roys. There’s a takeout counter and a small dining room that quickly fills with an eclectic mix of Tommy Bahama-wearing retirees, construction workers who back their Dodge Ram 3500s into their parking spots and families taking out Mami so she can eat and not cook for once.
Much of the menu focuses on platillos tipicos: fajitas, enchiladas, nachos, burritos, menudo on weekends. “Regular” tacos are made with handmade corn tortillas. Tortas are large and fluffy; the one stuffed with pierna adobada — chunks of pork marinated in a saucy chipotle rub — is the best. Chilaquiles are properly crispy, but the accompaniment of home fries instead of rice seems a nod toward gringos and makes the breakfast staple heftier than it should be.
Those meals satisfy, if never actually wow. Casa Diaz shines in its limited offering of Jalisco specialties. Tortas ahogadas are Guadalajara’s most famous culinary export, and what the restaurant prepares exemplifies the sandwich at its best: hard, toasted bread stuffed with a heap of carnitas and a schmear of refried beans, bathed in blistering salsa, topped with purple pickled onions. If the heat doesn’t get you, the sheer weight of the torta will, so share.
Just as delicious are the gorditas, small and toasty and perfect (vegans can rejoice in the one made with rajas, grilled strips of poblano and jalapeño peppers). The succulent barbacoa de res comes in lightly fried tacos or as a plate with a side of consommé and a small cup of a special salsa that’s muddy, smoky and hellacious.
But the best dish Casa Diaz offers after tacos ahogados is carne en su jugo, the Guadalajara beef stew served simply with tomatillos, pinto beans and cebollitas (grilled green onions). The meat is buttery and thinly sliced; the broth, slightly fatty. A grilled jalapeño and two small bean-and-cheese tostadas add texture. Dress it with chopped onions and cilantro, and this carne en su jugo is like a liquid version of steak: bold in its beefiness and just spectacular.
Mexicans from across the Inland Empire come for Casa Diaz’s carne en su jugo, which sells from breakfast to dinner, and the restaurant advertises it with a giant neon sign on its front window. It’s right next to the one that screams, “6 FOOT BURRITO,” which you need to order two days in advance. The gordilón is delicious in a boxing-night-potluck sort of way but ultimately beneath the restaurant.
No te rajes, Casa Diaz — don’t back down from your talents. Trying to please everyone is important and pays the rent, but double down on those Jalisco dishes. Show Southern California the full glories of the Guadalajara kitchen: I want to live in a world where those tacos ahogados are the next Sonoratown.
Recommended dishes: Carne en su jugo; tacos ahogados; barbacoa de res; tortas ahogadas
Prices: Breakfast, $9-$12; lunch-dinner, $3-$14
Details: Credit cards accepted. Beer, wine, liqueurs. Parking lot. Dining room and restroom are wheelchair accessible.