If you want the lowdown on where to eat really good Mexican food in Oxnard, here is your list, with one proviso. It's based solely on the merits of the salsas these places put out, whether they're actually Mexican or not.
The list is short — just five made the cut, all of them champions in the Great Oxnard Salsa Challenge 2013, professional division. The judging took place Friday to kick off the annual Oxnard Salsa Festival this past weekend at Plaza Park in downtown Oxnard.
There would have been more winners if it hadn't been for Cabo Seafood Grill & Cantina, which aced three categories — best red salsa, best hot salsa and judges' choice. Disclaimer: I was a judge, but assigned to mild and medium salsas and so missed out on this one except for a hurried taste when the judges had to run through all 31 entries at the end.
The top green salsa came from Tacos Don Chente, a chain with other locations in Southern California. Vallarta Supermarket's Oxnard store won for best medium salsa. And BG's Café produced the best mild salsa. No surprise. That restaurant has been a winner at the salsa festival since 2006. Cabo Seafood Grill has been winning even longer.
Armed with tortilla chips, cups of sour cream, beer and sodas, the judges worked at the kitchen, a downtown restaurant that appeared on Guy Fieri's show (he ate a lamb burger and veggie burger there). The kitchen wound up a winner too, although not out of courtesy. Entries were identified only by a number written on a red chile tag. No. 31, the kitchen's strawberry salsa with red onions and cilantro, won as best specialty fruit salsa. Perhaps it beat out a mango salsa because strawberries are Oxnard's specialty. The California Strawberry Festival takes place there in May.
One more award, people's choice, wasn't determined by the judges but by guests at a VIP party that followed the judging. BG's Café won that too. To bring it even with Cabo Seafood Grill & Cantina, BG's showed pretty well in a third category. Its tacos of cochinita pibil (Yucatecan pork) topped with pickled red onion wound up as one of the best tastes at the party.
Read more from Barbara Hansen at TableConversation.com, EatMx.com, @foodandwinegal and Facebook. Want more Squid Ink? Follow us on Twitter or like us on Facebook.