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Jul 18, 2006 10:33 PM

"Typical San Diego"

Here’s a little vignette that might shed some light on the recurrent question of whether there’s any “typical San Diego” food:

Last night while watching the Padres game on TV, the announcers were discussing Philadelphia’s starting pitcher, a young phenom named Cole Hamels. Hamels was raised in Poway and went to school at Rancho Bernardo High. This was apparently his first trip back to San Diego since starting with the Phillies. They said when he got of the plane at Lindbergh Field, the first thing he told his teammates was, “I’m going to get me a carne asada burrito.” Smart kid.
. . . jim strain in san diego.

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  1. Ha! Yes, he is smart fellow, indeed. I have family in Illinois who yearn for a good old Robertos carne asada burrito, and some rolled tacos w/ gaucamole. Every time I speak with my cousin to reminisce about our summers spnet at Mission Beach, she begins to groan about the ache she has for such a meal. She said there are places out there that try, but fall so short of the mark, she won't even bother. Once when my aunt came out without the kids, they all pleaded with her to get carne asada burritos sans gauc and put them in a cooler. In fact I know several people, including family members, who have relocated and the first thing out of anyones mouth when talking about coming back to SD is how they want to go straight from the airport to get a carne asada burrito, heh.

    1. Carne asada burrito sounds great. So if you were going to get one, where would you go? San Diego is new territory for us but we are trying to get to know it as daughter is starting school at UCSD in Sept. Thanks.

      5 Replies
      1. re: dimsumgirl

        dimsumgirl - I'd got to a Roberto's to start with. They certainly aren't the best (though there might be a particular store that puts out pretty good ones), but they are a data point you should have - probably a good baseline.

        1. re: RB Hound

          Roberto's as in the chain, "Roberto's 24-Hour Taco Shop"? Or some other Roberto's?

          1. re: hatless

            Yes, Roberto's as in the chain (though the variability between various Roberto's is quite high, in my opinion). Maybe some of the stores aren't so good, but most are OK, and some are pretty good. It is a reasonable starting point for a carne asada burrito, much in the same way as Rubio's is a reasonable starting point for a fish taco.

            If dimsumgirl is talking about eating around the UCSD area, the Roberto's on Carmel Valley Road near the ocean has been pretty reliable for me in the past. This one bills itself as "Roberto's Mexican Food" and not as a "Taco Shop", but I don't think the distinction means a lot.

            But "good enough to ship?" How in the world could you take what I posted and exaggerate it to that level? Yikes!

            1. re: RB Hound

              Relax. I know nothing about San Diego and was surprised to see Roberto's earning any mention at all. Then someone else mentioned she ships burritos from SD to a friend in Florida. So I just gave a heads-up to that person that there are what amount to a few actual Roberto's Taco Shops in Florida in case that might tide the transplanted San Diegan over between care packages. Can't know without asking. Easy there.

        2. re: dimsumgirl

          Here is a recent thread on UCSD options:

          Also, ask your daughter to join my UCSD Chowhound Facebook group by searching Chowhound. Thanks!

        3. My best friend moved to Florida in 2000. I now know that 2-3 times a year I will get a phone call: We *need* carne asada burritos...soon.

          I go to WalMart throughout the year and always have at least two of those zippered thermal thingys that will hold a 6 pack of pop somewhere in the house. Costs less than $6.

          After the phone call, I go to the local taco stand and get 6 carne asada burritos, guac on the side please. They will fill a large beverage cup with guac...this is for me because Patty can buy frozen guacamole in Florida, and she has it ready...and they don't charge you less if you don't want guacamole. I also get about 12 containers of hot sauce. The 6 burritos come out to about $24.

          I put the burritos in the freezer that night, separated, so they will freeze, and also take the hot sauce and put it into a sandwich size Zip-Loc and freeze it flat.

          I search the next day for a cardboard box that the 6 pack holder will fit into and get ready...Fedex leaves the El Cajon station at 5 pm. At about 4, I stuff the 6 very frozen burritos into the 6 pack container, laying the flat, frozen hot sauce on top, zip the lunchbox and stuff it into the box, slap a label on it, for next day delivery...regular not early delivery and drive to Fedex...they do NOT allow dry ice and it does not matter.

          I have a FedEx account (I am self employed) and so can just walk to the counter and hand the box to them...

          Patty will get it by 4 pm Florida time and always the burritos have to be nuked..they are still frozen. FedEx charge is about $25.

          I have only done it in the past year in November, December and this past February...its gonna be time for that phone call to come...very, very soon....

          3 Replies
          1. re: Cathy

            Hi Cathy,
            That is so nice of you to do that. I wish my friends in Chicago would do that with deep dish pizza for me

            1. re: Captain Jack

              Well...I do drive through Chicago every year when going to/coming from Detroit for technically, it could freeze in the trunk of the car....

            2. re: Cathy

              I have no idea whether you or your friend in Florida consider Roberto's good enough to ship. Some folks on this thread seem to think so. You also didn't mention what part of Florida she's in.

              If she happens to be in reasonable range of Miami or Ft. Lauderdale, Roberto's opened three locations a few years ago. Something happened, and they got renamed Ernesto's 24-Hour Taco Shop but kept the menu and food didn't change one bit.

            3. Roberto's is definitely good. I tried Los Pancho's today in Chula Vista and relly liked their chicken asada burrito. For carne asada tacos, it's all about Tacos El Gordo in Chula Vista and Tijuana. I doubt there could be a better taco shop.

              1. Um, hatless, I never said anything about Robertos....I said "local taco stand"...she liked the CAB from an obscure place in Santee..I sent her the carne asada meat from Costco and from other local markets...she wants the burrito, with the tortilla and says it reheats properly.

                And she lives in Lakeland, smack dab in the middle of the state, halfway between Tampa and Orlando. The roads going to and from either of those cities are two lanes wide, each....She has still never been to Ft. Lauderdale or Miami since living there.

                6 Replies
                1. re: Cathy

                  Lakeland, eh? She might be getting those FedExed burritos for some time to come, then. I'd be surprised if there weren't at least a couple of decent Mex-Mex taquerias for the immigrant community out there, but if someone's craving SoCal-style burritos, I know it's not the same thing.

                  Anyhow, I don't personally think Roberto's is FedEx-worthy food; I just saw the other mentions of them on this thread and figured it was worth asking.

                  1. re: hatless

                    She found tortillas made by <eeewwww> Wonder Bread in the grocery store there...and...the CAB is what she wants, nothing else...she is my friend after all...not a big deal for me, and kind of fun to be able to do....

                    1. re: hatless


                      I don't think Roberto's in Florida is related to Roberto's in SD. I believe it's a local chain. Everywhere in SD, but I don't think it has locations outside the county. At least I haven't seen any.

                      Personally, I don't much like Roberto's, most probably because I was not eating much carne asada when I lived in SD, and the Roberto's close to where I worked seemed to be terrible at most other things - even simple stuff like bean and cheese burritos. But every native San Diegan seems to have grown up eating carne asada burritos (the point of Jim's original post).


                      1. re: Phoo D

                        Roberto's children have gone on to open their own chains. Lolita's Taco Shops are definitely a cut above Roberto's. They tend to use higher quality ingredients.

                        1. re: Phoo D

                          You have the right idea, ed. Whenever I go to *any* new restaurant (regardless of the name out front), I get the basics...(in the case of a taco shop, its bean and cheese burrito and/or a quesadilla)...I figure if it turns out they cannot do that right, I am not going back...

                          1. re: Cathy

                            Huh - little strange to me since taco shop quesadillas are a pretty Americanized food item. I've been to so many taco shops that do some things well and other things poorly that I've found there isn't really a reliable litmus test.

                            For example, Nico's makes awesome chicken rolled tacos - but there's nothing else on their menu I find all that compelling. Lalo's makes tasty quesadillas (without that horrible oily yellow cheese so many other taco shops use), but I don't find their pastor or asada all that exciting.