While I was talking to a friend about restaurants, he mentioned a Mexican restaurant called Que Viva in Cameron Park and told me it served handmade tamales.
I drew a blank, which rarely happens to me when a local restaurant is mentioned. I asked if it was new and he told me it had been there for a number of years, right in the middle of Burke Junction.
I had eaten at a lot of the restaurants in Burke Junction, and slowly it came back to me that there was a Mexican restaurant there. So I called my friend Russ Salazar and told him we had a place we had to visit, and that they had tamales, something he is always looking to try.
As we drove up to park in front of the restaurant, I began to remember more. I had been here nearly 20 years before when it was called Rogelio’s and later Mision Rogelio Mexican and Seafood Cuisine.
Rogelio Oritz expanded from here and opened several other Mision Rogelio Mexican and Seafood Cuisine restaurants in the greater Sacramento area, all of which are, sadly, now closed.
Back to Que Viva. It has been owned by Isabel and Moises Rodriguez for the past 10 or so years and a it is quite popular. People have told me on weekends it can even get a bit crowded.
As you walk in, in front of you are line of booths, while over to the right is a room of tables. The decor is what I would do if I had a restaurant, a fountain, lots of ceramic animals and “this and thats” all around. An eclectic collection of great stuff (one person called it “adorable.”)
We sat down at a booth and went over the menu. As I have mentioned before, normally we try a chile relleno and something with chile verde, two dishes that seem to rate a restaurant (at least for us). However, Russ has been looking for good tamales and those were on his mind.
Our server, Freddie (his real name is Alfredo) brought us some warm chips and salsa while we continued to pore over the menu. Both the chips (thin) and the salsa were very good. Freddie told us he has been working there for 18 years, first for Rogelio and since then for the present owners.
The menu and the specials board have quite a list of both Mexican and Latin American dishes, some of which are quite exotic and unique. Even though we were tempted otherwise, we chose to stay with the regular Mexican food and decided to split a chicken enchilada, a chile relleno and two tamales, one pork and one chicken.
When the food arrived the presentation was very nice. Russ immediately pointed out that the tamales had the proper corn husk “tails” sticking up, which I guess makes it easier to remove the husks.
The tamales – especially the pork tamale – were excellent. Both the fillings and the masa coating met Russ’ high standards. I also liked them and even added a bit of their salsa to the tamales to zip them up a bit.
The chicken enchilada was full of deliciously prepared meat and the chile relleno was well made, delicious and up to my standards. Even the rice and beans were great. It was a good meal.
The people in the kitchen know they are doing. I can see why the restaurant gets such high ratings from customers.
Normally at this point I would tell you all about the menu, but they are in the process of updating it and didn’t have any small ones to hand out. So, imagine you are in a successful Mexican restaurant that is kid friendly, clean, makes great, unique margaritas (I’m told) and wants to please you with their food and service. If you are looking for something special in Mexican food, they should have it.
Que Viva! is open for lunch and dinner, Monday through Friday from 11 until 8, Saturday from 11:30 until 9 or 9:30 and on Sunday from noon until closing.
Owner Moises Rodriguez is a professional guitar player and entertains from 6:30 p.m. on weekends.
For more information give them a call at (530) 677-3330.