Ignacio’s at Red Barn Liquor 4
11558 N. Ventura Avenue
One of my favorite things about traveling is finding a hole-in-the-wall eatery known only to locals. When I find those places I’ve gotten past the places aimed at tourists and found a local secret. And when this happens where I live, well, it’s even better.
I discovered Ignacio’s recently while my son was having an archery lesson at Pergson’s Archery in Oak View. We were both getting hungry and I decided to pop into the Red Barn Liquor store, which shares the parking lot with Pergson’s. The sign says it has a deli. I walk into the clean and well-kept shop, the man behind the counter smiles and when I ask about the deli he points me to the far back corner. Now at this point I feel as though I’ve asked where the restrooms are and am being directed to the hallway leading to the ladies’ room. But no, I see a flashing Deli Open sign and walk underneath it.
And there I find a small food prep area with all sorts of Mexican food ready to be eaten. The sign out front tells us that all the meat — including carne asada, chicken, steak, carnitas — is cooked over a wood fire every day, and there is a wide range of your typical Mexican options — burritos, tostadas, tacos and more. For the adventurous, there are the traditional offerings like beef tongue, but that is a tad outside my range.
So we try the steak burrito, vegetarian burrito and some of the tacos.
Now let’s chat a minute about the size of a burrito. There is something I like to call the college-town burrito. It is a good-sized, some would say large, meal. For some it might be two meals. But it seems hard to find these days. Well Ignacio’s has it. Both the steak and vegetarian burrito were generously sized and packed with all the trimmings. Guacamole, sour cream, fresh salsa, all included. The meat is tender and seasoned well. The tortillas survived the drive home so the burrito could be enjoyed in our favorite way, hand-held.
But I have to say the tacos are my favorite, especially the chili relleno tacos. After I had placed my order I noticed these nice little rellenos staying hot in the metal containers laid out for all to see and order from. I ordered three of them and was asked “In a taco?” Sure, sounds good to me. I had never had a chili relleno taco before. Then I am handed my to-go container of six tacos, two each of chicken, steak and carnitas. But that is all that is in them. At first I’m dismayed, where’s the cilantro? Onions? Salsa? Cheese? But before I can voice my reaction, a metal lid is removed from a stay-cool serving vessel and laid out before me is a self-serve smorgasbord of fresh ingredients. I can add as much delectable cilantro as I want. Choose the hot or mild verde salsa. Go light or heavy on the cheese and onions. And help myself to limes and jalapeños. And don’t forget the radishes, can’t have a proper taco without a radish. Delish!
So the tacos with all the trimmings are fabulous, all the meat moist and cut to the proper size for tacos. The burritos are properly sized and made with tasty pinto beans for the health conscious among us. The chili rellenos offered up in taco form make for a fabulous break from the common taco, and the horchata is offered up cold and sweet.
I took my food to go, but there is a nice patio with umbrellas out front, and there is a thin counter with stools back inside. Ignacio’s would also make a nice stop on the way to a hike or the lake. I’ll have to remember that. Really there is nothing that I would want to change about this place. I don’t even think I would want to change the hallway it is in. It maintains the feeling that I know something others don’t.
In case I thought that my new secret spot was in fact secret, well, I would be wrong. While I was covering my tacos with cilantro, onions and radishes, a couple of National Forest firefighters came in, ordered their regular lunch and said it’s a regular stop for them. Ah well, I guess Ignacio’s is no secret to the locals.