Mexican San Diego for the Serious Chowhound
Along the lines of this thread http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/540566 will the gang step up provide their favorites?
... and others... where are you?
We may not have the diversity of Mexican in Los Angeles but -thanks to our proximity to Baja California and the 4th largest city in the Mexican Republic - the level of cuisine or expectation thereof is at a higher conscience than can be superficially [roberto's] seen.
We can count these styles of Mexican cookery, specialization in our Arsenal:
> Alta Cocina
> Comida Casera/ Guisaderia
> Carnitas Specialists
> Sinaloan Seafood Specialists
> Regional Barbaqued Lamb specialists
> Oaxacan Representation
> Impressive Panaderias
> Rare drinks presence
> Best Tequila and Mezcal bar in the country
> Torta specialists
> Taquerias that would survive in TJ
Lately Super Cocina - hasn't been as extraordinary as it once was for me. Maybe its just because I have been going too often but for the 'quintessential' Mexican for the serious chowhound experience - I am going to have to give the edge over to Aqui es Texcoco.
The food at Aqui es consistently delicious and impressive. I never leave without a huge smile on my face and full belly. You get a better idea of a proper sequence of a Mexican meal - soup in the form of consomee, sopa seca - rice, beans, veg - nopales salad, and the main event of Barbacoa de borrego, Postre of Camotes enmielados or flan. Supplemented by antojitos that are traditional to this style - quesadillas of huitlacoche, flor de calabaza, and mushroom, flautas estilo estado de mexico, homemade aguas (best horchata and Jamaica in SD). Salsas that are produced specifically for their partners - 4 in all.
I went with Paco shopping in Tijuana for the restaurant - he knows the different mercados and stores where he can get the best ingredients for the restaurant. This man is a chowhound - which means that his restaurant is a sanctuary for people like us [ on a side note, he also knows how to party - fearlessly mosh pitting at the Cafe Tacvba concert with me! :^) ]
After Aqui in order:
> Mariscos Godoy
> Super Cocina
> Tacos El Paisa
> Las Brisas Taqueria
> La Barbacoa
> Mariscos German
> Tacos El Gordo
> La Cocina de Maria
> Tamales Ancira
> Fiesta Oaxaquena
> Menuderia Don Vicente
> El Agave
> Negro Durazno
> Las Cuatro Milpas
> Las Moreilanas
> Pozoleria Dona Maria
> Mama Testa
Haven't tried Aqui es Texcoco yet, but I will!
I used to go to Super Cocina, and I agree with you regarding it's decline. We have some Mexican foodie friends who also used to go there but now frequent El Sol on University, a hole in the wall between Hillcrest and North Park. It's true, that El Sol is convenient for them being near their home, but the are really loving it right now. I ate there once and was impressed enough that I will have to go back and explore their menu.
Almost any restaurant that survives for more than 5 years has routine ups and downs in it's business cycles. Whether it's good, bad or so-so usually depends upon who's in the kitchen and how closely kitchen management is keeping an eye on things. Since Super Cocina employs what are essentially home cooks that make their own specialties and not set recipes, it only stands to reason that as the cooks come and go there will be some ups and downs with what is served. SC may simply be in a transitional phase where some of the really great cooks have moved on and they've not yet been able to find and recruit new ones that are as good (or better). It's probably just a matter of time.
It's hard to keep the level of food at consistency high levels for long periods of time with what is most likely a very transitory kitchen/cooking staff. That Super Cocina has been able to do it for years is pretty amazing and I'd be willing to be they will return to their previously high levels at some point in the not too distant future.
Great list K.R
My list would also include. El Torito, On the Border, Chevys, and Southbeach Bar and Grill. Just Kidding: P
Two more places I would add to KRs List
El Borrego. The particular dish I love at El Borrego is the Mixote of course. I also feel their handmade tortillas are among the top three in San Diego. Ironically these are two items not found at Aqui.
La Fachada (Truck) although they can run inconsistent. I would put this place right behind El Paisa. Find me another place that makes a better Gordita.
Are we also talking cold treats? If so
Nieveria Tocumbu – Its not easy finding Elote, Guayaba, Rose Pedal ice cream in San Diego. This Nieve specialist from Tocumbo does it and does it right. The customer service here is outstanding. After coming in a few times and requesting Rose Petal Ice cream the owner made us our own batch.
Tejuino la Dona - Nieve De Garafa and Tejuino, two more hard to find specialties.
Honey Bananna- They also make a fine Tejuino along with some other fine drinks.
Panchitas – My concha fix
I would like to add more as time permits specifically on dishes from places on the list.
I have essentially stopped eating meat, feedlot meat anyway, so the only places I've been since then are Mariscos German, and El Comal for their veggie burrito.
Lame, I know.
i have heard on fairly good authority (TJ life-long residents and foodies) that although Cien Anos may have some remarkable food, it was mainly started as a money laundering site for a local drug cartel. I'm not really too fazed about traveling to Baja in the current, seemingly violent environment because I think that American tourists are safe (unless traveling unlit roads in the middle of the night), but this is one destination restaurant that I would avoid.
Sorry for not staying on topic but I just wanted to clarify. The original Cien Anos is still opened in Zona Rio. Hacienda Cien Anos often confused with Cien Anos was managed separately and is closed. Hacienda Cien Anos (not Cien Anos) was the restaurant listed on the U.S. Treasury list of suspected money launderers.
BTW I still dream of the fabulous tuetano con champinones from Cien Anos