I really like a pina colada at the end of the week, and I'm certainly not going to make it myself. And as a mom of two, I'm not headed to the Tonga room on a regular basis. Enter Picante: delicious Mexican food, family friendly, and a nice assortment of grown-up drinks.
On the other hand, Cactus Taqueria, with a location on Solano Avenue in Berkeley and one in Rockridge, offers something so kid-friendly that I now make it myself at home. On the Cactus menu, it's called Shen's Burrito. It is a very small burrito “just beans and cheese (nada mas)”, wrapped tightly in foil. My kids can handle this so well, that I'm now disappointed with all Mexican restaurants who serve my kids a burrito in any other manner. Also? A Shen's burrito will run you $1.75.
Total price for a family of four, two of which are under six years old, to eat at Picante is over $45. Total price for four to eat at Cactus is less than $25.
I have used both restaurants for birthday parties. Simply calling ahead, ordering large servings of beans, rice, cheese, tortillas and assorted meats allows you to offer DIY tacos at home to a large crowd. On price alone, Cactus comes out ahead.
Both restaurants have water fountains that entertain children, ie force parents to repeatedly say, “Stop putting your hands in there.”
Picante has a more celebratory vibe, really kid-friendly bathrooms, and did I mention the mojitos? Picante also has outdoor seating, really nice for lunchtime meals, and kids menus with crayons. Also, a final point in favor of Picante, fresh tortillas made in front of patrons can be observed by children. A shy smile or a loud, “Tortilla, please!” will result in a hot one wrapped in a napkin and placed in your child's hands waiting hands: a wonderfully chewy appetizer.
Lunch at Picante
Bottom line: Cactus is my go-to. Those tiny burritos and the great prices bring me back over and over again. It is the place I turn to when I don't want to cook.
And then there's always Tacubaya on Fourth Street….
What do you guys think?