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April 2017

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A Little Slice of Paradise at El Paraiso

Generally Femme de Joie doesn't linger long in Anderson. It's a place she passes through on her way to someplace else. But recently she was bopping around the environs looking at thrift stores and second-hand junque places (junque being high-class junk) when, feeling peckish, she decided to take a chance on El Paraiso.

That location has seen a number of establishments come and go over the years. The only one M. de Joie recalls was The French Cafe, and since she never set foot inside it, couldn't say for sure if it was actually French or not. There were a few others since then, none of which seemed enticing, but the colorful, lively exterior of El Paraiso called her in. Inside was apparently refurbished within the last couple of years: pleasant and clean, booths lining the eastern and southern walls under the windows, a few tables in the center, and a shiny bar across the room.

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Quesadilla de cameron, $9.99, was well worth the money. An extra-large flour tortilla was filled with plenty of rock shrimp and a modicum of Monterey Jack cheese, then grilled just enough to slightly crispen the tortilla and melt the cheese. Too much cheese is a sin against fish dishes, but here there was just enough to hold the quesadilla together without obliterating the sweet taste of the shrimp. Serving size was generous enough to take part home. The refried beans were especially good - about half mashed and half left whole - and along with the rice was house-made.

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The menu said that if you don't see what you want, to ask and they'll make it. M. de Joie asked for fish tacos and the friendly waitress said yes, sure, they could make that for $2.39 each. This was one of the better non-deep-fat-fried versions around, loaded with fresh chopped tomatoes, lightly grilled fish, onions and cilantro, and a spicy salsa verde on the side. Like the shrimp quesadilla, there was no unpleasant "fishy" taste. The grilled green onions were a great accompaniment to each bite of fish.

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Amico del Signore was eager to try out El Paraiso with M. de Joie. Being a chile rellano afficiando, he ordered the special of the day, a chile rellano burrrito. The chile rellano was made from a fresh green chile (not the somewhat slimy one out of a can) and filled with cheese, deep fried and wrapped in a flour tortilla along with rice and beans, then covered with a chunky house-made tomato sauce and cojito cheese. Ridiculously cheap at $5.99, it may not have been authentic Mexican cooking, but each taste was distinct and flavorful, not at all greasy, and good value. Alongside the burrito, A. del Signore chose a shredded beef taco - made here with a flour tortilla, so if you prefer corn tortilla (as he does), be sure to specify. Still, it was packed full of tender shredded beef in a not-too-hot savory chile sauce with cool guacamole and sour cream.

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Sometimes leaden chimichangas come to the table oozing oil, but this chicken chimichanga ($9.99) was light and crisp without any greasy overtones. Packed with beans, rice, and lots of shredded chicken, and topped with guacamole, sour cream, and pico de gallo & cojita, this was a very filling lunch that did not feel heavy.

El Paraiso is a great little place for lunch or dinner, offering a family-friendly atmosphere with daily specials that make dining affordable. The fare isn't weighted down with too much sour cream or smotherings of cheese; tastes are light, fresh, and distinct. If you're in Anderson, check it out; if you're in Redding, take the drive south and enjoy this homey little place with good cooking.... or enjoy the same food in Redding, more about which soon.

El Paraiso Restaurant, 3310 West Center Street, Anderson, CA 96007. 530-378-1355. Open daily, 11:00 AM - 8:30 PM. Beer and wine. Cards, cash; no checks. Parking on-site. Vegetarian options. El Paraiso is on Facebook. Website and menu here.