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Maritza's Best Carne Asada? Was this a Joke?

Made a lunch run with some buddies from work on Friday to Maritza's. After reading numerous reviews on the board, touting it as the Best Carne Asada in San Diego, I had to make a trip. One word can describe my experience, Weak. A quality burrito should be round, like a beer can, not flat and limp, and it should be stuffed to the gills with goodness. The eight strip of meat I received in my burrito were tender, but lacked flavor, tasteless and tender are not a good combo. The Salsa was not the typical taqarilla style, although it has some heat it was watery B.S., it tasted exactly like Herdez Salsa Casera right out of the can. Side orders of beans and rice were equally disappointing, some flavorless mashed pintos, and steamed rice with celery. Very disappointing. The service was friendly and warm, but it did not make up for the food. In my opinion, and the others in my party, Maritza's doesn't even come close to breaking the top ten in San Diego. No return trip planned.


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  1. Dunno what to tell you Steve - as a long-time fan of Maritza's carne asada I find your comments to be rather, well, strange.

    On the other hand, I don't judge carne asada by the dimensions of the burrito either. For me, when I see a burrito that's round like a beer can, and stuffed to bursting, I think one thing and one thing only: there's some seriously crappy meat inside that burrito.

    Let's do a little math here - if you buy a burrito for $4, and it's gigantic and stuffed with meat, then that's basically telling you you're dealing with low quality meat. For a restaurant to sell 3/4 lb. of meat with toppings at that kind of price it has to be incredibly cheap stuff.

    Maritza's burrito isn't huge, agreed - but it's made with actual steak. Instead of tiny bits of gristly and chewy meat, there are large chunks of what is clearly steak. You can also taste that the meat has been cooked over open flame, and it's tender.

    The guacamole is also obviously made from mashed avocados, and is not bulked up with mayonnaise or sour cream.

    If you inspected the salsa, you would have seen that it is not Herdez out of the can, but is made up predominantly of chilies.

    The name "carne asada" means meat (carne) cooked on an asador, which is an open-flame grill. So by that measure alone, there are precious few taco shops in San Diego that serve authentic carne asada, Maritza's is one of two that I know about.

    But hey, different people like different things. For myself, I like the flavor of good grilled beef. I find typical taco shop carne adada to be greasy, salty, and gristly.

    1. I was hoping for the traditional flavors of char grilled beef with undertones of citrus and cebolla. I even asked for a lime, which would have improved the flavor, but they had none. Different strokes for different folks.


      1. Not angry, and I believe I know what good carne asada is. I've grown up here in San Diego; I've lived and worked for over 3 years in Guadalajara and Monterey. I have not been to place that serves any scary light green liquid since my days at State (long ago). I guess I prefer a chili-based salsa as to a tomato based one. Also as far a taqarillas goes it was missing many of the key components:

        Horchata, Jimica, Tamirindo
        Hot Carrots
        Salsa Verde, Arbol, etc
        Cebolla (green onions)
        Grilled Jalapenos

        I know this post is about the Carne Asada, but my experience would have been much better with the key components included. As with many taqarillas in San Diego, can someone please make some decent beans? (Quatros Milpas excluded).

        Everyone in my lunch group agreed and my initial review was based on consensus.

        Cheers and enjoy the short week.

        4 Replies
        1. re: stevuchan

          Obviously tastes differ, and I don't think that Maritza's selles itself as a taqarilla.

          That being said, there's a couple of errors here. One is that their salsa isn't chili-based. If you run a fork through it and inspect the pieces you'll see that they are chilies and not tomatoes. Two, they certainly do have hot carrots available. I've eaten them many times.

          I'm not a fanboy, bear in mind - there are only certain things I will order from Maritza's, carne asada and carnitas are about it.

          1. re: Josh

            i tried Maritza's last week and it was pretty good. The meat was soft and flavorful, and everything just fit right. I was surprised how hidden this place was.

            How are the carnitas? I heard they only have it on Wednesdays.

            1. re: okk

              Carnitas are only on Wednesdays, yes. I like them a lot. You get 3/4 of a pound (I weighed them) for $7, with lots of nice trimmings - though the trimmings are sufficient really for two to share.

              If you want them, you typically need to call your order in because they run out.

              It is pretty hidden - seems that their business is mostly made up of homes in the area. I only happened upon it because I was on my way to a friend's place who lived up there and was hungry.

          2. re: stevuchan

            Just curious - since you've spent time in Mexico, have you been to El Asadero on El Cajon Blvd? It's just west of 70th street, and is a Mexican butcher shop with a lunch counter. I've greatly enjoyed the carne asada, barbacoa, al pastor, and carnitas there, and the presence of Mexican day laborers makes me think it's pretty authentic. Plus they have all the accoutrements you missed at Maritza's - multiple salsas, radishes, grilled jalapenos, etc. They also have an asador that they cook the carne on, and I think the beans are pretty damn good.

            It's not pretty to look at, but the food is very tasty - or at least it was a year ago.

            I'd be curious to know if you find it to be authentically Mexican or not, based on your experience.

          3. I've been meaning to give it a shot, I will try to get there this weekend. Another place I've been meaning to try is Carnitas Urapan (Lemon Grove), I've been to the one in TJ on Paseo de los Heros and really enjoyed it (I've heard it's the same family, but not sure). Since it's been so hot, I've been eating a lot more Mexican style seafood. There is a new place by first Vons on Garnet (old Taco El Gordo location) TJ Seafood bar that is very good, I also like La Playa off Clairmont Mesa, and the food court at the "Farmers Market" around 22nd and Imperial (can't miss the sign off the 5). I will report back as soon as I can get to El Asadero. Thanks for the tip.


            2 Replies
            1. re: stevuchan

              I talked to the woman who co-owns Lemon Grove's Uruapan. Her husband is the brother of the owner of the Tijuana location. I like Uruapan myself, but have heard that the TJ location is better.

              I've been meaning to try La Playa too - thanks for the tip.

              1. re: stevuchan

                Give CU a try. If you're looking for good beans, theirs are excellent. You can tell they're made with lard. They close early, so beware of that.

              2. I love the Carne Asada Burrito from the Mexican market (Tony's?) on Stevens in Solana Beach. It's a little market across from Bonjourno's Pizza in a little shopping center. It's large (and round) filled with well seasoned beef. But my all time favorite is from Tacqueria La Bamba, but it's in Mountain View, and it's famous in the Bay area.

                10 Replies
                1. re: PGB

                  Uh........Dept. of Nit Picking here -- unless all those years of Spanish are wrong, this is how *taqueria* is spelled, not taquerilla or tacqueria. Or, unless these are collolquial variations, then just ignor the nit pick.

                  And to Steveuchan, I feel your pain on the Mexican drinks. Horchata, tamarindo and jamacia are almost always from concentrate, bag-in-the-box, at almost every taqueria I've visited in the last 4 or 5 years. Chilango's does make jamacia from jamacia flowers, but I've not found housemade horchata yet; but then again I also haven't looked for it that hard. And, even I have to admit that the horchata and jamacia out of the fountain dispenser are surprisingly good.

                  1. re: DiningDiva

                    You're smarter than I, Diva. I thought "taquerilla" was some exotic new thing I'd never heard of. A misspelling of taqueria certainly makes more sense.

                    Linkery makes a very tasty jamaica. Not too sweet - very good.

                    Supposedly, Super Cocina makes their own Horchata, at least that's what they say. Rancho's also makes their own - again, that's what they say.

                    1. re: Josh

                      It is hard to find home-made. But if the home-made doesn't taste better than the packaged stuff, then what's the point?

                      I find the packaged stuff has too much sugar (or even worse, HFCS) for the amount of flavor it provides.

                      Even in Yuma, home-made in restaurants is very rare.


                      1. re: Phoo D


                        INSIDE the El Toro Meat Market (1007 Eighth Street Yuma) (You had the tacos out in the parking lot in November with Kirk)..they have a nice cafeteria style menu and then horchate and frescas in giant jars just past the cash register. The horchate was fresh-made in November 2005 at least.

                        Its basically an IGA market...with their own tortilla makers, bakery and small-ish cafeteria....

                        and for anyone else reading this, a lot of the IGA's in San Diego, Oceanside and El Cajon seem to make fresh tacos, tortillas, along with having a bakery and great prices in the deli-like cheese case ($4.99/lb for Danish blue). There is a "chain" of three with the words "Food Land" as its name...(no imagination there)...I went in one day last November to get something to drink and was surprised...I now go into any building with "carneceria" signage out front...good, fresh, cheap.

                        Foodland locations:303 Highland, National City
                        5075 Federal (just north at 94 exit) SD
                        1099 E. Main Street, El Cajon
                        Gigante Mercado: 3175 National Ave SD
                        Hometown IGA: 646 F Street Chula Vista

                        They all ahve giant jars of Aquas Frescas, but I suspect they are not fresh made...the horchata is always separated and I can see rice on the bottom sometimes, depends on location....


                        1. re: Phoo D

                          This is actually in reply to Cathy. I appreciate the tip, but when I went to the El Toro Market, alas no jamaica or horchata. The nice man there wanted to sell me mixes or jamaica flowers etc. But your mention of IGAs leads me to think that you mean Del Sol Market - where they have a good buffet.

                          Don't think I've tried the jamaica there, but I will next visit.

                          Nice to find someone else who knows a little about Yuma.


                      2. re: DiningDiva

                        If you have ever made homemade horchata, you would be tempted to get a mix, too. It is a real pain in the rear.

                        1. re: Snackish

                          Nope, and I don't really intend to because it's not really my favorite Mexican beverage. I much prefer some of the other agua frescas to horchata.

                          1. re: DiningDiva

                            The fruit ones are usually just fruit, sugar and water. Easy ! And jamaica is just flower tea. I have never made tamarindo, but I think it is my fave.

                        2. re: DiningDiva

                          Chilango's may make their own horchate, per Gayla's last post on it. Gayla is very savvy about her food.

                          1. re: DiningDiva

                            my problem with dispensed horchata is that the 'goodies' are always on the bottom, and they never get into my glass, which always tastes watery. I'd love to taste some good, homogonized horchata, even if it will meet my monthy need for sugar in one glass. I'm always wanting to yank off the dispenser top, give it a stir, and then draw my drink!

                        3. As a frequent visitor to Maritzas, I find the original post a strange one. The Carne Asada is great (not the best, as that would go to Carmen's Linda Vista) and the rest of the food is spot on as well. The food is always plentiful and the service fantastic. Go to Maritzas. You won't be disappointed.

                          2 Replies
                          1. re: chowhoundII

                            Carmen's in Linda Vista is really just about the same food as Maritza's. All the suppliers and recipes are pretty much the same. I love their chili rellenos which are made by the same person.

                            This is a little confusing, but Maritza's is owned by Carmen whose oldest daughter is Maritza. Carmen's is owned by Carmen's mother. So both restaurants are named after the owners eldest daughter. Carmen's and Maritza's are inextricably linked.

                            I havce to say that their food is good solid authentic home mexican cooking with very good ingredients

                            1. re: Bakcheia

                              By Carmen's Linda Vista - do you mean the location near Mesa College? If so, that place has closed down, and is now a convenience store.

                              I did notice however, that there's a "Carmen's" that has opened up in the Carneceria on Linda Vista Road, in the location formerly occupied by Sieu Sieu BBQ.