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Sep 29, 2006 12:56 AM

Bety's or Juanita's Encintas

I am going to make a taco jaunt out to coastal N. County this weekend and was hoping for some advice for both of these places as well as which one you prefer.

I noticed an add for Bety's in a Spanish newspaper advertising DF style tacos.

Does Juanita's use the copper mesquite fired pot for the carnitas?

And does anyone know the name of the Mexican soup place, if its still worthwhile, and what dishes are good.

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  1. You can't go wrong at either of these Encinitas restaurants:
    Juanitas is on 101 about a mile north of Encinitas Blvd. La Especial Norte is on 101 a couple of blocks north of Juanitas. Bety's is on Encinitas Blvd east of El Camino. La Especial is a conventional -looking- place, but has a remarkable selection of soups. We like the siete mares and the tortilla soups, but we haven't had one that we regretted. They also have more standard combination plates. Bety's is also a sit-down restaurant, in a little strip mall, but the dishes are unlike any I have had anywhere else. The owner said she wanted to make Mexico City street food, and that's what I guess it is. Try a huarache ('sandal') which is an oval handmade tortilla with your choice of meat; I like the carne asada. Juanitas is the classic San Diego taco shop, but get the carne asada burrito. It has some tables, but most people order to-go. Of course La Especial and Bety's will fix to go also, but they have more conventional seating, and liquor licenses. I don't think Juanita's sells beer.

    These are classic Mexican restaurants. Can't go wrong.

    1. kare_raisu: I believe the Mexican soup place that you are thinking about is an old roadhouse called La Especial Norte. It's on the coast highway in Leucadia, just between the Pannikin and Leucadia Blvd. I think all of their soups are good, it's just that I like some more than others!

      For me a reliable standby is their tortilla soup and their pozole, and I do like to have their menudo on the weekends. They must have some 12 or so soups on their menu. The trick is that although most of them are featured on their main "soup page", other soups are scattered about in other places on their menu, particularily the seafood soups.

      Sorry I can't help you on Bety's or Juanita's, though I've been to both. However I am excited about a relatively recent "discovery", El Torito Market, (not to be confused with the big and cheezy chain restaurant), a small Mexican market on the coast highway in Leucadia. I was drawn in one weekend by a sign that they had posted on the sidewalk advertising carnitas. Though I'm no expert I love their carnitas, as I think it beats any other taco shop in the neighborhood.

      They sell it by the pound at only $6/pound, and I also pick up some avocados and Guerrerro tortillas along with some of their salsa fresca at their salsa bar while I'm at it. I believe they might also make soft tacos there, but I've never explored beyond the carnitas to go. It is primarily, though, a market, so there's no place to sit down and eat...

      1. Both places you mentioned are good. I think the fish itself in Juanita's fish tacos is nothing special, but the flavors of what they add to it makes it really nice.
        Bety's makes really good chicken mole and I also like the epazote quesadilla. These are good and inexpensive places for a casual meal.

        1. Juanita's makes the better chile relleno, roasted, not fried like Bety's. Sorry, I don't do meat anymore so I can't vouch for carnitas, only fish. I am going to do a North County taco crawl with some former DF residents in a couple weeks. They eat everything, I will report back!

          4 Replies
          1. re: Pablo

            If you make it up to temecula -- check out Tacos Tijuana. They are the only place up here i Know that has the vertical spit for the al pastor. On the weekends they have the trifecta as well (men., posl. and birria de res).

            Taqueria Temecula is the great standby classic in old town. Incredible.

            Thanks for the tips sof ar everyone.

            If you'd like some escondido recs Pablo let me know.

            1. re: kare_raisu

              kare_raisu, would love some Escondido rec's just in case we make it out there!

              1. re: Pablo

                I like La Cocina de Maria on Mission for Huaraches, Gorditas, Tacos, and a wonderful homemade mole and tortillas. It is a nice little restaurant, with paintings on the wall and family run (Maria is the Matriarch).

                Behind there is a Jugos, Aguas frescas, and Torta restaurant and across Mission is Sabor a Mexico which also advertises a homemade Mole and Cemitas Poblanas.

                Check out the Escondido Swap meet for a real Mexican experience, several little restaurants there, many fruits, nut, vegetable, dried chile vendors, pescaderia, and even a Mexican-chinese restaurant called Hong Kong Cafe.

                You probably read about Panaderia Ortiz off Grand on Juniper, San Diego's only Oaxacan Bakery, not to be missed (Sunday's Oaxacan Tamales). Next door is a Fonda specializing in Tacos de Tripitas if thats your thing.

                The Best Mariscos is probably at El Galeon and there is a Paleteria that comes highly reccomended by RWorange next to the El Tigre Market.

                Off El Norte Parkway is a Salvadoran and Pizza restaurant called World's best pizza.

                1. re: kare_raisu

                  Tahks for the recs! If we make it out there, I will provide a full report!

          2. Though I haven't been there in a few months, you might want to try Karina's, also on 101, just north of Leucadia Bl, just south of the previously mentioned El Torito Market. Though I find Juanita's to be decent, I find Karina's to be much more enjoyable and they have far more in the way of mariscos.

            4 Replies
            1. re: PommeDeGuerre

              what do you recc. from karinas's PDG? what do you compare the two with, carnitas? tia/

              1. re: kare_raisu

                Well, allow me to preface this by stating that I am no expert on the various cuisines of Mexico, I just happen to like what I like. I enjoy all of their seafood offerings, and most of their beef and pork tortas, including the al pastor, carnitas and carne asada versions, though none are as good as what I have experienced in Los Angeles, where I now live (the carne asada and birria at El Parian on Pico are ridiculous). Karina's salsa (served on the side in the ubiquitous Silo plastic cups) work well on most of their products and they used to have at least two versions, including a roasted chile version that you may need to specify, if they still make it. I simply state that I have eaten at both Juanita's and Karina's many times over the last fifteen years and I definitely prefer Karina's. So as long as you are in Encinitas, given that they are both proximal to each other, I would definitely give Karina's a shot. As an aside, La Especial Norte is definitely the king of soup, and you might try El Callejon (sit-down service, with a huge selection of tequilas), also on 101, in the mini mall at the southwest corner of the intersection with Encinitas Bl. One more aside, for great taquitos, there is a small stand next to the Filibertos across from Martini Ranch, also on 101 (called 1st Street, I believe, once you go south of Encinitas Bl) at D Street called Raul's Shack. Happy eating, and if none of these float your boat, no offense will be taken here, though I will apologize for wasting your time.

                1. re: PommeDeGuerre

                  I am only grateful for the time you have been willing to take to share your findings, especially from a person who shares such a passion for the mecca of Birria as I do, El Parian. Many thanks for the greatadvice!

                  1. re: PommeDeGuerre

                    PDG: I'll second your vote on Raul's Shack for their rolled tacos... What I like about them, other than their food, is their incongruous location right next door to Filiberto's.

                    They don't get nearly the same volume of traffic as their neighbor, nor do they want to. They are well aware that they, for the most part, serve a different market than Filiberto's. Many who are used to the speed of preparation at Filiberto's will probably not want to wait the amount of time it takes for Raul's Shack to prepare something for you fresh to order. It's a Mom and Son operation, running in a space that is as close to minimal as you can get.

                    Their operation is particularly interesting in yet another way: due to a lack of space for much food storage they buy most of their ingredients fresh each day. When they run out of ingredients, they'll close early! While fresh ingredients are de rigeur in the fine dining scene, it's great to see the same focus on fresh ingredients practiced in a taco shop.

                    Another interesting note about Raul's Shack - it was profiled as part of a 1 hour segment of Huell Howser's "Road Trip" series on PBS. This particular installment focused on Encinitas where they covered, in addition to Raul's Shack, the Quail Botanical Gardens, the San Dieguito Historical Museum, the Old Schoolhouse, the Boat Houses, and the Self-Realization Center.

                    (Raul's Shack's days may be numbered, though... The son tells me that the powers that be (city/landlord?) are placing all kinds of pressure on them to the point where he wonders whether or not they can continue to stay in operation.)