Taqueria @ Northgate in San Diego
So, my boss, his secretary and myself found ourselves about a block from the Northgate grocery store and in need of a place for a quick lunch today. We headed over to Northgate and tried the taqueria.
I'm not sure what my boss had, but his secretary - always an adventursome eater - had two tacos, one of chicharrones in salsa verde and the other of buche (mostly pork stomach). She said the bouche was pretty good but the chicharrones only so-so. I had two tacos as well, one of chorizo (which also included diced potato) and one of carnitas. The chorizo taco was the better of the two and is actually one of the better ones I've had in S.D. The carnitas were tender but not terribly flavorful.
Tacos are $1.50 each and each comes with two very decent corn tortillas, are generously filled with your choice of about 6 or 8 fillings and then topped with the usual chopped onion, cilantro, salsa and lime. Other fillings included azada, cabeza, lengua, barbacoa, chicharrones in salsa rojo (in addition to the verde) and a couple of guisado type options.
My boss did not have a beverage. His secretary had a horchata which was utterly horrid. It was clearly from some type of mix as it was so sweet you literally could not drink it, and tasted of nothing but artifical flavor. I can honestly say it is the worst horchata I think I've ever had. I had an agua fresca de guanabana, which was much better, though a little weak on the flavor. But I'm not sure it's guanabana season and I've never really seen them in S.D. I tried it mostly because it *IS* my favorite agua fresca in Mexico and this was the first time I've seen it in San Diego.
So, on the hot food at Northgate I'd say it's hit and miss as the chorizo and buche tacos were pretty good, but the carnitas and chicharrones lacking. Best bet would be to try different things to find what you like best.
I also picked up a Pan de Muertos which is absolutely divine. There is nothing iffy about this version. While I have some reservations about recommending the taqueria at Northgate I have no reservations whatsoever about recommending the Pan de Muertos, it's pretty solid.
Yes, they do sell both by the pound. The taqueria is part of the in-store food court. Next to it is a steamtable selling mostly soupy, stewy guisados, things that hold well in moist heat. Next to the steamtable is a pizza station. Then comes the deli. First the ceviches, several varieities, followed by bulk salsas and then finally the hot protein items.
Cabeza and buche were both available there, along with chicharrones from the belly with hunks of meat still attached (delicious), morongo sausages, several beef preparations and even a few deep fried, whole tilapia that looked good, but I would suspect were probably a little dry. Most of the deli itmes were between $2.99 - $4.99, but it was not clear if this was per pound or per kilo. Given the prices it's probably pounds. Next to the deli is a tortillaria selling warm, fresh tortillas, fresh tostada shells and masa preparada.
I was a little disappointed in the quality of some of the prepared items we tasted so I recommend keeping things in perspective. The things that rely on moist heat are better than those that don't. Some of the things in the deli case looked a little tired and dried out. We were there mid-afternoon on a weekday when, logically, they would not be moving as much product, or as quickly, as they would on a weekend when the place really jumps. The products may be better on the weekend when they are able to turn the product more quickly and replace it with fresh product more frequently.
The steam table holds items at breakfast that are all good, mostly eggs scrambled with meats or cactus and served with tortillas, beans and rice. The pozole is very good.
There are fruit cups and larger available, topped with crema that are reasonably priced.
All of the breakfast items are $3.
I did like the watermelon, cantaloupe and lemonade with chia seeds as far as the frescas are concerned. Those were fresh made. The stuff that comes from concentrate or packets...tastes like it does.
DiningDiva- what were the main spice undertones (cinnamon?)in the chorizo -- anything discernable? Was it in-house made chorizo? Do they have chorizo verde by chance?
I have never tried buche, pretty frightened by it actually. Should I give it a try? Can you describe the flavor, texture?
There was no specific spice that stood out in the flavor profile of the chorizo, definitely not canela. It was pleasantly spicy in a mild chile kinda way. The chorizo would have been almost perfect had it been a little stronger and more assertively spiced. What I did like about it was that it wasn't overly greasy like much of the commercial chorizo is here NOB.
I have not seen green chorizo any place in San Diego. I have, however, seen it made in Toluca, Mexico which is where it originated. You can find just about anything in the hispanic markets in L.A., so you may well be able to find green chorizo. Why don't you try asking the question on the L.A. board. If you do find it, you want a product that is kind of a dull, green. Not quite olive drab, but definitely NOT the vibrant neon green that you see with most green chorizo. That neon green color is from food dye, not green vegetables. Chorizo verde is made with a mix of lean pork, seasonings and parsley, kale and spinach. It's actually quite good.
Yeah, buche isn't high on my list of things to try either. I'm just not an offal kinda gal. I can't describe the flavor to you but I can tell you that the texture is chewy and gelatinous. I don't mind chewy, but gelatinous is one texture that I really don't enjoy. Chewy and gelatinous together just don't turn my culinary crank.
In many carnecerias that specialize in chorizo in Toluca you'll see a dish call "Obispo" which is Spanish for Bishop. It got it's name because if resembled the mitred hat worn by the Bishops of the Catholic church. It's kind of a cousin (two or three times removed) to Scottish haggis in that it's a lot of ingredients all cooked together in a pig stomach and is considered a delicacy.........but then so are insects in Mexico. If I recall correctly it could be purchased, whole or by the slice. We had it crumbled and I think it's probably an acquired taste. I recall the taste being a little strong and a little on the bitter side but not unpleasantly so. I think if I ate a little bit of it every couple of weeks I'd probably grow to enjoy it. The worst of it is probably getting over the mental American "ewww" factor and aversion to innards. And I'll own up to not being immune to that aversion, though I do eat some innards, like liver, with no problems.