It’s late afternoon at Rosa’s Mexican Restaurant and there’s a lot of dipping and scooping going on. Diners pick up the freshly made tortilla chips – dip them gingerly in a light green sauce or scoop up pico de gallo with gusto – trailing some of the sauce across the table. Amid the light conversation a cacophony of crunching can be heard.
This fascination with Rosa’s chips and sauces did not happen by accident. Leonor Vazquez, who has owned the establishment for seventeen years, works hard to keep her recipes authentic and traditional.
We can’t all travel to the Monterrey region of México to discover age-old recipes, so Leonor does it for us. When she travels to Monterrey to visit her husband’s family, she can’t help but gather new ideas to enhance her already bold and zesty sauces and dishes.
There will be no unlocking of secret recipes in this story. Leonor still has a few culinary secrets she isn’t going to tell. You will just have to come in and experience the flavors for yourself.
The kitchen of Rosa’s is a treasure trove of spicy sauces. A trio of house-made sauces greets each diner as they first scoot their chairs to the table.
A brash green concoction called tomatillo sauce is a sauce for dipping or drizzling, whichever you choose. Dip a tortilla chip or drizzle it on an enchilada or rolled taco. It is smooth, it’s hot, and it’s my favorite. It’s also Leonor’s favorite, so I’m in good company. This one is a secret recipe, and I could guess, but then you can do that too.
Chile de árbol is the main ingredient in Rosa’s spicy red sauce. This potent and powerful sauce is very popular with diners of all ages. It’s flavorful, but also packs a wallop.
Rosa’s pico de gallo is, like the other two sauces, a family recipe born of the Monterrey region of Mexico. Cilantro, tomato, onions and garlic are the ingredients that blend to make this excellent salsa. Make sure you scoop up at least half a chip full!
Drizzle these sauces on any of Rosa’s dishes and all three will serve to enhance, not mask the flavor. If you just can’t get enough – take some home for later. All of the above sauces are available in eight-ounce cups.
You can’t leave Rosa’s without trying some of their guacamole. It is excellent with just about anything, but I like it layered over a bowl of hot nachos.
With locally grown avocados as a base, Leonor adds finely chopped tomatoes and onions, then a bit of garlic and salt. The guacamole is blended well, but has enough chunks of avocado to make it thick. The same family recipe has been in use the entire time Leonor has owned the restaurant.
Other sauces made from scratch include enchilada sauce and the tartar sauce that makes all the fish tacos and seafood pop with flavor.
All those sauces and chips make a person thirsty. To quench your thirst Rosa’s offers traditional Mexican beverages – made from scratch. Horchata, an inspiring rice-based cinnamon sugar drink, is slightly sweet.
Jamaica is a light drink, almost like tea, and is made from the hibiscus flower. Tamarindo is blended from a Mexican fruit called tamarind. Both of these botanical-based drinks are flavorful and refreshing.
Even late in the afternoon, when many restaurants experience a traffic lull, Rosa’s is a bustling place with people coming in and out – and some just staying a while. You’ll find solo patrons relaxing over a book or newspaper; or families basking in the comfortable patio area with the sun and the birds and the fresh air. However, all the diners have two things in common – they’ve come for the great food and they’ll probably be back!
Rosa’s Mexican Restaurant is found at 1075 S. Mission Rd., Suite A, in Fallbrook. The telephone number is (760) 728-8006.