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Best Rolled Tacos in San Diego?

OK Chowhounds, who makes you favorite rolled tacos in San Diego? Relatedly, if your favorite places is not a drive through, what is your favorite drive through place?

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  1. My favorite rolled taco variety is chicken, hence my favorite rolled tacos are ones which are crunchy, and have a good quantity of chicken inside them, with a good chicken flavor. So far, the best I've found are at Maritza's in Clairemont, and Nico's in Bay Park or Ocean Beach. Both places have rolled tacos with a good amount of chicken filling, and a nice crunch to them.

    What I particularly like about the Maritza's ones is that the chicken is chopped up, so when you bite into the taco, you aren't pulling all the meat out and leaving a hollow corn tortilla tube behind.

    I'm sure there are other good ones out there, though.

    1. The Mojados de Pollo at Mama Testa. If you have not had these rolled tacos, you are missing out. Check out the review and pictures at:

      http://sandiegorestaurants.typepad.com

      1 Reply
      1. re: Captain Jack

        I second the Mama Testa recommendation. I don't remember the spanish names, but they have beef rolled tacos, chicken rolled tacos and then both of them in a broth. The rolled tacos in the broth are DIVINE - I prefer the beef for this, but that's just my taste). They also have rolled tacos with no filling that I thought were fantastic - called Aire or something like that. They surprised me because they were crunchy on the outside and soft inside. Very, very good.

      2. Ok here is the deal. Best rolled tacos? Cotija's in Pt Loma. However, make sure to ask for mexican guacamole. Otherwise you will get some 'souta cleaned' added green stuff that caters to the PLHS students. As far as a drive through, try Roberto's down the road in OB. One tip, get 5 rolled tacos with guac and a large flour tortilla. Toss those suckas in the tortilla and load it up with the salsa (in the lttle plastic cups). Dang, you get all paid!

        2 Replies
        1. re: Pedro LaPayment

          Cotijas are not all equally good or reliable. The one by me (with no drive thru) is marginal at best and a local hang out for meth heads, tweakers and awol students from Patrick Henry. It may be a family owned chain but each location is only as good as whoever is cooking in the kitchen.

          1. re: Pedro LaPayment

            I'll second the Pt. Loma Cotija's. My sis-in-law lived down the street and that was always a stop when we would visit. Her daughter and some of the crew their now grew up together.

          2. Los Cuatro Milpas in Barrio Logan has the best, most authentic rolled tacos. No Guacamole - just Crema and a red homemade sauce over it...

            2 Replies
            1. re: LisaSD

              I'm sorry, I have to disagree. Las Cuatro Milpas serves very greasy, very ordinary Mexican food. There is nothing special about it and no reason to go out of one's way to eat there, and absolutely NO reason there should be a line out the door. It is extraordinarily cheap food, which is part of the attraction. It's one of the most over-rated taco shops in town.

              I will, however, give them credit for their table sauce, the one with the 1/4" layer of grease and meat in it. It is extraordinarily good, not to mention very picante.

              1. re: DiningDiva

                You got chile in my meat, no you got meat in my chile.

            2. The Dulce tacos at Ranas.com in Casa D'Oro are pretty hard to beat. They are listed on the menu as an entree, but you can ask for them as an appetizer without rice and beans. They are 4 crisp (not greasy at all) shredded beef-filled tortillas, topped with crema and cotija lying on a bed of bright green sauce (tomatillo? not sure). The female owner is named Dulce. She said this was something that she made for her family at home and they convinced her to make them for the restaurant. They are divine!

              1. Dining Diva, we took another couple to Mama Testa's based on your recommendations on these boards and also your blog and were thoroughly disappointed in everything we ate there. They have this fresh salsa bar that you would think would provide a lot of variety but a good majority of them had chitpotle in them. What's up with that? Not one of us wanted to ever go back there.

                Los Cuatro Milpas has been around since 1931 and I would venture to guess that they've had lines out front for probably 75 of the last 76 years but I guess those of us who are willing to stand in line over the years are wrong and you are the ultimate authority! Well, you just stay over there in your corner of the Mexican food world in your quarter-filled restaurant (during peak dining hours) and I will wait patiently for another dose of good food that I can get at LCM. Yup, one less person in line makes me happy!

                P.S. Not everything is fried there...they also make delicious chicken or pork burritos with their in-house tortillas...

                20 Replies
                1. re: LisaSD

                  rowr!

                  Only one of MTs salsas has chipotle, perhaps you are unfamiliar with the large number of chile varities MT uses?

                  1. re: LisaSD

                    Well, I'm sorry to hear you had such a terrible experience at Mama Testa, but had you noted the date on the blog entry, it's at least a year old. I haven't been to Mama Testas in at least 6 months, and yes, it can be uneven at times, especially if the owner is not on property. If you'll note, any recent recommendations for Mama Testa usually also specify what to order such as the mojados, chicken soft taco or hard shell mashed potato taco; there are far better versions of carne asada and carnitas at other places in town. Unless things have changed dramatically at MTs in the last 6 months every salsa in the salsa bar was not chipotle based, though chipotle may be used in multiple sauces.

                    It's no secret on this board that I don't care for Las Cuatro Milpas, I've posted many times that I think it's overrated. You're more than welcome to agree or disagree, everyone's tastes and prefrences are different. I have no attachment to being "right" (or not) about a restaurant. They are what they are, which is that some days they're good and some days they aren't. The restaurant business is cyclical and almost every one of them will have periods of great success and periods where nothing seems to work. Comparing Mama Testa and Las Cuatros is like comparing apples and oranges, not apples and apples. MT is a taco shop in an upscale, high-rent, trendy neighborhood trying to appeal to a young, fickle and mostly non-hispanic clientele. Las Cuatros is a taco shop in a decidedly downscale neighborhood, where the owners of LCM own the building, trying to appeal to a local clientele that may or may not have expendable income. MT offers 30+ menu items, Las Cuatros less than 10. Two different taco shops.

                    It's also no secret that I take an umbrella view of Mexican food and find most Mexican food in SD misses the mark. Am I knowledgeable about Mexican food? Yes. Am I an authority on it? Naw, it's too vast and too complex a subject. Am I a Mexican food snob? Quite possibly, yes. What I have had, though, is the opportunity (and the operative word here is opportunity) to spend time eating in Mexico, anything from a street stall to an alta cocina restaurant. I've also had the good fortune to have been able to take extended cooking classes with Diana Kennedy, Rick Bayless, Ricardo Munoz Zurita, Roberto Santibanez, Susana Trilling and several local indigenous cooks, as well as being tutored in local food customs by Cristina who sometimes post on this board. By virtue of these epxeriences my perspective and point of view (or my little corner of the Mexican food world as you put it) on Mexican food at this point is not going to be very mainstream.

                    I'm sorry if you thought I was attaching you when I said I didn't think Las Cuatros Milpas was very good. Like e-mail, which is a very flat communication medium, so are forums like this. I have been disappointed in every visit to Las Cuatro Milpas. Every time I leave I always wonder what the big deal is all about, why people wait in line for so-so food and why everyone swoons when they talk about Las Cuatros Milpas. The parts and pieces just don't add up for me. Mama Testa is good, not great, and frankly, I think it's not as good now as it was a year ago. I think it is having a hard time sustaining it's business.

                    1. re: DiningDiva

                      Well, one thing you and I do agree on is that most Mexican food (or at least the food that is touted on these boards) in SD misses the mark. I have been pleased with the variety and authenticity at Super Cocina and have also had some very authentic dishes at Otay Farms market (they have a little kitchen and make their tortillas one by one - I recommend you try them sometime) down in Chula Vista. I am still searching for more and was hopeful when I visited Mama Testa's.

                      Maybe we can keep searching together (LOL!)...my next attempt will be Sabor Latino and a few others I've read about here.

                      Yes, Josh, I am very familiar with the different chile varieties, I always make my own salsas from scratch like my Grandmother taught me, and I can taste chitpotle and it's smoky flavor instantly. I'm telling you, maybe it was an error, but 3 of the 5 varieties I sampled had it in there.

                      1. re: LisaSD

                        interested to hear about Otay farms market.

                        1. re: LisaSD

                          I think it is the similar-to-chipotle Morita chile you are tasting. I had a conversation with the owner last time I was in.

                          1. re: kare_raisu

                            That was my thought too. Morita has that smoky quality like Chipotle, but a different flavor.

                          2. re: LisaSD

                            I sampled all of the varieties of salsa at Mama Testa's last week, and only one had noticeable chipotle flavor. Wonder if you got some bad batches?

                          3. re: DiningDiva

                            DD--please continue being a Mexican food snob--it really helps steer my tastebuds in the right direction! There is something to be said for discerning tastebuds and the verbal ability to describe what you do and don't like about the food.

                            And I hope Mama Testa's gets back in shape--I'd hate it if they closed down. I dream about their mashed potato tacos and the beef taquitos in spicy beef broth!

                            1. re: DiningDiva

                              Does the Mexican food in SD really miss the mark, or are you guys looking at a different mark? I think most of the Mexican food in SD is what it is, and it bears no comparison to what Diana Kennedy, Rick Bayless, etc. are cooking up. We don't have a Frontera Grill here in San Diego, and guess what, if we did - nobody would go. Nobody in SD wants to pay anything to eat Mexican food, because they think their $5.00 taco shop meals are doing the job just fine.

                              I do think it's interesting that DD responds to any post recommending Cuatros Milpas almost instantly and strongly in the negative. The posts don't say "this is my opinion" they say "this is how it is." While I respect the thought, I don't think what Cuatros Milpas is doing is any worse than most of the taco shops in town, and is quite a bit better than most.

                              I've also eaten at MT, and was somewhat disappointed. I don't think their quality and variety is enough to justify the high prices they charge for a quick service restaurant. I'm sad to say it, but if business is as slow as Lisa says, they probably aren't long for this world.

                              1. re: Alice Q

                                There are good places for Mexican food in San Diego. You just have to get outside your comfort zone and do some exploring.

                                Escondido has good ones (Cocina de Maria, El Galeon), and of course there's the wonderful Super Cocina and the lunch counter at Northgate Market.

                                The idea that good Mexican food (or good any food, for that matter) requires a large outlay of dollars is a myth. I can point to several restaurants in San Diego that clearly demonstrate that cost often has little to do with quality.

                                1. re: Josh

                                  I never said there weren't good places to go, nor did I say that good Mexican requires an outlay of a large amount of money. I said that if people in San Diego were asked to make a large outlay of money for Mexican food - even good Mexican food - my guess is they probably wouldn't. Super Cocina's hours and location don't happen to be very convenient for my schedule, but I will make it there eventually.

                                2. re: Alice Q

                                  I have to disagree with the comment regarding Frontera not surviving in San Diego. If it could not survive with the star power of Bayless to back it, how is the much more expensive Candelas sticking around year after year?

                                  What makes you so positive that there is no interest in eating Mexican food rather than Mexican-American food in San Diego? People are finally starting to grasp what Mexican food really is - as evidenced in the recent - last summer issue of Gourmet devoted entirely to Lat-am eats in the country. The SD reader finally gave coverage of Super Cocina a couple weeks back. I am certain that when interested people get their first taste of Puerco en Pipian or Birria de Chivo, Carnitas estilo Oaxaca, Chileajo or Espinazo con Verdolagas - they are going to be just as bewitched as I was upon first taste.

                                  "Nobody in SD wants to pay anything to eat Mexican food, because they think their $5.00 taco shop meals are doing the job just fine."

                                  Question for you : This statment -
                                  >>" this is my opinion"
                                  or >> "this is how it is." ?

                                  Maybe DD had a bad experience and is just trying to save some Chowhounds some money and time. It is obviously her opinion - just as that statment above is your opinion.

                                  And I for one have to say that - I do respect her opinion above all - especially on the subject of Mexican cuisine. I doubt that there are many other people in San Diego at the level of her knowledge on this subject that I am equally passionate about. (DISCLAIMER: My opinion)

                                  1. re: kare_raisu

                                    I wish I were as optimistic as you are about the culinary tastes and habits of most San Diegans. I just don't think people here are generally willing to pay a lot of money for Mexican food - I think it's clear that that is just an opinion, and maybe a flip one at that. I'd love to be proven wrong.

                                    I also respect DD's opinion about Mexican food, but I think you're just talking apples and oranges if you compare what passes for Mexican food here to the cuisine she is discussing. I don't think most Mexican food here misses the mark, I just think most people apply a different standard.

                                    Also, there's really no need for anyone to jump in here and attack me or defend DD, I think we're all on the same side ultimately.

                                    1. re: Alice Q

                                      I dont want or mean to attack you - I respect you immensely as well.

                                      You - if anyone is - are a great proponent on our side of a battle for the betterment of San Diego's Cuilinary conscience. Which is a noble goal.

                                      If been an avid reader of your blog - and I am returning to San Diego from Sonoma County/SF after living up here for 8 months. We share similar sentiments on the level of SF compared to SD. I am going to miss SF in this respect - but SD is getting better. I hope to do some more explorations in the future to prove it to you guys.

                                      1. re: kare_raisu

                                        glad to know you are coming back here, as I have benefited from your posts.

                                        former Sonoma County resident as well

                                        1. re: kare_raisu

                                          Welcome back! I've missed your informative and well-written posts.

                                          Will you be in North County or farther south?

                                          1. re: Joseph

                                            North county and then in month possibly north park
                                            Thank you!

                                    2. re: Alice Q

                                      Does San Diego Mexican miss the mark? Yes. The Mexican kitchen has a remarkably stunning breadth and depth in ingredients, flavors and dishes. We get a rather minisucle slice of the range of the cuisine, and what we get is often just so-so. Los Angeles has a far greater Mexican offerings, many of which are considerably better than so-so in quality and execution, and reflect the diversity of the cuisine. The last time I checked San Diego was still closer to the border than L.A. Logic would seem to indicate that a city smack dab on the Mexican border should have really good Mexican food options...not the city 150 miles north of the border. So in that respect San Diego is a very disappointing Mexican food destination; we are a taco shop town with a taco shop mentality. Which is too bad because if you can get past the taco and taquitos, what you'll find is an immensely satisfying cusine.

                                      Mexico has a much richer and much deeper food culture and connection to food than does the U.S. in general and San Diego specifically. Another contributing facotr is that for a long time San Diego was a "pass through" city as immigrants headed for parts of the country where the job options were better. L.A. and Chicago certainly fit that bill, and their Mexican restaurants reflect that. North Carolina has seen tremendous growth in their hispanic population in the last 5 years and the Mexican food available there shows it.

                                      And AQ is right about one thing, too many people equate Mexican food with "cheap" or "poor" and are not willing to pay more than $3.50 - $5.00 for Mexcian food because that is their perception of the value of the food. But that's a taco shop mind set. I think Taco Bell and their meal deals of huge amounts of American fast food for almost nothing should shoulder some of the responsibility for the attitude. However, many Americans have never been exposed to Mexican food beyond tacos, enchiladas, tamales, soggy chile rellenos and quesadillas of flour tortillas. Sure those are part of the Mexican diet, but they are not the bulk of the diet.

                                      Several weeks ago the Business section of the U/T had a very interesting article about the influx of Tijuana businesses that are finding ways to do business in San Diego. The bulk of the businesses featured were restaurants and they see us as an untapped business growth opportunity. I wish them much luck and success because as they do grow and find their respective niches, we will, undoubtedly benefit with a wider, and hopefully, better choice of Mexican options.

                                      What I really wish people would do is just go and try some of the less mainstream places mentioned, in any genre, not just Mexican. It's a tremendous opportunity to educate the palate and discover what you do like or dislike. Some will disappoint, some will surprise, some will enchant, but rarely is it of no intrinsic value. Asian flavors are truly unique and foreign to me. Whenever I try a new Asian place I always go with an open mind and as few expectations as possible. Sometimes I like it, sometimes I don't. I don't get that upset with the person who may have recommended it, nor do I take that meal to be completely representative of the cuisine. It was just one impression of one meal and how it tasted on that day. I chalk it up to just another dining experience and, for me with the Asian cuisines, another learning experience. Trust me on this...everyone is an expert on food, everyone has an opinion on or about food. It's that simple. If we don't eat, we die. We're all experts on what (food) we need to survive. I yet to meet anyone who does not have some kind of opinion on (or about) food.

                                      An educated palate is neither right, nor wrong, it simply knows what *it* likes.

                                      1. re: DiningDiva

                                        Hi DD,

                                        Can I add my two cents?

                                        > Not only is L.A. a much better destination for Mexican cusine (and I say this as a critic of L.A's offering).... but Chicago (imho) surpasses L.A. (at least on a per capita basis): http://www.chowhound.com/topics/464538

                                        > I think both Chicago & L.A. have so much untapped potential. There are many factors why Mexican cuisine NOB is less well represented than say Japanese or Thai (if we factor in the size of the Mexican immigrant population versus that of Thai / Japanese).... some of it has to do with the demographics of the immigrants themselves (very few have food biz experience in Mexico... often come from the poorest places etc.,)... but a lot of it has to do with the mainstream American's readiness (or lack there of) for it. Case in point... in Brentwood a French born & trained Chef who had spent that last 20 years of his career in Mexico City opens Casa Antigua offering competently prepared traditional specialties from Central Mexico (Huitlacoche sauces, Duck in Mole, Rabbit Mixiotes etc.,)... all the stuff we Mexicans are typically proud of. Within 3 months... the local yam-yams by virtue of their voting dollars had turned into a Quesadilla & Margaritas bar blaring with Salsa music (not even Mexican Salsa.... Nuyorican & Cuban stuff

                                        )

                                        My general, stereotyping interpretation is that traditionally Southern California has had a very shallow culinary culture... recently the Wannabees (the consumerist Upper Middle Class) has gotten into all things Tuscan, Marseille & Catalan (probably as the result of travel to Europe)... and their new found appreciation for Fine Dining comes from the desire to imitate or to wannabe rather than an internal, well entrenched conviction. As such, when they are faced with the prospect of a cuisine (that comes from a country they view as impoverished, backward & unfashionable)... that has every bit of technical difficulty & sophistication (with arguably more variety) than French, Spanish & Italian... it treathens their fragile wannabe psyche and in Machiavellian fashion they choose to only embrace the side which fits their neat little pre-conceptions of the world and its Fashion/Coolness Caste System.

                                  2. re: LisaSD

                                    I like both Mama Testa's and Los Cuatros Milpas. Yes, CM is not fancy stuff and is instead home style recipes from the 1930's but it tastes very good to me. I agree it can be a bit on the greasy side but that's part of the 1930's authenticity in my mind.

                                    -----
                                    Mama Testa
                                    1417 University Ave Ste A, San Diego, CA 92103

                                  3. forgive my New England upbringing - but what's the difference between a Rolled Taco and any other Taco?

                                    8 Replies
                                    1. re: SRosie

                                      The corn tortilla is rolled around shredded beef or chicken (or sometimes fish or mashed potato) and nothing else is inside...and then fried crispy so it is like a small cigar shape...then you might dip it into salsa or guacamole or just eat the meat and crispy tortilla.

                                        1. re: stevuchan

                                          or flautas "flutes" - more commonly flour tortilla but have seen corn as well.

                                          1. re: kare_raisu

                                            I always thought flutas were only flour- flour tortillas make larger items and therefore more flute-like...never saw rolled corn tortillas called flauta. Where?

                                            1. re: Cathy

                                              SF & Sonoma County

                                              btw taquitos are aka coditzos in Yucatec Restaurants.

                                              1. re: Cathy

                                                I've seen corn tortilla flautas here in San Diego, too. Can't recall where it was, but it was more than one place.

                                                1. re: Cathy

                                                  Central Mexico...

                                                  I have never seen a Flour flauta in Mexico (but I have never traveled the Northern part extensively... but in brief passings through Sonora, Nuevo Leon & other places... and eating many casual meals at homes of people from Sonora & Nuevo Leon... I have never even heard a mention of flour).

                                                  I think the term Rolled Taco might just be a San Diego thing... when I first saw the thread the first thing that came to mind were Barbacoa or Cochinita Pibil tacos which are typically served rolled (instead of open faced), but not fried..., because of their juices there is a proper technique required.

                                                2. re: kare_raisu

                                                  I've also heard tacos dorado, just to add to the diversity of terms...

                                          2. Go to Encinitas. Go to the northwest corner of the intersection of D St., and 101. Go to Raul's Shack (in a small building, next to Filiberto's). Order rolled tacos.Eat rolled tacos. Delicious.

                                            -----
                                            Raul's Shack
                                            490 S Coast Highway 101, Encinitas, CA 92024

                                            1 Reply
                                            1. re: PommeDeGuerre

                                              I agree.

                                              I ate at Raul's today.

                                              Delicious chicken rolled tacos

                                            2. I love Las Quatro Milpas rolled tacos and about everything they have..
                                              I have been going for over 40+ years and never had a bad meal..
                                              I think SD has great Mexican Taco shops..each one is different in taste and style and love their differences and embrace them all..
                                              Drive through place would be Roberto's on Convoy..

                                              1. I Havent tried them yet but the lamb barbacoa rolled taco orders Josh an I saw El Borrego looked breathtaking

                                                1. My fave place is the mighty mighty El Indio Taco Shop near Downtown.The place has been there forever and does the best Rolled Tacos (beef).I am an ex patriate San Diegan and live now in Sydney Australia,where,sadly one cannot obtain good Mexican food.Or bad Mexican food,for that matter.The Aussies don't "get" Mexican food-I was served a plate of Nachos w/Thai Sweet Chili sauce on top,once,and had to speak to the waitress about this gross error.A Taco Bell opened here for a few years and once I walked 4 kilometers in the rain for a Burrito.I am that desperate.It's strange,because Aussies are Foodies of the first water,and one can get tortillas,etc.in the grocery stores.Aussies are also notorious beer swillers,and we all know how well Mexican goes with beer.So the next time you complain about your Mexican food,pause and remember me,stuck in the Antipodes,with nary a rolled taco within shouting distance,and count your blessings!! Cheers!

                                                  1. I happen to like Cotixan's rolled tacos. It's a nice size place in a strip mall here in Mira Mesa. They have real avocado guac. not that 90%sour cream crap.(however if its on it I'll still eat it).

                                                    This is off the subject a little but is there a Mexican food buffet place anywhere in San Diego?

                                                    Oh! One more thing. Have you ever heard of a major fast-food chain closing it's doors only to re-open as a taco shop? It has happened here in Mira Mesa...A BurgerKing closed and became a Robertos. I myself do not like Robertos. Just because they are on nearly every corner doesn't mean it is good.

                                                    3 Replies
                                                    1. re: sd4life

                                                      In Escondido and Vista there are Mex-Buffets - let me know if youre interested in driving that far - if so - Ill look up the addresses.

                                                      1. re: kare_raisu

                                                        Tell me more about these buffets! I'm in Vista on occassion.

                                                        1. re: surfer1966

                                                          Not too big on Buffets [cannot vouch for it] but I noticed this one when I go to the Oaxacan restaurant in Vista:
                                                          http://maps.google.com/maps?sourceid=...

                                                    2. They are called Taquitos not rolled tacos dammit!

                                                      7 Replies
                                                      1. re: akaBobby

                                                        Thank goodness we got that straightened out after 3 years.

                                                        1. re: Fake Name

                                                          Well I'm new on ChowHound, so this thread was new to me. Glad to help out all you confused San Diegans out there who have been mistakinly referring to them as rolled tacos for as long as you have. Your welcome. ;-)

                                                          1. re: akaBobby

                                                            Interesting thing about the word "Taquitos"- I promise it's not the first time I've heard it.

                                                            El Indio claims it's the "birthplace of the Taquito" and, if I remember correctly, there was a legal case claiming it as a trademark. So, not all rolled tacos are Taquitos- have a look at any of the 'bertos or MXN. None use the term- all say "rolled tacos". 4Milpas says "roll taco".

                                                            You're welcome.

                                                        2. re: akaBobby

                                                          Somone lied to you. Taquitos, flautas, rolled tacos... who cares? The guy who owned El Indio happened to decide to call his taquitos. Does not make it the only dictionary defined word for this delicious tortilla cigar.

                                                          1. re: PommeDeGuerre

                                                            Yes! I vote that we call them tortilla cigars from now on!

                                                          2. re: akaBobby

                                                            This nomenclature debate is interesting to me. We recently had the same discussion in my family. My daughter-in-law, who grew up in Orange County but now lives here, pointed out they're called taquitos just up the freeway and always have been. But she kept seeing and hearing about "rolled tacos" when she moved here. The frozen product in the supermarket are all called taquitos. I'm thinking rolled or roll tacos may be strictly a San Diego thing and that everywhere else they're taquitos. Wonder how this evolved as it did in SD?

                                                            1. re: mcgrath

                                                              And then there's the Flauta. Typically flour tortilla and deep fried, but the similar cigar shape.

                                                              To paraphrase Uncle Sigmund:

                                                              Sometimes a flauta is just a flauta.