There are so many taquerias and quick-bite Mexican joints throughout Marin County, it’s hard to pinpoint just one for the excellence of its quesadillas. But when it comes to the letter Q, a good quesadilla is the first thing that springs to my mind.
Quesadillas trump grilled cheese as a wonderful way to eat scads of melted dairy without the weight of too much bread. The added pleasures of pico de gallo and guacamole elevate this simple fare to a colorful one-dish meal.
Though there were plenty of contenders for this category, I picked for quesadillas. It’s one of Marin’s most venerable Mexican restaurants, a downtown San Rafael fixture for more than 30 years, under the same family’s ownership. I like the fact that because it is an established eatery and not just a taqueria, it features some unusual dishes, such as whole deep-fried game hen with a robust chili/mushroom sauce, in addition to the usual round-up of tacos, burritos, enchiladas and other tube-shaped Mexican standards.
What makes Las Camelia’s quesadilla so good is that it is a classic. An almost crepe-thin flour tortilla, sporting that light, dusty mouth feel that comes with very fresh tortillas, is lined with jack cheese that has a wonderfully buttery, delicately aged flavor. The large pancake of a sandwich is lightly griddled, so the cheese becomes an oozy white lava white while the tortilla is cooked just until tiny golden spots pock the surface. It isn’t so browned that it gets tough or rubbery.
On its own, Las Camelias' basic quesadilla is $6.95. I like it with a Mexican flag of condiments down the middle; generous scoops of pico de gallo, crema and guacamole add another $1 to the ticket. They’re well worth it.
If you want a more substantial mouthful, try the quesadilla with marinated steak picado and cheese —sort of a Mexican version of a cheese steak, for $9.95.
Las Camelias is at 912 Lincoln St. (between Fourth and Third), 453-5850. Open for lunch and dinner.