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Aug 2, 2007 06:48 PM

Looking for authentic Mexican in San Diego

I'm currently in San Diego and looking for some good, tasty authentic Mexican food. If it happens to be touristy is of no consequence, it just has to be good. There seem to be a bunch of places in Old Town, but hard to tell if they would be any good. Does anyone have any recommendations?
Thanks, Richie

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  1. My recommendation would be to avoid the Mexican food restaurants in Old Town like the plague.
    We've had nothing but bad experiences there. I say experiences because we've given them more than one chance.
    The only Mexican food places I could recommend would be in the far East County. I'm sure someone will be more help than me soon.

    1. Authentic (*whatever* that really means), Mexican and San Diego are not 3 words that go together very well. The best home-style Mexican is at Super Cocina at 37th and University. The Mexican restaurants in Old Town are plain not very good and certainly not authentic. There's not really much in the way of Mexican food here that gets my attention or turns my crank, which is really too bad given our proximity to the border.

      3 Replies
      1. re: DiningDiva

        Ack..... that's a bit shocking to me. I was born & raised in North County SD and the family run & owned Fidel's Little Mexico ion Solana Beach was our weekly dinner place. I've heard many people say it's the best Mexican food in the state.... of course it's not *that* authentic, i.e. they don't have any mole dishes or cochinita pibil on the menu...... but I agree in staying away from Old Town as it's kind of the San Diego version of the El Compadre-El Coyote good-excuse-for-a-few-margaritas kind of places we get in L.A. Just my two cents on FIdel's though, there's no place like it, especially up here in L.A.

        1. re: tijn2001

          I live in Eden Gardens essentially, but have not frequented the 3 restaurants that much. Fidels is always packed, but to tell you the truth, the 4 or 5 times I've eaten there, while the meals were good, didn't seem out of the ordinary compared to an El Toritos or something.

          Tony Jacals seems to me to have more unique dishes. I like Jacals better, but again, I've only eaten at each about 4-5 times in 4 years. I've eaten at Don Chuy's just once, but I remember a decent mean.

          1. re: deeznuts

            There's not much in Eden Gardens but it's no time for CH'ers to give up on it yet! For a memorable treat you'll have to step away from the collection of restaurants there and get out on Stevens where just up the street there's Rudy's, a Mexican market and taco shop. There's one singular item there that has most people returning, which is their Carne Asada. [I'm imagining that the High School just up the street will end-up graduating some of the pickiest Carne Asada snobs around!] Sure you'll have to sit outside on concrete patio furniture, or inside on a counter in the crowded market, but at least you'll be content.

            Amazingly tender Arrancherra grilled over wood with just the perfect amount of char, with a deeply concentrated and beefy taste that I can only compare to, well not steak, that'll be too whimpy and watered-down in comparison, but to the most flavorful and intense artisan "cowboy" style beef jerky, but without the teeth-pulling bite. This is tender stuff that you can easily tear apart with your fingers (along the grain, of course; grab one of their plastic knives and forks for going across the grain)...

            One further rec: order it as a plate or a torta for best results. I also toss the top bun on the torta and eat it open-faced to more properly balance the CA taste against/the starch of the bun.

            ...and finally how about some Rudy's Carne Assada food porn:

      2. Old Town is very poor.

        I vigorously second Super Cocina. That's the real gem of San Diego Mexican food.

        1 Reply
        1. re: Josh

          Thanks for the recs. We ended up eating at a pricey but good place last night called El Agave on San Diego Old Town on the recommendation of our host. It was good but we were looking for more home style places like you recommended above. We will try Super Cocina as we are not far from there. Thanks, Rich

        2. Love Hacienda de Vega in Escondido..voted top 50 best Latin restaurants in the US..

          3 Replies
          1. re: Beach Chick

            Also La Cocina de Maria in Escondido, Fiesta oaxaqueña in the Escondido swap meet, Oaxacan bakery (for bread only; tamales on weekends) on Juniper between Grand and Second in Escondido, and the Oaxacan restaurant in Vista (name escapes me) owned by the same family as the bakery.
            That said, I ate at Fiesta Tepa-Sahuayo in Wastsonville earlier this week, and nothing we have here, not even Super Cocina, can touch it. I can't see myself ever being in Watsonville again, but I will remember the food for years to come. Thanks, Chowhound!
            On the coast, La Especial Norte in Encinitas does have some great soups (not that it's soup weather right now). Avoid the rest of menu.

            1. re: maestra

              Did you ever write up fiesta oaxaquena?

              1. re: maestra

                I know it's three years old, but this was a helpful post to me. I was hoping to find something in San Diego that was reminiscent of Fiesta Tepa-Sahuayo (sadly, it has closed). But I'm sure there are other delights to be found.

            2. El Comal on Illinois near University. It's a table-service restaurant with a full bar.

              1 Reply
              1. re: mikec

                I was very impressed with El Comal.