HOME > Chowhound > California >


Is Old Town Mexican Cafe in San Diego the place to go?

  • b


  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. I should add that we do like the idea of handmade tortillas...

    1 Reply
    1. re: bboy

      Yeah. . .Old Town Mexican Cafe ain't exactly haute cuisine. It's very touristy, and the food is only so-so. Still, the other aspects of the restaurant, that you have two kids, and you are looking for the right atmosphere, this place would probably fit. Though, to be honest, so would El Torito (okay, Old Town Mexican Cafe is one or two steps above El Torito, but you get the idea).

    2. The lovely ladies out front are so sweet...Catalina was one of my fav's since I was little..
      My DH always get the carnitas and I get the usually a bean burrito or a quesadilla and a marg..handmade tortillas are so good..
      It's not the best but it's not the worst...
      I like walking around the Whaley House across the street afterwards..

      1. Spicy Mexican Grill is the place to be if you really want authentic Mexican food. Old Town Mexican Cafe is the place to be if you want American-tourist Mexican food served in kitschy surroundings.

        1. I just had dinner there last week with a friend (her request). I ordered the Steak Azteca and it wasn't that good. The mexican rice was gummy, the black beans were too salty, and didn't care for the steak marinade. I did enjoy the handmade flour tortillas.

          Their carnitas are supposed to be good I already had a jumbo carnitas burrito from Porkyland for lunch that day.

          1. No. Seriously, it's not terrible but San Diego has so much better to offer.

            Search the forum for Mexican food in San Diego, and you'll find numerous posts providing better options. With a bit of effort, you can find phenominal Mx food in San Diego. If you have to have Mx food in what was once known as "Old Town" try Casa Guadalajara.

            1. Thanks for the replies. It looks like somehow the rest of my original question was deleted. Any alternate suggestions for great Mexican in a family friendly atmosphere (I have 2 little kids, so a leisurely, 5-course meal probably ain't happening) would be appreciated. We are staying in Mission Bay.

              25 Replies
              1. re: bboy

                Casa Guadalajara, at the north end of Old Town, would meet your needs.

                1. re: bboy

                  Super Cocina at 3627 University would be my choice. It aint fancy, but the food is outstanding. I have seen quite a few Mexican kids there.

                  1. re: Captain Jack

                    Super Cocina is definitely awesome. It's about 30 minutes from Mission Bay.

                    1. re: Josh

                      I'm a Bizzare Foods kind of person, so I like to eat a lot of weird food. I tried Super Cocina last week after reading about it here in this blog. I had the menudo and the stewed goat. I tell you that was some foul tasting and smelling food. The menudo had the taste of improperly cleaned tripe. Ah, it was terrible. I would never go there again.

                      1. re: softpap

                        I think your statements are pretty bizarre. I had the menudo with three other diners- 2 of which are fellow chowhounds- sitting next to me. I think they would have noticed or said something if it smelled 'foul.' Those two diners had birria which I thought smelled of the beauty that is a Guadalajaran mother's love.

                        On that occasion we even heard from the owner the methods the take to properly clean the menudo ( lemon juice changes) & birria (vinegar soak)

                        Couple Questions:
                        >Have you ever had menudo? if so, where do you reccomend?
                        >Have you ever had birria?

                        I'd put big money on a SD menudo contest that SC epazote blessed version would make top 3.

                        1. re: softpap

                          Assuming you're being serious, and not just trolling, I think you probably need to go back and try it again. The notion that the legions of Mexican families, Mexican restauranteurs, and other people who are intimately familiar with authentic Mexican food are somehow all wrong, and have been for the past 10+ years, but you, who like Old Town Mexican Cafe and have only eaten at Super Cocina once, are right beggars belief.

                          Obviously, if you had a bad experience then nobody can realistically dispute that. However I can tell you that it strikes me, as someone who eats there regularly, that you either were there on an extraordinarily off day, or simply aren't familiar with the flavors of authentic Mexican food.

                          1. re: Josh

                            Josh, if that is what's called "good authentic Mexican food" then so be it. It's not my cup of tea. I will not go back. There are just too many others that fit my taste. Good luck.

                            1. re: Josh

                              Josh, do you consider Las Quatro Milpas a "good authentic Mexican"? I've been going there for many, many years and I love the food and the restaurant. It feels authentic to me and it is very clean unlike SC. I love their salsa with that big hunk of pork fat that's probably been marinating in that same bowl for at least the last ten years. No, I'm not a shill for Milpas.

                              1. re: softpap

                                To be honest, I've not eaten there yet. What I've heard has been decidedly mixed. Some people I know and respect swear by it, and other people I know and respect think it sucks. What I have heard about it hasn't made me want to go there, however. Even the proponents of it admit that the food can be pretty greasy, which isn't something I personally enjoy. Hearing you speak of a hunk of pork fat in the salsa isn't doing much to whet my appetite, either. It is on my list of places to go, however. It's so polarizing I definitely want to go and experience it for myself. I'm just keeping my expectations low, based on how mixed the commentary I've heard about it has been.

                                1. re: Josh

                                  Josh, you said "Even the proponents of it admit that the food can be pretty greasy, which isn't something I personally enjoy." Are you kidding me? Most, if not ALL of these Authentic Mexican restaurants use LARD (rendered fat from pig carcasses). That is one of the things that make them authentic, IMO.

                                  1. re: softpap

                                    Halt, stop, do not pass go, do collect $200. Most, if not all "authentic" (whatever that is) Mexican restaurants are not serving up massive portions of lard laden food. And while lard may be used in some preparations, it is not the primary cooking fat used. I'd be truly surprised if "most" Mexican restaurants were rendering their own lard...buying it from Smart and Final, Sysco or Restaurant Depot is probably more likely. Mexican food sold in the U.S. tends to be far greasier than that in Mexico.

                                    I *can't* believe you think Las Cuatros Milpas is clean, it hasn't been on my visits.

                                    1. re: softpap

                                      As Diva pointed out, lard is not the sign of authenticity. For example, at Super Cocina the only item they use lard for is the carnitas, and the people in their kitchen are all home cooks, first and foremost.

                                      1. re: softpap

                                        Lard actually has gotten a bad rap. There is nothing inherently wrong with it. It's just another form of fat for cooking. A tablespoon of lard and a tablespoon of butter have about the same of fat as does any cooking oil. It does have colestral (sp) as does butter. Vegitable oils of course do not. It a matter of how much lard is used and how much is used.

                                        1. re: The Old Man

                                          There have actually been a couple of studies done that show that lard is far less harmful than 1) originally thought and 2) many other cooking fats out there. Lard is not hydrogenated, so it certainly beats margarines and shortenings by a mile.

                                          Lard is an animal fat, it tastes good, that's why we like it :-D. There are exceptions to everything, but it's been my experience that for the majority of Mexican cooking, lard is used more as another layer of flavor than as the primary cooking medium. One of the most sublime things in the world is to take asiento (the dregs on the bottom of the pot or kettle used to render the pork fat) and spread it on a hot, fresh tortilla, roll it up and eat. A teaspoon, or less, of asiento on a piece of fish wrapped in banana leaves and then steamed is outstanding. A little goes a long way with lard because it packs such a flavor hit.

                                          1. re: The Old Man

                                            I'm just pointing out that the idea lard is the default fat used in Mexican cooking is a myth.

                                            As for its bad rap, you can't really argue with the fact that it's a saturated fat, which means that it has a lot of cholesterol. All fats have the same amount of calories, but it's the molecular structure of the fat that has a health impact.

                                            1. re: Josh

                                              As Julia Child would tell you--everything in moderation. She did alright.

                                          2. re: softpap

                                            Eat Nopal:
                                            "As the Supreme Mexican Law of the Land =)... I need to ask you to stop... you don't know what you are talking about... Super Cocina is excellent... it will not win any awards for its decor but I've never seen it not be clean... very few Mexican restaurants in California produce food that is as compelling as SC.

                                            Lets say I gave you the benefit of the doubt & think they had a bad day... your reluctance to give it another try, despite being urged by people that know more about Mexican cuisine than you doesn't make you look quite good. Now stop cluttering the Chowhound Apps servers... they are slow enough as it is."

                                          3. re: Josh

                                            Josh, you know I am not a fan of LCM but the salsa with the meat in it is pretty good....once you get past the 1/2" grease slick on top of it ;-)

                                          4. re: softpap

                                            This part about SC being dirty is way off. I've been to both numerous times and Quatro Milpas is consistently dirty, while SC is not.

                                  2. re: Captain Jack

                                    Isn't there any good Mexican in this town where you can eat with metal utensils and get waited on?

                                    1. re: The Old Man

                                      Try El Comal on Illinois just north of University.

                                        1. re: The Old Man

                                          Sure. Casa Guadalajara in Old Town, Tony's Jacal and Fidel's in Solana Beach, and Candela's in the Gaslamp. These restaurants may not satisfy the Mexican food purists, but that's a whole other thread.

                                          1. re: wanker

                                            c'mon now. old town mexican cafe is fun and the food is decent. the environment is really fun and it is amazing to watch those ladies make tortillas and even more fun to eat them. we always bring some home. my kids loved to go there when they were young. it's a great
                                            choice with kids especially!

                                            1. re: keena

                                              There are other places (Casa Gudalajara for one) where they make their own tortillas and have better food.