By Deborah Grossman
Viva Taqueria, 2984 Russell St., Berkeley, (510) 843-5565. Lunch and dinner daily.
Viva Taqueria, perched on a triangular island at the base of the stately Claremont Hotel, may be petite, but you’ll find a big meal there—and for a small price. The regular burrito is large ($5.29), but the Bear Burrito, or Del Oso, named in honor of the nearby Cal Bears, is enormous, with two 12-
inch flour tortillas filled with everything imaginable ($7.29). The soft tacos are also huge, with big chunks of pork or chicken ($3.99). The tamales are house-made and filled with generous helpings of meat ($4). Quesadillas, with a tempting golden-crisped crust, come stuffed with fillings of your choice ($2.59–$8.59).
The kitchen staff knows how to deliver true Mexican flavors in the entrées and in the traditional horchata, a cold, sweet drink prepared with rice milk and cinnamon ($1.25–$1.99). If you’re not in the mood for Mexican, you can order a hamburger ($5.49–$6.99).
Best bet: Burritos ($4.99–$7.29).
Cheapest thing on menu: Taquito with meat, onion, and cilantro ($1.59).
Most expensive: Dinner plates such as grilled chicken with rice, beans, and corn tortillas ($6.99), and the one-third-pound burger with bacon and Swiss cheese ($6.99).
Spiciest: Ask for extra jalapeños. The red salsa also has a spicy kick.
Healthiest: Vegetarian options such as grilled zucchini on burritos and other specialties.
Kitsch appeal: A big purple sombrero hanging on the turquoise-hued wall, photos of prepared dishes on the menu at the register, and bar stools that belly up to the counter in the breezeway.
Kid-friendly? Yes. On Tuesdays, kids eat free with an adult minimum order of $6. Small niño burritos ($3.45) are also available.
Speedy eats? Yes.
Big parties? On the patio.
Credit cards? Visa and Mastercard.