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When eating is part of your vocation and you live in a city of over 6,000 dining establishments, it can take some time to schedule trips to the places you want to go. My calendar reads like a food debris-stained menu. Dot of ketchup on Saturday means visit to a new Mission Hills eatery. Grease smudge on Tuesday equates aptly enough to pork in Kensington. Ring of pint glass condensation...well, that means I'm drinking beer again. (There are a lot of condensation marks on my calendar.)

With so many places to go, it's rare I have a free day where I can just say, "I feel like going to [blank]" then just casually do it like 99.99% of the population. Thankfully, last night, I had such a rare opportunity when I visited a friend of mine in San Marcos. We'd made plans to meet up and catch up, knowing it would involve food, but neglecting to predetermine where we'd get said sustenance. Being equally enthusiastic food maniacs, of course, the first topic we bridged was "where are we gonna eat?"

It hit me like a brick of unsweetened Mexican chocolate hurled from the nearby expanses of Vista.

The Oaxacan tamale place!

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I'd just posted about Panaderia Oaxaquena Y Restaurant the same day and internally vowed to get a mole stain on my calendar come Hell or highwater, and here, in North County right by State Route 78 and trying to determine where to get dinner, was the perfect opportunity. We seized it and, within minutes, were at ground zero for ground ingredients being served up in various thick, long-stewed sauces.

Turns out, Panaderia Oaxaquena Y Restaurant has multiple moles. The chocolatey, black Oaxacan kind I found at the center of the best tamales I've ever eaten; a similar yet much more spice- and chili-driven red variety that looks almost exactly like its darker cousin; and a yellow type that I didn't sample, but likely will on my next visit.

I had wondered what it would be like to have the black mole in greater quantity. Sometimes something that rich can turn out to be a bit much when it's the star of a plate versus a supporting castmember, but I found myself running my fork through the sauce, into my rice, and into my grill repeatedly after the two pieces of plump, juicy chicken it was served with ran out.

Chunks of pork served in the red mole proved the better of the two proteins, but neither lacked. That said, neither dish was as good as those tamales, which, astoundingly, turned out to be a mere $2.75 apiece. Compared to less filling plates ranging near the $10 mark, I consider that proof God does, indeed, love me...and good masa wrapped in banana leaves.

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In addition to a full menu of Mexican dishes that go far beyond gringo-geared fare, Panaderia Oaxaquena Y Restaurant (as the name states) is also stocked with a vast array of Mexican baked goods, most sporting bright pink and yellow icing. Just another reason to seek out this strip-mall standout. Panaderia Oaxaquena Y Restaurant is located at 1275 South Santa Fe Avenue.

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