Food Fight: Sope Bowl

This week everyone’s been focused on the big game, I figured this installment of Food Fight should focus on sopes—it’s the Sope Bowl! (Sorry, I can’t resist such a good pun!)

Sopes are delicious small bites that start with a little round of fried masa topped with meat and vegetables. I headed to two of my favorite Mexican restaurants to see who makes a superior sope.

Round 1: Taqueria del Mar

Tucked away on Lighthouse Avenue, Taqueria del Mar makes some of the freshest and most flavorful Mexican food in town. I usually find myself here for lunch about once a week, usually enjoying a simple lunch of a taco and a limon Jarritos. But the other day I was looking for something different, so I opted for a chicken sope ($4.49).

The sope at Taqueria del Mar was piled high with shredded chicken and cabbage.

The sope at Taqueria del Mar was piled high with shredded chicken and cabbage.

My sope arrived topped with generous portion of fresh vegetables—chopped cabbage and pico de gallo—and shredded chicken, with a touch of sour cream. When I cut off a wedge of the masa foundation, it was thick and doughy. Hmmm. This was certainly a change from the usual fried “cracker” in most sopes. Needless to say, I was a little skeptical how it would taste, but the masa was light, not gummy. It was seasoned on the grill, giving it a bit of chile flavor.

As I made my way through the heaping plate of food, I was impressed how such a large portion didn’t feel overly heavy. It was a great value for lunch.

Taqueria del Mar is at 530 Lighthouse Avenue in Monterey. 831-372-7887. www.yelp.com/biz/taqueria-del-mar-monterey

Round 2: Rosa’s La Villa Taqueria

When I popped into Rosa’s La Villa Taqueria for dinner the other night, I wasn’t terribly hungry, so I decided to make a small bite dinner—a cup of albondigas soup ($4.50) and a half-order of chicken sopes (three for $6.95; also available as a full order of five for $9.95).

The sopes at La Villa Taqueria were more traditional, fried masa fritters topped with chicken and lettuce.

The sopes at La Villa Taqueria were more traditional, fried masa fritters topped with chicken and lettuce.

The sopes followed the traditional recipe—a small round of masa fried crispy, a bit like a thick tortilla chip. The masa was nice and crispy, and despite being fried, it wasn’t greasy. The sopes were topped with a small dollop of tender shredded chicken, then a generous sprinkling of iceberg lettuce.

I was a little disappointed by the lackluster lettuce—it was watery and bland, killing the flavor of the chicken underneath. The tomatoes were likewise a disappointment—completely flavorless, like those boring Styrofoam tomatoes you get at a cheap deli counter.

Thankfully, the albondigas soup was flavorful enough to make up for the shortcomings of the sopes.

Rosa’s La Villa Taqueria is at 766 Broadway Avenue. 831-920-4979. rosaslavilla.com

The winner:

Rosa’s La Villa Taqueria usually gets my vote for the best Mexican restaurant in town, but I have to admit that the sopes were a bit of a letdown—the first dish that’s truly underwhelmed me at this little taqueria.

This time, Taqueria del Mar came out the clear victor, without any questions about this referee’s calls.

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