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Encinitas - One Year Later

So, it has been a year (almost) since we moved to Encinitas and began our search for Chow-worthy (in my humble opinion) eats. Felt like it was time to start another thread about the area, revisiting our likes and loves, seeing what still makes us say "Yum" and what has fallen by the wayside. I intend on posting a hodge podge of dining experiences in the Encinitas area, trying to categorize as well as I can, in no particular order.

I will start with Mexican Food, always a favorite topic here in the SD area.

Again these are not in any particular order.

La Especial Norte - This is the restaurant we eat at the most often overall (not just talking Mexican). We love everything about it from the delicious soups to the mole to the camerones rancheros, to the reasonable prices, to the comfy booths. The lunch deal (Mon - Fri until 4pm) here is killer. For something like $7 one may consume a soft drink of choice, a cup of their awesome chicken soup, an entree (chicken mole, bisteck racheros, camerones racheros, etc, etc), rice, beans, and chips and salsa. Dinner is excellent as well. We have learned that they have had the same head chef there for the 30 some odd years they have been in existence.

Bety's - Wonderful, down home, and affordable as well. A family operation - Mom and Dad in the kitchen, kids out front. Love the mole, fish tacos, everything. Actually, we have not been there in a few months and need to get back.

Karina's - for the ceviche and shrimp cocktail.

El Torrito Market - for the carnitas (to go) and the guacamole and salsa fresca. They offer much more as well, just have not tried any of it.

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  1. Awesome idea for a post Enorah.

    All I can say is hear hear and thank you for posting on our confident Mexican Bastions to our NW!

    Got to get back to Especial!!!

    9 Replies
    1. re: kare_raisu

      ...and speaking of Especial, to my gringo palatte I must say that I enjoy their menudo better than the one I just had at Menuderia Don Vicente. I found the menudo at DV to be underseasoned, though the tripas was cooked to perfection. (I most definitely need to give them another try; perhaps I went on an off day [last Saturday])?

      Perhaps I maybe too used to Especial's version. Would be interesting to hear from others on this, particularly from those who are more informed than I on the cuisine. KR?

      ...and I can't agree with you more Enorah on Karina's, Bety's, and El Torito Market. These more "right sized" Mom and Pop shops are something special indeed. I especially like the story of Bety's, and how she saved up her money working multiple jobs to open up her shop. I'm sure the other shops have similar life stories waiting to be told.

      As many others have said before, it takes more than just ingredients and skill to make good food, but also love and commitment.

      1. re: cgfan

        If you found the Menudo to be underseasoned at Don Vicente, I think you would enjoy the Super Cocina Menudo a lot more too.

        Super Cocina's menudo is heavy on the epazote and chile base whereas DV is quite gentle. There is more tomato and less chile in the red broth.

        I've been ordering the white lately - and bringing fresh mint - I think its more aggresively seasoned because the white broth is cooked with the patas.

        In my first DV post I wrote:
        "My favorite taqueria up in Fallbrook - Las Brisas serves up a 180 degree different tripe soup. Theirs is everything a masculine taqueria menudo should be - in its aggresive, hearty. ersatz-caffeine eye opening style.

        In contrast, the menuderia's soup is delicate, nuanced, and gentle. There is not a hint of poorly cleaned tripe aroma - which I call out to be the reason for the gauchupine adversity."

        I guess you can call it "Menudo, refined." The owner told me they tested 13 different recipes before they perfected it. Also all three ingredients (tripe, broth, hominy) are cooked separately - which may not be the case at Especial. I think this accounts for a less agressive flavor.

        What did you think of the costillita amuse-bouche?

        I need to get to Especial real bad now!
        PS Thanks for taking the time to mention you went there.

        1. re: cgfan

          PS Do they have Menudo everyday at Especial? Is there honeycomb? Its been ages since my last visit - and I cant remember whether or not their tortillas are handmade - are they?

          Let me know if you'd ever be interested in chowing down there, cgfan/

          1. re: kare_raisu

            KR: Thanks so much for your analysis on the DV menudo. I was thinking along the same lines while I was eating it, that I might actually be mistaking a more refined recipe for a lack of seasoning. Certainly I've grown accustomed to Especial's menudo - if I ever get up to the Fallbrook area I'll have to check out the Las Brisas version!

            Re. Especial's menudo they use a "towel tripe", which I personally enjoy the most for the purpose. I didn't even realize it myself, thinking that I randomly drop in on the weekends for the menudo, but they only make it on Sundays. I must have looked like a deer caught in headlights when I dropped in there one Saturday and was suprised to hear that they only made it on Sundays. (I generally don't find anything else to be of much interest other than their soups, though in an ealier life I ate more broadly off of their menu...)

            As to their tortillas I'm pretty sure they are not handmade - at least they certainly do not seem to be... But then again this gringo always asks for tortillas de harina, for certain a crime amongst the traditionalists!

            As far as a daily menudo in Encinitas that'll be left to Karina's, though when ordering there I'm almost always pulled towards ordering their seafood items.

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            La Especial Norte
            664 N Coast Highway 101, Encinitas, CA 92024

            1. re: cgfan

              As DiningDiva or Eat Nopal would tell you [i think she or he told me this] that there is always a salt shaker tableside at a Mexican establishment worth its weight.

              I kind of like this approach because everyone has a different level of salt tolerance. When we went to Texcoco for the CD, I noticed all the other table diners' hands in salt shaking motion. Though, I thought it was fine seasoned.

              I like all tripe - but I think I like towel the best too. I am very fond of book tripe too - which I think is all I have had in Pho (I wish they put more in it!)

              Hey - flour tortillas and Menudo is not a crime cgfan! Especially for Menudo a la frontera [border style menudo]. I love going over to my friends house when his mom makes menudo for breakfast because she serves both toasted boillo rolls and corn tortillas in her Guadalajara styled menudo. I think I prefer the bread the best of all as an accompniment - perfect for soaking up the broth!

              Las Brisas is a trip! Go there on a Sunday morning [though they have it both sat and sun] and you will be amongst all of the hearty agricultual workers. I never fail to elicit a grin from a few of them when they see me slurping up some fine menudo with them on a chilly Sunday morning. :)

              1. re: cgfan

                Other restaurant info

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                Betty's Tacos Restaurant
                1464 Encinitas Blvd, Encinitas, CA 92024

                Karina's Taco Shop
                916 N Coast Highway 101, Encinitas, CA 92024

                El Torito Meat Market
                948 N Coast Highway 101, Encinitas, CA

                1. re: Enorah

                  We ate at Betty's tonight. It was so good. I had a carne asada huarache and a carnitas sope, my sweetie had the camarones a la (grilled - can't remember the Spanish word).

                  Wow

                  Delicious, better than we remembered it to be.

                  1. re: Enorah

                    Funny. Since posting about Bety's we have eaten there three times again now. Every time has tasted better than before. Got an extra special treat today and met Bety, who is warm and generous. Lovely to feel her heart.

                    My sweetie had a carne asada burrito

                    We shared the cheese and epazote quesadilla

                    I had the carne taco & grilled fish taco combo

                    YUM!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

            2. re: cgfan

              Yep, The Love is unmistakable cgfan. It is that ingredient that is most important to us when dining.

          2. I love Especial, but I think of it as a winter place. One because of all the soups, but the other reason is that it gets so gosh darn stuffy in the back room on a warm sunny day. I keep thinking they are going to do something with that little patio in the corner of the parking lot, I would really like a little alfresco dining even if it looking at a parking lot. I guess that is why we head over to Fidel's or Tony's in the summer. Their food is not close to being as good, but you can sit outside.

            2 Replies
            1. re: littlestevie

              I was at La Especial on a hot day in the back and it was nice and cool. Maybe they turned up the ac? I love spicy food on a hot day.

              It would be nice to eat outside there, and you are right - Fidel's/Tony's - no comparison.

              1. re: Enorah

                When I worked for Koreans - they always insisted I had some of their spicy tofu soup for lunch with them in the middle of July!

            2. So

              Sushi

              Kaito

              Of course

              The best and freshest with an amazingly relaxed vibe. I wish them well in their new locale.

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              Kaito Sushi
              130-A N El Camino Real, Encinitas, CA 92024

              3 Replies
              1. re: Enorah

                While I am talking about Japanese, I will also mention Yu Me Ya.

                Yu Me Ya is a traditional izakaya style restaurant, small portions and plates of delicious Japanese delicacies.

                It is a small and once again family owned and operated restaurant with absolutely wonderful food.

                Udon, Oden (in the winter months), fresh seaweed salad, takoyaki, the bay scallops with mushrooms, and on and on and on.

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                Yumeya
                1246 N Coast Highway 101, Encinitas, CA 92024

                1. re: Enorah

                  Kaito and Yumeya, no doubt some of the best food in San Diego!

                  1. re: Pablo

                    ...and according to Kaito's "Sushi Blog", it looks like they're going to be bringing in some more Kamasu (Japanese barracuda) tomorrow! http://sushikaito.com/SushiBlog.aspx What a lineup!

                    I had my first Kamasu just a few days ago, and it was truly a memorable taste (and olfactory) experience. I've always thought that Tai (Japanese sea bream) had all the other tane (ingredients) beat on the taste of its skin, but the Kamasu is certainly in the running! http://www.flickr.com/photos/akatayam...

                    Though on texture Tai has Kamasu solidly beat, the salt-water-like aroma when its skin is roasted is incredible, and the flesh is just as elegantly flavored as any Tai I've had.

                    Sensitively topped with just a touch of raw Kamasu, yuzu koshou and sea salt, it was ready to eat as is. What followed an initial explosion of flavors was the most pleasant, lingering aftertaste, not unlike a beautifully sustained note on a lone violin.

              2. Restaurant Info

                Oh, darn it. I meant to link the restaurant info here and screwed up. Hopefully, a helpful chowhound mod will delete.

                1. The Encinitas Cafe

                  Who doesn't love a good diner?

                  This has become one of our regular haunts as well. It is as old school (can we still use that expression or is it over, I never really liked it anyways) as it gets.

                  Comfy booths, cash only, homemade soups, house roasted turkey, yummy burgers, etc, etc

                  My sweetie loves the cobb salad with their house roasted turkey and extra crispy bacon (mmmmmmnnnnnnn bacon!).

                  Breakfast is served all day (one of my favorite comfort food dinners to have). The hash browns are awesome.

                  And, it is pretty easy to eat dinner there for around $20 for the 2 of us.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: Enorah

                    Restaurant Info

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                    Encinitas Cafe
                    531 S Coast Highway 101, Encinitas, CA 92024