The Two-Block BurgerWalk–Mexican Style

This is the side door. More on this below.

When I was regularly reviewing burgers in the Sacramento area on this site I found at least three restaurants that served some of the best burgers in town that were easily within walking distance from my office. Esquire Grill and Grange made excellent burgers, but the best burger in the neighborhood was from Ella’s; an exquisite specimen made from Wagyu beef, Gruyere, and topped with a sunny-side up egg! All of the above were, and I imagine still are, nice places to eat where the burger will run you from $15 to $20. I don’t spend that much on lunch anymore nor do I eat much beef–it’s easier on the digestive system and on the planet to stick with poultry and veggies. On the occasions when I eat out, I take it easy on my wallet. One place that is more practical and yet very good is La Cosecha: a patio-style Mexican restaurant in Cesar Chavez Plaza here in Downtown Sacramento. Its main customers during the week appear to be civil servants, like myself, on lunch breaks, but from its impressive website, La Cosecha is also open for dinners and weekend brunch, so this only shows what a homebody I am. La Cosecha, or in English “The Harvest,” is impressive considering its small footprint and funky design on the west side of Cesar Chavez Plaza.

The place used to be called Cafe Soleil and it had less of a restaurant, more of a taco stand feel: line out the door because the food was good and the understaffed crew seemed unorganized. The windows and glass doors were covered in pastel-colored copy paper that featured the latest new and scratched menu items. Some of these signs were misspelled and often used unnecessary quotation marks that only gave the place charm. I don’t remember what kept bringing me back, the excellent breakfast burritos or the unintentionally humorous signage.

When the owner died after a long bout with cancer, her partner took over, but could not make it work and Cafe Soleil closed in or around early 2015. This was mostly due to renovations the City was doing to the plaza that made it difficult for the restaurant to attract customers with construction signs and fencing perpetually around. After Cafe Soleil closed the structure remained vacant for a couple of years and the eves of the building became a respite for the homeless that claimed the plaza after hours and on the weekends.

When the building reopened as La Cosecha in May of 2017, it was with a consistent menu, a full wait and kitchen staff and inviting details that made it look less like a taco stand and more like a sit-down restaurant. The only thing quirky I noticed about the place is how customers were discouraged to use the convenient side doors near the to-go window herding them through the front door even if they wanted to pick up an order. It’s a little confusing, but not a big deal.

La Cosecha’s menu features a lot of great sounding stuff. If I don’t watch it I’ll be camped here every lunch until I have tried all the dishes. Also, their Saturday/Sunday Brunch items make me want to get up early on the weekends and make the trek. Normally, though I stick with either their fish or chicken tacos. On this day; however, I wanted to try a torta and found just below the two tortas entries, a hamburger. I had to check it out–GI tract and environment be damned! I’ve been to run-down Mexican drive-ins that have called their hamburger a torta, but I believe that is a misnomer. La Cosecha clearly makes the distinction on their menu. So, in the spirit of honest labeling, I am having today, the Mexico City Burger.

The Mexico City Burger with fries.

The Mexico City Burger (CDMX) is an eight ounce beef patty, topped with melted cheese, mild poblano chile peppers, pickled onions, arugula, Cosecha’s special sauces on a large sesame seed bun. The poblano and the pickled onions give the Mexico City Burger a one-of-a-kind taste. I can’t say it ranks with any of the burgers I listed at the top of this post, but it is also about four dollars cheaper and a very different experience. The melted (or Fundido) cheese also gives the burger a festive taste–like nachos on a burger. This is not the kind of dish you want to order on a first date–it is messy with each bite the molten cheese pulls apart so that you often have to use your other hand to manage the stringy cheese. As for the arugula, well that’s just the chef’s damn good taste! Oh yeah and the waitress and Google helped me with the trailing parenthetical acronym: CDMX stands for Ciudad de Mexico or Mexico City. Thanks, waitress!

The fries aren’t bad, but lack the character of the main event: plain, but crispy steak fries where I was hoping for some Mexican seasoning or some other element that made them stand out. The dish is served with a ramekin of ketchup and a steak knife. I didn’t need the ketchup, but as I struggled with the molten cheese I knew I should have used the knife! I was grateful the bun held up and didn’t disintegrate as so many buns do when handling these kinds of ingredients.

As I write, this I can tell I am jonesing for some more La Cosecha. This burger is worth a reprise, but there are so many other things to check out: Carnitas De La Plaza, Tijuana Caesar Salad, and maybe one (or both) of the two real tortas. Buen provecho!

Some lunchers at the bar of La Cosecha.

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