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Cheap Eats in Downtown San Diego, near Horton

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I'm down in downtown for the summer and wanted to get advice to cheap, good eats around here (the interns seem to be on a budget.)

BTW, any recs for good carnitas around here?

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  1. Wecome to town OKK,

    I don't know about downtown but there's a little hole in the wall in Pt. Loma not too far from you with great Carnitas:

    Hector's Mexican & Seafood
    1224 Rosecrans St, San Diego, CA
    (619) 221-9138

    Harbor Drive to Rosecrans, turn left, down around five blocks on your right.

    Not as good as the best pork I have had in Mexico but great for around here.

    1. The best carnitas are, of course, in Mexico. You can still find very good carnitas at Carnita Uruapan in Lemon Grove, about 10 miles East of downtown, or at Porkyland in Barrio Logan, about 5 miles sort of southeast from downtown. Further south is Por Venir which does very, very good carnitas. It's a hole in the wall place, but worth the effort.

      1. Yeh, I want good carnitas, short of going to Mexico or marrying a mexican wife.

        I've had two general types of carnitas: one that seems like just normal stewed pork, and ones that seems to be stewed with jalapenos and chiles. Where can I find more of the second type?

        1 Reply
        1. re: okk

          Uh, where are you from and what do you think carnitas really are, in other words, what are you expecting them to be? The one thing they are not is stewed, either with jalapenos or without. Making carnitas may involve some "stewing" at the beginning, but they should be crispy on the outside and succulently tender on the inside. They almost never come with jalapenos cooked into them.

        2. Please don't hurt me! I'm a newb.

          pardon the terminology. I don't cook much.

          I did, however, have some carnitas that had jalapenos and chiles, and the flavor was all over the pork. It might not be the carnitas you're referring to, but that's what they called it on the menu.

          Thanks for the previous suggestions.

          2 Replies
          1. re: okk

            That's not carnitas. That sounds like chile verde.

            DiningDiva's recommendation of Carnitas Uruapan is the one I'd suggest following. It's the sister restaurant to one in Tijuana, and they make it the traditional way.

            Traditional carnitas is deep-fried pork shoulder.

            Stewed pork with jalapenos is something else entirely.

            Also, be aware that a lot of places try and pass stuff off as carnitas that isn't, because most people don't know any better.

            One last piece of advice - don't just get carnitas anywhere. The number of places that do it properly is small. Most places have bad carnitas - the good spots are few in number.

            Some places I've had what I consider to be good carnitas:

            Casa Guadalajara, just north of Old Town on Taylor St.
            El Cuervo Taco Shop, Washington St. in Hillcrest
            Carnitas Uruapan, Lemon Grove
            Porkyland, Logan Heights

            The other places Diva mentioned I can't speak for, but the fact that she mentioned Uruapan and Porkyland tells me that she knows her carnitas!

            1. re: okk

              Sorry, wasn't trying to be mean, it's just that what you described as carnitas doesn't really resemble or describe carnitas. Think pork confit, I think that would be a close approximation. That's why I asked what you thought carnitas were. Also, there is so much BAD, or bastardized, Mexican food served in the U.S., it helps to know what kind of Mexican food you're used to eating.

            2. Sweet. Thanks Josh. I'm in here to learn more from you gurus.

              1. El Porvenir is great...and an absolute hole in the wall...it has TWO tables now and I have been going there since we moved here in 1984 for fresh tortillas as well as an occasional perfect taco or burrito (with or without beans)...that and the occasional chile rellenos on weekends are all they have..oh they do make good tamales also...used to be 60ยข back in 84...probably more like $1.10+ now...we would bring a cooler and tell them to fill it, then take it to a beach picnic with the guys on base at North Island...

                The original posters' description of chiles and jalapeno almsot sounds liek either chile verde whcih is pork, or even just "shredded beef" like in a mixed burrito...

                1 Reply
                1. re: Cathy

                  Another vote for El Porvenir's carnitas. The way they concentrate the essence of pork flavor is amazing, especially with the occasional extra crispy bits for texture.

                  Here's the interior, have to get a pic of their food next time:

                2. A couple more suggestions, and I'll try to keep mine downtown:

                  Downtown Johnny Brown's by the Civic Center makes some good eats (burgers, salads, etc.). Try Caparell's by First and Ash for good pizza and Italian (their stuffed breadsticks are yummy, too). Across the street from Caparell's is Mixon's Liquor and Deli, and they make good sandwiches. Grab 'n Go makes good subs (a few locations, and the closest to you is on W. Broadway). I'll second Sushi Deli 2, Pokez, and The Cheese Shop - good choices. If you like sushi, try Kiyo's in the Gaslamp. Much cheaper than most sushi places down there (i.e., Taka), and good quality. A coworker of mine loves Mama Gucci's on Sixth for home-style Italian food, but I have yet to try it. Enjoy your summer in San Diego, and report back on places you try!

                  3 Replies
                    1. re: okk

                      It was Sushi Deli 1 that moved to Hillcrest. Sushi Deli 2 is in the Spreckels Theater next to Horton Plaza.

                      1. re: James Patrick Griffin

                        Thanks! I dunno why I got the two mixed up!

                  1. Not downtown, but go to Albertos. A funky little walk-up / drive-thru mexican joint. I can only recommend the one on Convoy Street next off of Balboa Ave. The others never measured up in my eyes. Have not been there in many years (live on the east coast now) but cannot forget the Carne Asada Burritos or the Rolled Tacos (aka taquitos) covered in guacamole. Make sure you ask for their hot sauce.