I've been encouraged by several people to check out El Papagayo Restaurant in Carmichael, so I decided I'd better give it a try, since it's not as easy to find vegan Mexican food as you might expect. What could possibly be more vegan than beans, rice, and tortillas, for example? But if the beans and tortillas are made with lard, or if the rice is made with chicken broth, there goes your nice vegan meal.
But El Papagayo has a separate vegetarian menu (be sure to ask for it) that lists numerous dishes that are either vegan or can be made vegan. So I had lots of choices when I stopped in for lunch one day last week. I decided to go with the first item on the menu -- the two Baja Style Tofu Tacos, described as fried tofu topped with fresh cabbage salsa and homemade diabla cream, which wasn't actually cream or any type of dairy product at all. Rather, it was a spicy red sauce. The salty fried tofu chunks and the cabbage salsa, which contained refreshing bits of mango, were served on soft corn tortillas. It was a tasty and filling meal.
On my next trip to El Papagayo, I'm going to try the two Mexican Style Tacos, which are street tacos filled with a choice of soy chorizo, nopales verdes (cactus), potatoes, or mushrooms. These tacos are topped with onions, cilantro, and salsa. Other items on the vegetarian menu include burritos, enchiladas, salads, and fajitas, most of which appear to be capable of being made vegan. Be sure to tell your server that you are vegan so that he or she can warn you about any unexpected non-vegan ingredients.
Complimentary tortilla chips are served with your meal, and there is a salsa bar with several different salsa choices to go with your chips.
El Papagayo is located at 5804 Marconi Avenue in Carmichael, near the corner of Marconi and Fair Oaks. Their phone number is 916-487-7742, and their website address is http://elpapagayo.net/. They are open Wednesday through Sunday from 9:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m., and closed on Monday and Tuesday.