Where: 741 Linden Ave., Carpinteria; 684-3635.
What: A small, specialty Mexican restaurant serving the mole for which Oaxaca is famous.
How Much: Mole negro $10.95, chicken tostada $8.95.
The Dish: The flavors of Oaxaca are best presented through their elaborate, mysterious, and laborious mole sauces. Mole (pronounced MOH-lay) is a classic and powerful traditional sauce made from as many as 30 individually prepped ingredients including smoky chocolate, burnt grain, tomato, chile seeds, and spices. Carpinteria’s Oaxaca Fresh captures the flavor of the Oaxacan region through Mexican flair and time-consuming recipes. A departure from Santa Barbara’s famous taquer-a stands, Oaxaca Fresh provides table service and thick sauces to build upon their dishes. Tight leather booths extend from mustard-sponged walls featuring colorful Mexican decor. A red brick exterior hangs green awnings and backdrops the restaurant’s street-lined outdoor seating. Regulars are wowed by a rotating list of menu specials that are variations on burritos, tacos, rellenos, tamales, and paella. Vegetarians will delight in numerous veggie-friendly options and deliciously fresh pinto beans.
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