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Best San Diego Mexican Food?

y6y6y6 Apr 9, 2012 10:24 AM

Can I get some feedback on this? Things I missed?

So my sister, nephew and parents are coming down for a visit from Montana and I shared a list of Mexican food places I highly suggest with them. I thought I'd toss it out here as well, for public consumption. Just my opinions, not trying to start a war.

When the question is, "We're coming to San Diego for a few days. What Mexican food should we get?", my answer is the list below.

Besides those listed below, there are other places very much worth going: Las Cuatro Milpas, Tacos El Gordo, Mariscos El Prieto, Mariscos Isaac, Tacos El Paisa, La Fachada, Tacos El Panson, Maria's Taco Shop, El Pescador, TJ Oyster Bar, Talavera Azul, Frida Mexican Cuisine, Mama Testa.

And there are places you can safely avoid: Old Town Mexican Cafe, El Zarape, El Indio, El Agave, Candelas.

The List -

El Comal - Nice sit-dwon place. Broad menu and good bar.
http://www.yelp.com/biz/el-comal-san-diego-2

Ranas Mexico City Cuisine - Sit-down place. Large menu. Great sauces.
http://www.yelp.com/biz/ranas-mexico-city-cuisine-spring-valley

Tacos Alex - Eat here or I will dope smack you.
http://www.yelp.com/biz/tacos-alex-san-marcos

Mariscos German Beyer - The one on Imperial. Or is the one below better?
http://losloncheros.wordpress.com/2011/05/09/mariscos-german-beyer/

Aqui es Texcoco - Lamb and barbacoa.
http://www.yelp.com/biz/aqui-es-texcoco-chula-vista

Cocteleria La Playita - Ceviche, fried fish tacos, seafood cocktails.
http://www.yelp.com/biz/cocteleria-la-playita-san-diego

Cantina Mayahuel - Margaritas, moles, street tacos.
http://www.yelp.com/biz/cantina-mayahuel-san-diego

Rudy's Taco Shop - Outstanding street tacos
http://www.yelp.com/biz/rudys-taco-shop-solana-beach

Los Arcos or Hector's Mariscos - Sit-down Mexican seafood.
http://www.yelp.com/biz/los-arcos-restaurant-chula-vista
http://www.yelp.com/biz/hectors-mariscos-chula-vista-3

Super Cocina - Actually super.
http://www.yelp.com/biz/super-cocina-...

  1. c
    cstr Apr 9, 2012 11:14 AM

    Pretty good list, I'd add Maritza's Mexican Food · (858) 279-8866

    3582 Mount Acadia Blvd Ste D, they offer an awesome carnita's plate on Weds. it's very reasonable. Get away from those 'y' reviews!

    6 Replies
    1. re: cstr
      y6y6y6 Apr 9, 2012 11:54 AM

      While I know what you mean, and agree, when it comes to Yelp reviews, I mainly link to them for the other quality info the page has. Especially photos, intangibles, and a map link. Hopefully Google Places will some day fill that need, but it's not there yet.

      1. re: cstr
        y6y6y6 Apr 9, 2012 12:03 PM

        As to Maritza's, I've eaten there. It didn't seem to match what I've read in various places. At all. I feel like I am seriously missing something.

        Are the carnitas the thing that makes it worthy? I tried the fish taco, which had a minuscule piece of fish, was missing enough tangy sauce, and came with lettuce rather than cabbage. I also tried the carne asada, which I usually avoid and should have avoided here. I don't mean to be harsh, but to me it was average at best.

        My impression seems to be so at odds with others that I've always wanted to try it again. But with so many places to try, there needs to be a good reason.

        1. re: y6y6y6
          nileg Apr 9, 2012 01:58 PM

          The carne asada is typically very good at Maritza's and the chicken items are always tasty. Carnitas on Wednesdays is always good. I haven't tried the fish taco and don't intend to as they only use breaded fish. It probably isn't a popular item there as I've never seen anyone order one. I'd stick to their terrestrial protein offerings. If you want a good fish taco I'd stick to places like Blue Water Seafood Market & Grill, El Pescador, Bay Park Fish Company, South Beach Bar & Grille or one of the mariscos fish trucks like Mariscos German or Mariscos Beyer.

          1. re: nileg
            p
            pickypicky Apr 13, 2012 03:21 PM

            I dragged my husband to Maritza's based on reco's here, and it was seriously lacking in every department, and nothing as tasty as the places the poster lists above. If M's speciality is carnitas and it's only served on Wed, that's kind of limited.

            1. re: pickypicky
              nileg Apr 13, 2012 04:48 PM

              Maritza's is a small, inexpensive place that serves the same items you'd get from Super Sergios or similar take-out Mexican shops. It has carnitas as its weekly special, not a speciality. It is not a big sit-down restaurant nor does it specialize in regional cuisines or a particular type of dish. It is a small, family owned "taco shop" style Mexican restaurant with fresh ingredients and good preparation to order. Nothing gourmet, nothing specialty, nothing expensive and no alcohol sales to help pump up income. The clientele is mostly local families and at least half of the business is take out.

              It isn't the same class of restaurant as the others on y6y6y6's list. I see it as a better quality alternative to similarly priced places like Cotija, Super Sergio, etc. Judge it accordingly.

          2. re: y6y6y6
            Josh Apr 13, 2012 04:39 PM

            Maritza's does two things well: carnitas on Wednesday, and carne asada. They have an asador in back, and they cook the carne on open flame. Nothing else there is of note.

        2. y
          yanks26dmb Apr 13, 2012 01:08 PM

          Super Cocina should be at the top of any "best mexican in san diego" list...

          1. Fake Name Apr 13, 2012 03:43 PM

            Well...all these are good places- not a stinker on them.

            But I question the entire "Mexican Food" moniker. I consider real mexican food to be whatever Rick Bayless thinks it is. Traditional, rich foods that originate from areas in Mexico that are not influenced by border foods. And that's great, very tasty cuisine.

            But as I've mentioned here before (I know- why not shut up about it, right?) I believe "mexican food" has it's own place here in the southland.

            Tacos, burritos, enchiladas, tamales are more border foods- and I love them for that reason.

            No reason, however, to run on down to Old Town Mex. Many have been mentioned already, but Super Sergios is the perfect example. Also Las Brasas on San Diego Avenue, and El Cuervo, 4Milpas. This is cuisine that has evolved from Mexican Food to border food- a cuisine driven by low cost, flavorful alternatives to hamburgers.

            Great. Now I'm hungry.

            2 Replies
            1. re: Fake Name
              Josh Apr 13, 2012 04:39 PM

              Nati's ground beef tacos are something I really miss.

              1. re: Fake Name
                u
                Uncle Lefty Apr 23, 2012 07:19 PM

                What did those poor people eat before Rick Bayless was born? If I eat at a place where everybody the kitchen is Mexican, it's authentic Mexican food. Tell the people in San Felipe that fish tacos are not traditional.

              2. DiningDiva Apr 13, 2012 03:57 PM

                It's cold, rainy, windy and I'm cranky and about to have to go out in it to take a cat to the vet. And, yes, I probably need a good nip of mezcal or tequila reposada

                San Diego doesn't do Mexican food, nope, not even Super Cocina. San Diego does tacos and burritos, which is really such a miniscule component of spectrum of Mexican cuisine.

                Where are the soups, guisados, sauces, sopes, gorditas, memelitas, infladas, huaraches, tingas, nut thickened sauces like pipíanes and moles, adobos, pibiles, tlayudas, empanadas, mariscos (there are more to mariscos than a marlyn or gobernador taco), gazpachos, enchiladas, tamales, chilorio, esquites, quesadillas that are not a flour tortilla abomination, squash blossoms, quesos, jamacia/tamarindo/horchata that aren't out of a bag-in-the-box system, agua frescas in flavors other than jamacia/horchata/tamarindo, churros, atole, champurrdo, cafe de olla, properly cooked beans, nopales, calabacitas, romeritos, dead ripe fruit that actually tastes like fruit, properly made salsas.

                Mexican food is about technique and that is sorely lacking every place I've been in San Diego. For being on the border, San Diego has the most uninspired, insipid Mexican food.

                55 Replies
                1. re: DiningDiva
                  Fake Name Apr 13, 2012 04:04 PM

                  Told you so. : )

                  (hope kitty is OK)

                  1. re: DiningDiva
                    c
                    cstr Apr 13, 2012 04:28 PM

                    In addition to technique, there's regionality also. Cheers, have one for Garfield!

                    1. re: DiningDiva
                      y6y6y6 Apr 13, 2012 04:46 PM

                      Okay. "Mexican food" in San Diego sucks. I can sympathize with that opinion on some level. But I'm pretty sure it's better than "Mexican food" in Kalispell Montana, where my guests are from. In fact I'll lobby you Kalispell could easily beat San Diego in terms of "most uninspired, insipid Mexican food".

                      My point is that criticizing the offerings in San Diego as falling short of matching the entire diversity and depth of the entire country of Mexico...... Come on. We don't live in Mexico, and even if it sucks that various cuisines aren't better here, I'm guessing it's wildly better than most. Especially Montana.

                      1. re: y6y6y6
                        DiningDiva Apr 13, 2012 06:15 PM

                        3-y6, I would imagine Mexican food in San Diego probably is better than in Kalispell, MT, but you never know. Taco John's is making an effort to be more authentic.

                        But my point isn't to criticize the Mexican food in San Diego as much as it is to point out that what we get and experience as Mexican food here in the local area is such a small sliver of the whole cuisine. We do a couple of things well but ignore the whole spectrum of the rest of the cuisine.

                        - I've only seen Pescado Veracruzana on a couple of menus locally and never with the whole fish. It turns out to be a sorry frozen cod steak smothered in an overly acidic canned tomato sauce and not the beautifully fresh and light dish it's meant to be.

                        - I'd love to find a decent plate of Moros y Cristos with a side of perfectly fried plantains.

                        - On hot days Pescado en Escabeche can really hit the spot

                        - Or on cold nights like tonight, a steaming mug of Atole de Grano can really hit the spot.

                        - I'd like some fideos as a side instead of rehydrated pinto beans and soggy "Mexican" rice

                        - Nopales make a great salad or taco filling, seen either lately?

                        - Huevos Divorciados makes a great breakfast of brunch dish, but it's not to be found locally

                        The Mexican food here is not "wildly better than most". It's pedestrian and pretty johnny one note. The point isn't to criticize the food, the point is simply to say...look at what we're missing.

                        If I were 30 years younger I'd consider opening a restaurant doing less mainstream food. Unfortunately, my feet and knees don't have the stamina to do it now.

                        1. re: DiningDiva
                          DiningDiva Apr 13, 2012 06:47 PM

                          To illustrate my point...since I forgot to attach them to the last post

                          1. Tlayuda...large, crisp tortilla, smear of asiento, beans, cheese and whatever adornment you want

                          2. Real deal jamacia, horchata and agua de limón (lime, not lemon)

                          3. Flor de calabasa...stuff 'em, put in a taco, a quesadilla, a salad, a soup. They're versatile and cheap

                          4. Perfectly ripe fruit...the watermelon tasted like watermelon, the pinapple like pineapple

                          5. Look at this fish dish. Not a bean or grain of rice to be seen. Check out the accompaniment...shredded carrot, jicama and...wait for it...raw beets.

                          6. Vegetarian entree...squash blossom stuffed with quesillo and strips of vegetables, capeado'ed (dipped in a chile relleno egg batter), fried, plated on a tomatillo sauce and napped with mole negro. Squiggle of crema to finish

                          7. Pork ribs rubbed with adobo, wrapped in avocado leaves and then banana leaves. Baked in an horno (wood fired, clay oven) for 6 hours. Unbelievably good.

                          8. Chocolate de metate

                          9. Sauce from chocolate de metate

                          10. Chocolate sauce over the top of pistachio nieve (a grainier version of gelato). The nieve had lots of pistachio in it.

                          All of these pictures were taken in the middle of almost nowhere, but are typical of Mexican food, and many of these items can, indeed, be found in other cities in the U.S., but not in San Diego. They are also infinitely more satisfying than a steady diet of CAB (sorry FN) or al pastor tacos.

                          Ya'll need to come over to the dark side and experience the mysteries and joy of Mexican food ;-)

                          I think I hear some Los Danzantes calling my name...

                           
                           
                           
                           
                           
                           
                           
                           
                           
                           
                          1. re: DiningDiva
                            t
                            The Office Goat Apr 17, 2012 09:33 AM

                            "and many of these items can, indeed, be found in other cities in the U.S., but not in San Diego"

                            I've had more than one of those items at El Tejate in Escondido.

                            1. re: The Office Goat
                              DiningDiva Apr 17, 2012 10:46 AM

                              It takes me 45 minutes to get to Escondido...an hour with traffic. Glad they're available somehwere, but not living in North County, it's not an option :-(

                          2. re: DiningDiva
                            y6y6y6 Apr 13, 2012 06:59 PM

                            I agree with what you are saying. I just look at it from a more positive mindset. I've done my fair share of whining about the failings of the San Diego Mexican food scene. I've had better flavor and selection in LA and SF, which are further from the border and have fewer people actually traveling to Mexico regularly. I understand the problem.

                            But I live here, and there is plenty to like here. And while I agree we don't get a very diverse selection of Mexican dishes, I'm guessing that many places in Mexico don't either.

                            If the question is, "What is the good Mexican food here?", and the answer is, "Nothing", I'm afraid I'm always going to put that answer aside and get on with eating good "Mexican food". Just my opinion, but whining about SD food is more uninspired and insipid than the actual food.

                            1. re: y6y6y6
                              DiningDiva Apr 13, 2012 11:23 PM

                              " And while I agree we don't get a very diverse selection of Mexican dishes, I'm guessing that many places in Mexico don't either."

                              Actually, the diversity of dishes is pretty substantial especially when, as Jay suggests, you factor in all the street food options. The diversity of dishes also seems to increase the further south you go in Mexico, and Mexico City is pretty much Alice's Restaurant...you can get anything you want, all you have to do is ask.

                              The other piece that's missing here is the whole dining experience. We go to a restaurant, sit down ,eat and leave. Mexicans don't do that. They go out, they walk, they wander, they run into friends, they sit down, have a few beers or drinks, order a few apps, participate in social interaction, eat, have coffee, continue socializing and eventually make it home. They have restaurants that seat 1,000 people (or more) serving good food. There's no rush to get in and out or turn a table. People...kids, families, novios, grandparents...are all out in the street, in the zocalo on a Tuesday night eating, drinking and hanging out. They're not parked in front of the TV or computer screen and they're not particularly worried if the microgreens have been applied just right to finish a dish. Life happens and food just happens to be there. It's loud, it's racous, it's messy. It's not the orchestrated and encapsulated event we tend to make meals NOB.

                              1. re: DiningDiva
                                d
                                dunstable Apr 23, 2012 10:10 AM

                                Heh heh heh, I love a good row. You both seem to make good points, and I'm not a native San Diegan (I'm visiting from San Francisco), but I would like to note:

                                When you complain about the inferiority of San Diego Mexican food (I believe your opinion is probably true, for what that's worth), you sound an awful lot like expat New Yorkers who complain about pizza and bagels, and expat Brits who complain about fish and chips. Believe me, I've done my share of whining (I'm originally from New York) and you know what, there's nothing to be done about it. After a certain point, you either have to accept that not every city is going to get every food right, or you have to move back to wherever you came from. San Franciscans like to trumpet the SF food scene, but you know what, I'm sure we have giant gaps in ethnic cuisine too.

                                1. re: dunstable
                                  DiningDiva Apr 23, 2012 02:49 PM

                                  No, my problem is I've spent w-a-y too much time in Mexico eating really good (and even not so good) Mexican food. The depth and breadth of the cuisine is truly stunning and to see such an itty-bitty, small, and ultra-narrow focus here in SD is frustrating.

                                  The Mexican food here in SD is what it is and until the locals decide they want something more than a carne asada burrito or taco, it'll continue to be an itty-bitty, small and narrow menu.

                                  1. re: DiningDiva
                                    b
                                    Beach Chick Apr 23, 2012 03:11 PM

                                    DD..
                                    Is anyone in SD cooking like that?
                                    There will always be a market for carne asada burritos and tacos...loved to see more Mariscos stands like they have in Ensenada and have Javier bring his love of Baja Med up to to SD.

                                    1. re: Beach Chick
                                      DiningDiva Apr 23, 2012 03:46 PM

                                      BC, there always will be a market for carne asada here in SD and I'm not saying that's a bad thing, just that it isn't the ONLY thing.

                                      Had lonche this past Saturday at Javier's place in Tijuana, Erizo...a Baja Fish House. Two people, $22 each (including beverage, tax + tip) :

                                      Thinly slice octopus cold app

                                      Aguachile of impeccable fresh scallops and shrimp (hotter than blazes too!!)

                                      Ceviche de Tres Almajas (Chocolata, pismo and geoduck)

                                      Ceviche de Camaron y Calamar con Mango Seco

                                      Each dish generously served 2 and could have stretched to 3. I didn't have to eat this off a truck in a parking or dirt lot. I didn't have to eat in out of hand in a car while driving somewhere. It was served by a real waiter, on real plates with real utensils in a sit-down neighborhood restaurant with jukebox, and 2 flat screens showing competing soccer games.

                                      I understand everyone's points, I understand why the Mexican food in SD is the way it is. It's not bad, it's just not very diverse or very intersting. Apparently, I am not making my point very well :-)...Mexican food in SD could (and probably should) be a lot of better than it is given the resources we've got and the places in Mexico from where people have immigrated.

                                      There is nothing wrong with a plate of nachos, or a carne asada burrito and carne asada fries are ridiculously good if one can afford the calories. But so is Puuc Chuc, Chilpachole, Enchiladas Placeras, and Mixote.

                                       
                                       
                                       
                                       
                                      1. re: DiningDiva
                                        c
                                        cstr Apr 23, 2012 04:58 PM

                                        How about in SD, what compares, in your opinion, to Javier's?

                                        1. re: cstr
                                          DiningDiva Apr 23, 2012 11:00 PM

                                          Nothing...not even Romescos which is his :-D

                                          1. re: DiningDiva
                                            c
                                            cstr Apr 24, 2012 07:23 AM

                                            That's sad, SD is so close but, yet so far. Kinda sums up our culinary scene.

                                        2. re: DiningDiva
                                          b
                                          Beach Chick Apr 23, 2012 05:55 PM

                                          Those pics are fantastic and I don't see why this wouldn't fly in SD..
                                          I don't believe it's the mindset of the locals in SD not to embrace this since I think it would do very well..
                                          Taco shops around town seem to be more Mariscos oriented than before and that is a good thing..I see a lot of the gringos eating up the Pulpo de mares and ceviche.
                                          I think we need more Chef's that cook like this.

                                          1. re: DiningDiva
                                            Alice Q Jun 15, 2012 09:09 PM

                                            DD - Thanks for sharing about this place. REALLY want to get down there and try this and Mision 19. Have you been there?

                                            1. re: Alice Q
                                              DiningDiva Jun 15, 2012 10:04 PM

                                              AQ, yes, I have been to Mision 19 several times. I like it alot. It's everything we wish restaurants in San Diego were but, unfortunately, aren't. The food is creative, interesting, well prepared, served by a professional waitstaff in comfortably chic surroundings.

                                        3. re: DiningDiva
                                          Fake Name Apr 23, 2012 03:32 PM

                                          Now, I'm afraid I simply do not understand.

                                          What is meant by "more" than a carne asada burrito?

                                          1. re: DiningDiva
                                            d
                                            dunstable Apr 23, 2012 06:00 PM

                                            And like I said, there's nothing you can really do about it, short of moving to Mexico. I've got my complaints about the SF food scene too, but you know what, it is what it is.

                                            1. re: dunstable
                                              h
                                              hye Apr 24, 2012 12:36 PM

                                              I'm sure there are some economic factors at play. If a fisherman brings fresh catch to shore, he/she can almost certainly get much more money selling to one of the fancier gaslamp restaurants than a place like Erizo. The upshot is that a place dealing with that kind of fresh seafood is probably going to need to be pretty upscale, which vastly limits clientele, and almost certainly would need to cater to the "tastes" of said clientele. (which, unfortunately, appears to be pretty restricted in SD)

                                              1. re: hye
                                                j
                                                jayporter Apr 24, 2012 01:08 PM

                                                While I agree with your broader point, that specific idea of producers choosing who to sell to doesn't work that way. You'd think that it would, given that we live next to a fishery, but things are super twisted.

                                                There are actually very few commercial fishermen in San Diego, and their catch -- typically goes to a receiving house, not a restaurant. Big distributors -- which is where 99.99% of San Diego restaurants buy their fish -- buy from receiving houses all over the world, and so the catch from every area is distributed across huge areas. Almost any fish you buy in a San Diego restaurant, upscale or downscale, Gaslamp or no, comes from a distributor that is sourcing from all over the world, and if it happens to come from nearby waters that is a random occurrence.

                                                From what I've seen, the only difference, for the most part, between very upscale places (by this I mean higher than typical for the Gaslamp) and almost everyone else is that, at your typical San Diego place, the fish is much more likely to be farmed/produced in controlled circumstances in Asia or elsewhere worldwide, whereas at the top dollar levels, it might be ocean-caught.

                                                On the other hand, while I don't know details about the operations of Erizo, I do understand that Tijuana has a vibrant wholesale fish market featuring local-caught fish, and I also know that Javier & crew do a lot of shopping for ingredients for their restaurants (this is something that is again very rare in San Diego, I'd estimate that less than .1% of restaurants leave their premises to go shopping for better quality ingredients), so it seems very likely to me that either someone from Erizo is going to the fish market or someone at the fish market is supplying Erizo with really good fish.

                                                There are other ways to skin the same cat, though. In Ensenada, the "touristy" fish market on the harbor, though fun, is not considered the best quality but there are at least 3 other outfits that get fantastic local fish and have set up methods to get the fish into restaurants that care.

                                                With all of these scenarios, the difference is that the restaurant and distributors have to put in more work and expense to get quality from the ocean next door to the restaurants -- it's a lot cheaper and easier to use fish from huge global operations. The reason the better places do it is because their clientele cares.

                                                Which is why the state of food, Mexican or otherwise, is exactly where it is in San Diego: it accurately reflects the amount that market is willing to support the effort and expense of doing things better, more interestingly, etc.. That's not to say there's *no* market for this kind of food, just that that market is limited for many reasons including our city's negligible economic base and collapsed asset values. As those and other factors have come to the forefront, quality here has trended downward while in surrounding areas like L.A. and T.J. (and maybe North County and Orange County), the quality in general has trended upward.

                                                Which is a long way of saying that, although ingredient sales doesn't quite work that way, I agree with you about the fact that any place dealing with quality ingredients in S.D. has to be pretty upscale, which in San Diego is a limited market that is on the average not as demanding in terms of quality or interesting-ness as in some other places. For instance, I think Erizo is pretty upscale by San Diego standards, but I think their market is generally more adventurous is a culinary way than here.

                                                1. re: jayporter
                                                  Fake Name Apr 24, 2012 02:55 PM

                                                  I can contribute a portion of a discussion I had yesterday with friends who know such things:

                                                  Fish distributors cannot buy sport-caught fish in California.

                                                  Only fishers with commercial licenses can sell their catch. We did not discuss selling direct to restaurants, so I can't help there.

                                                  Here's why I think it's important to consider- if only commercially-licensed fishers can sell, the idea of small-scale, super fresh seasonal fish is limited. A commercially-invested business must have a certain volume to stay profitable-ish, so it will affect the type of fish they hunt and the volume required of the catch.

                                                  1. re: Fake Name
                                                    j
                                                    jayporter Apr 24, 2012 04:00 PM

                                                    All of those things are correct.

                                                    In regard to restaurants buying directly from fishermen: A restaurant can't buy directly from a commercial fisherman unless it has a "receiver's license". My understanding is that two or three restaurants in town have them, but I don't know for sure.

                                                    That said, there is actually a fairly wide variety of locally caught fish available at receivers that service the local fishery. (How much of that is bycatch and how much is intentional, I don't know.)

                                                    However, the way the business is generally structured in the modern economy, restaurants buy fish from distributors, and the distribution houses buy from a wide variety of locations. So what's caught/received here is irrelevant unless a specific operator (for instance, Sea Rocket or Erizo) chooses to make it relevant.

                                                    1. re: jayporter
                                                      j
                                                      jayporter Apr 24, 2012 06:11 PM

                                                      To further express this thought (and reflecting why I posted on this thread originally), the issue is that, contrary to most people's understandings and expectations, San Diego's proximity to the water has little relevance to the quality of seafood available in most restaurants, just as San Diego's proximity to Mexico has little relevance to the quality of Mexican food available here.

                                                      In both cases, the restaurants are part of a national/international supply grid that is mostly identical whether you're in San Diego or Omaha, and the contents of that supply chain, combined with the existence of a market that mostly lives in a placeless way -- influenced more by TV shows than any folkloric culture -- determine what food is available in your local restaurants much more than geographic location does.

                                                      In some places, such as San Francisco, Portland and Brooklyn, a significant number of strong minded people have created an alternative context for restaurants, in which location has some importance. However, while location and locality is respected in these restaurants, these restaurants don't arise in this form due to their proximity to a resource -- instead, the people behind them have to be willing to break through the current system which actually is a *barrier* between the locale and its own resources.

                                                      In order for such a thing to happen in San Diego on a significant scale, it would require a critical mass of the market to demand to be put in touch with all of the best things the region has to offer, be they Mexican food culture, local seafood, whatever. As a San Diegan since the 70's, my observation is that such an occurrence is unlikely, but I'd love to be wrong about that.

                                                      1. re: jayporter
                                                        j
                                                        JRSD Apr 27, 2012 01:48 PM

                                                        I am curious as to where Catalina Offshore and/or Point Loma Seafoods fit into this discussion. It appears from both places' websites that at least some portion of their products are from local fisherman. Would that be because every place gets some fish from everywhere (as I read your posts to say)?

                                                        I had been making the assumption that a restaurant could obtain local, fresh seafood from Catalina if they chose to and if it were profitable but that the demand for a restaurant that made such choices was limited. It seems from your posts that the system is much more restrictive than I had considered.

                                                        1. re: JRSD
                                                          j
                                                          jayporter Apr 27, 2012 02:19 PM

                                                          Catalina primarily carries seafood from the local fishery, though to serve their customers they also buy some stuff from all over. My observations suggest to me that Catalina primarily serves as a kind receiving house, buying fish from local operations (though I think there might be some immediate middlemen between the fishermen and Catalina, particularly in regards to fish that comes in through Mexico). However, I don't know the details of their business at a deep level, so I can't speak with certainty and I may be wrong about that.

                                                          I have no idea where Point Loma Seafoods buys their fish.

                                                          As for the following statement, I think is completely accurate: "A restaurant could obtain local, fresh seafood from Catalina if they chose to and if it were profitable but that the demand for a restaurant that made such choices was limited."

                                                          I would add this: Part of the equation is that the standard business model for a US restaurant is to buy all products from a very limited number of suppliers (in most cases that limited number is "one"), who deliver daily and keep a very predictable stock/size of items. This allows for operational efficiencies that keep labor costs way down, and in California that is a huge cost of restaurant operations.

                                                          However, small/local suppliers like Catalina work in a narrow niche and typically don't deliver. Also, their inventory can vary substantially over time. To use them, you have to order from a bunch of smaller producers/purveyors, and often have to drive to shop/pick things up. Also you have to have a team able to react to sudden changes in availability of items, and often to work with items that come in the door totally unprocessed (like whole fish rather than filets, or whatnot).

                                                          So, one of the reasons that "demand for a restaurant that made such choices is limited" is that 1) such a restaurant has to charge significantly more to run that kind of operation, and 2) that vector (localness, and on average, higher quality, of fish) is not one that most of the market is interested in paying a premium for.

                                                          1. re: jayporter
                                                            j
                                                            JRSD Apr 27, 2012 03:10 PM

                                                            Thanks for the detailed response. Unfortunately, it jibes with the sentiment that SD is not willing as a whole to pay the price to fund the kind of restaurants that would radically change the dining scene.

                                                            1. re: JRSD
                                                              Josh Apr 27, 2012 05:13 PM

                                                              I doubt anyone would argue with that. Judging from the newest spots I've seen in LI, it seems people care more about the decor than the cuisine.

                                                            2. re: jayporter
                                                              nileg Apr 27, 2012 05:32 PM

                                                              Last year I spoke to an employee of Point Loma Seafoods and learned that they don't have a license that would allow them to process and sell sports-caught seafood. I believe he said they get their fish from Catalina Offshore Products.

                                      2. re: DiningDiva
                                        y6y6y6 Apr 13, 2012 07:03 PM

                                        I should add I don't mean this as a personal attack. I respect and appreciate the posts here by DiningDiva and others very much. Full stop. I'd be sad if the board wasn't here.

                                        1. re: y6y6y6
                                          Fake Name Apr 13, 2012 08:04 PM

                                          "Fullstop"?

                                          Ok, NOW I know.
                                          You're Jeremy Clarkson, aren't you?

                                        2. re: DiningDiva
                                          menuinprogress Apr 17, 2012 08:54 AM

                                          I have huevos divorciados whenever I have breakfast at my local taco shop. It isn't on the menu, but they are happy to make it.

                                          1. re: menuinprogress
                                            DiningDiva Apr 17, 2012 10:47 AM

                                            Good to know, but why not just put it on the menu. They're delicious and easy.

                                            1. re: DiningDiva
                                              menuinprogress Apr 17, 2012 01:46 PM

                                              They have pretty limited menu space. For some reason they do have Huevos al Albañil on the menu, which is equally rare to come across in San Diego.

                                              1. re: menuinprogress
                                                DiningDiva Apr 17, 2012 03:42 PM

                                                Huevos al Albañil, wow, that is uncommon. Where is this taco shop?

                                                1. re: DiningDiva
                                                  menuinprogress Apr 17, 2012 04:39 PM

                                                  La Playa in Pacific Beach.

                                                  1. re: menuinprogress
                                                    k
                                                    karaethon Apr 17, 2012 04:46 PM

                                                    DD, can I get a translation on what ingredients are in these dishes?

                                                    1. re: karaethon
                                                      DiningDiva Apr 17, 2012 06:35 PM

                                                      There are tons of recipes for eggs in Mexico. Both Divorciado and Albañil are fairly common on breakfast menus there.

                                                      Huevos Albañil - an albañil is a bricklayer in Mexico, and the are held in fairly high regard. So much so that they even have a special day devoted to them, May 3rd :-). Huevos al Albañil are super easy to make. Take some roma tomatoes, peel, seed and blend with some salt and serrano chiles. Heat some oil in a skillet, saute off some onions, add eggs that have been beaten and cook until just about soft set. Add the tomato sauce and continue cooking until eggs are done to your liking. That's it. Serve with lots of warm corn tortillas.

                                                      Huevos Divorciados (Divorced eggs) - Usually two fried eggs, one covered with a tomato based salsa and the other with a tomatillo salsa. They can be served together side-by-side, or with some refried beans separating them, or, on occasion, with some chilaquiles separating them. I've also had them served to me with each fried egg on a small fried corn tortilla. I much prefer them without the fried tortilla.

                                                      Mexicans have a million things to do with eggs...okay, maybe not a million, but they've got lots of recipes that make 2 eggs any style really interesting :-)

                                                      1. re: DiningDiva
                                                        d
                                                        daantaat Apr 17, 2012 10:23 PM

                                                        yum yum and yum!

                                                        1. re: DiningDiva
                                                          NotCGFan Jun 15, 2012 10:59 PM

                                                          BTW DD, I thought this might be of interest to you, and to all others with an interest in Mexican food.

                                                          I noticed that this Saturday's Master Gardeners plant sale in Balboa Park will be featuring, among some other rather rare offerings (such as Dragon Fruit), Hoja Santa.

                                                          Master Gardener's Plant Sale, Saturday, June 16, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., Room 101, Casa del Prado, Balboa Park

                                                          1. re: NotCGFan
                                                            DiningDiva Jun 15, 2012 11:30 PM

                                                            Hoja Santa is really easy to grow here in SD, so is epazote. I usually just go trim a few leaves off the Hoja Santa plant by the drama department at Mesa College when I need it :-)

                                                            Thanks for the tip on the Master Gardeners sale tho' that sounds like something worthwhile to check out

                                                            1. re: DiningDiva
                                                              NotCGFan Jun 15, 2012 11:54 PM

                                                              Wow, Epazote's one of my favorite herbs. I should try to grow some. JR Organics will sometimes bring it to market, but seldom does so for lack of interest. My tiny local latin market doesn't like to carry it either for the same reason.

                                                              1. re: NotCGFan
                                                                DiningDiva Jun 16, 2012 12:11 AM

                                                                Epazote is a weed, and it grows like one. Once you get it established don't let it go to seed or you'll never be able to get rid of it.

                                                                It wilts fairly quickly after harvesting which makes it hard for some of the smaller latin markets to stock if they don't move a lot of it. Northgate usually has pretty good, fresh epazote, it's hit or miss at Pancho Villa

                                                                1. re: DiningDiva
                                                                  p
                                                                  pickypicky Jun 16, 2012 08:14 AM

                                                                  Diana Kennedy says that you can find epazote in any weed patch or growing by the sidewalk. I once did! and used it to cook with. . .at least, I thought it was epazote.

                                                                  1. re: pickypicky
                                                                    DiningDiva Jun 16, 2012 08:45 AM

                                                                    Tis true, epazote grows wild in the U.S. you just have to know enough about what it is to be able to recognize it.

                                                                    To me, fresh epazote has a very pungent and sharp grassy aroma. In a bin of unidentified herbs I can pick it out just by smell :-). The fresh leave has a very strong, mildly bitter flavor reminescent of turpentine. But cook it with something and the flavor turns and become a really nice herby accent. I can't imagine cooking a pot of black beans without it.

                                          2. re: y6y6y6
                                            j
                                            jayporter Apr 13, 2012 06:21 PM

                                            An interesting fact for folks who might not know: over the last few years/decades many places that are much smaller & theoretically less cosmopolitan than San Diego have developed "authentic"-ish (I know, I know, I think that word is overrated and without much meaning, but whatever) regionally-derived, pretty tasty Mexican food, better than what I've had in SD. A couple places that come to my mind are Durham, NC and Omaha, NE. I believe the reason for this development has to do with both changing immigration patterns and structural changes in operations of large agribusiness corporations on both sides of the border since NAFTA, but that's neither here nor there.

                                            Meanwhile, the market in San DIego has, for the most part, resisted the introduction of more "typical"/traditional Mexican cuisine, in favor of our very unique/distinct "taco shop" cuisine, which sadly IMO is rarely executed very well (I think it's deteriorated over time, but I discount that as possibly being nostalgia.) I fancy that I have a basic understanding of the reasons for all this too -- short version is that groups of immigrants into San Diego who might otherwise establish typical regional restaurants or puestos get assimilated into the existing "taco shop" food culture instead, due to various forces (including the illegality of real street food in San Diego).

                                            While I don't doubt the Mexican food in Kalispell sucks as you say it does, I do note that, these days, no matter how obscure a place I am in the US, more often than not I can find a Mexican food place that is more typical/traditional than what one can easily find in SD, and surprisingly often, better executed.

                                            The good news is a fair amount of what DiningDiva longs for is avialable within a 25 minute drive of downtown. Just not, technically, in San Diego.

                                            1. re: jayporter
                                              t
                                              The Office Goat Apr 17, 2012 10:03 AM

                                              Oh, by the way, Sunday at El Take It Easy we had the "brunch" at 3:45pm and it was one of the best meals we've had at ETIE. The carnitas trio, the mariscos scramble and the multiple forms of pork belly all rocked.

                                              But maybe the best moment was just the tortillas and the hot sauce: I got flashbacks to my dad taking me to the Museum of Man in the early 1970s when the lady would make corn tortillas (with a dab of hot sauce if you wanted).

                                              1. re: The Office Goat
                                                DiningDiva Apr 17, 2012 10:44 AM

                                                They were still making those tortillas a few years ago. Not sure if they've been eliminated during the budget crunch.

                                                1. re: DiningDiva
                                                  t
                                                  The Office Goat Apr 17, 2012 10:52 AM

                                                  The last couple times I went, the window was shut. But I could have just gone at the wrong hours/days. I did get to take my son a few years ago, so that makes 3 generations of our family that snacked there. :-)

                                                  1. re: The Office Goat
                                                    DiningDiva Apr 17, 2012 12:37 PM

                                                    I was wondering if they were able ot keep the little tortilla window open. I figured it might be a victim of the budget woes. But how cool is it that your son got to experience it making it 3 generations. In SoCal, that certainly counts as family tradition :-)

                                          3. re: DiningDiva
                                            p
                                            pegasus505 Apr 13, 2012 05:49 PM

                                            Amen DiningDiva! I hear you loud and clear.

                                            1. re: pegasus505
                                              s
                                              SteveRB Apr 13, 2012 06:36 PM

                                              The food with no name. (cue super sergio leone theme)

                                            2. re: DiningDiva
                                              m
                                              mikec Apr 17, 2012 03:24 PM

                                              There's a new place on Broadway near H in Chula Vista that does guisados, next to de Fillipi's steak house (Comida something?). When I was there about a week ago, they were still having startup issues and some of the dishes were more successful than others (the Mole soup and the lingua were very good). The owner has owned restaurants in Ensenada and is still getting used to American food service. It has promise, but it's pretty rough around the edges...

                                            3. jmtreg Apr 16, 2012 04:34 PM

                                              You have to go to Tacos El Gordo in National City at least once. The carne asada is quite possibly the best I've had in San Diego - moist, beefy, and smokey! The smokey flavor they get in the carne was life-altering. I wanted to drive to every taco shop in San Diego, and slap the owners for serving me unsmokey carne asada. Speaking of which. . .I need to get down to National City.

                                              2 Replies
                                              1. re: jmtreg
                                                c
                                                cstr Apr 16, 2012 05:13 PM

                                                Yes...Yes... Yes.... doesn't matter to me how far or what the price of gas is, I just go.

                                                1. re: jmtreg
                                                  t
                                                  The Office Goat Apr 17, 2012 09:50 AM

                                                  We try to use the T.E.G. in Temecula as the meal break when driving through on the 15 on the way to or from some not-Temecula place.

                                                2. s
                                                  sdnosh Apr 18, 2012 03:51 PM

                                                  Super Cocina all the way - but, I do wish they had better tortillas, or better yet, made their own to match the great food. I don't love Tacos el Gordo as much everyone seems to, they're just a slightly better than average taco shop. Aqui es Texcoco rocked my world when I had their lamb enchiladas - boy was I surprised and impressed!

                                                  3 Replies
                                                  1. re: sdnosh
                                                    b
                                                    Beach Chick Apr 18, 2012 04:00 PM

                                                    Acqui es Texcoco has the BEST potato taquitos..really love this place.

                                                    1. re: Beach Chick
                                                      s
                                                      sdnosh Apr 19, 2012 05:11 PM

                                                      I'll have to try them next time!

                                                    2. re: sdnosh
                                                      vmcampos Apr 3, 2014 05:39 PM

                                                      Agreed.
                                                      Also the lamb quesadillas are something else!

                                                    3. y6y6y6 Apr 23, 2012 11:47 AM

                                                      So, followup.

                                                      Places we went -

                                                      El Comal, Mariscos Isaac, Talavera Azul, Ranas, El Patron, Coop's, Siam Nara, Rendezvous, La Playita, El Sol, Kiko's Place, Fish Boutique, K Sandwiches, Chupa Cabra, Marcy's Tacos, Rudy's Tacos, and Tacos El Paisa. We also got a bunch of stuff at the Mira Mesa food truck gathering. Not bad for one week.

                                                      Favorites of the Montana folks - Ranas, Coop's, Chupa Cobra. And Mariscos Isaac, the clear winner.

                                                      We didn't have time for all the places they wanted to go, such as Mariscos German and Tacos El Gordo. And other places they'd been to on previous trips, like Super Cocina. I wish we'd gotten to some of the other mariscos trucks, we just didn't have time.

                                                      My favorites, as someone who eats this stuff all the time - Ranas, Mariscos Issac, and El Paisa (which seemed better than usual).

                                                      8 Replies
                                                      1. re: y6y6y6
                                                        p
                                                        pickypicky Apr 24, 2012 09:07 AM

                                                        What did they like at Chupa Cabra? We've been once, weren't wowed by food or place (except decent service.) It's close to home so if there's something great there, we'd love to know.

                                                        PS: What a week!

                                                        1. re: pickypicky
                                                          y6y6y6 Apr 24, 2012 09:53 AM

                                                          Al pastor street tacos were the favorite. Spicy shrimp taco, and mahi mahi grilled taco also getting thumbs up. They had the trompo going, that might make a difference with the al pastor.

                                                          1. re: y6y6y6
                                                            p
                                                            pickypicky Apr 24, 2012 01:09 PM

                                                            thanks! We'll go back. . .

                                                            1. re: pickypicky
                                                              z
                                                              zoey67 May 7, 2012 09:47 AM

                                                              Is it cool or en vogue to say things like " SD doesn't have good MX food"? C'mon now I just have to roll my eyes and say give me a break. Good MX is everywhere. I've eaten my share as much as anyone on this board...from a ucsd alumni in the mid 80's to living in east LA for 8 yrs in the 90's and back in the late 70s - 80s in N Ca during Jr high and high school and now full circle residing in Oceanside since 05.

                                                              And if I had my wish the mission burrito's in SF are the best, but there's plenty good stuff here in SD and my neck of the woods N county I don't need to drive nearly to the border and eat from trucks. There's amazing al pastor cut fresh of the spit at Taco bar in San marcos..as good as anywhere I've had in my life. Cenote grill in Escondido, Jalapeno's in RB, on and on.

                                                              1. re: zoey67
                                                                DiningDiva May 7, 2012 10:07 AM

                                                                San Diego doesn't necessarily have bad Mexican food, it just doesn't have very interesting Mexican food and focuses on a narrow sliver of the cuisine

                                                                The DNA feel and approach as exemplified in this blog post is completely missing, which is not the case in other parts of the U.S. - http://eatocracy.cnn.com/2012/05/04/c...

                                                                There is more - far more - to Mexican food than tacos, burrito and the occasional tamal

                                                                1. re: DiningDiva
                                                                  z
                                                                  zoey67 May 7, 2012 10:30 AM

                                                                  Food is a personal thing and folks all have different tastes. Can I just say from the heart that I don't really care for "genuine" MX cuisine. In fact more often than not the more ingeniousness it is the less I like it. I don't like mole at all or chocolate in my MX dish. Chile verde I do love..YMMV of course.

                                                                  Just like I don't have to go to shanghai to get great dumplings or wonton noodle. or Vietnam for pho. In fact if you know where to go there's better and "cleaner" pho in Westminster for instance.

                                                        2. re: y6y6y6
                                                          o
                                                          oerdin May 7, 2012 01:34 PM

                                                          "El Comal, Mariscos Isaac, Talavera Azul, Ranas, El Patron, Coop's, Siam Nara, Rendezvous, La Playita, El Sol, Kiko's Place, Fish Boutique, K Sandwiches, Chupa Cabra, Marcy's Tacos, Rudy's Tacos, and Tacos El Paisa. We also got a bunch of stuff at the Mira Mesa food truck gathering. Not bad for one week."

                                                          Now that is what I call a tour de force.

                                                          1. re: oerdin
                                                            y6y6y6 May 8, 2012 01:00 AM

                                                            Sorry, I missed one. We also ate at Bale French Bakery.

                                                        3. p
                                                          pickypicky May 23, 2012 08:23 AM

                                                          Monday is NOT the best day for a Best Mexican Food in San Diego lunch. Drove to Rana's-- full of excitement-- and it was closed. Called Romesco's. Closed. Called Los Puertos (Chilango offspring) and they had just stopped serving lunch (2:30pm). Ditto El Comal (3pm. so we didn't have time to get there.) This is nobody's fault but our own, and the fact we wanted to try some place new. We did. A terrible Spring Valley yellow-cheese taqueria on Yelp's best list. (Say no more. But it was all I could find on my **stupid phone** and husband was blacking out from hunger.) On the way home we drove past La Fachada's new lonche wagon, which we were too full to try and not steeled enough for more disappointment. AND then the shell of the old Farmer's Market, which made me mucho triste I hadn't made one last visit there before it was gone. Granted this ill-fated Monday lunch was our fault, I still want to complain. Where is the Queso Fresco? The distinctive salsas? The hand-patted sopas? Why is this so hard in a border city? Never mind great Mexican cuisine, shouldn't I be able to stumble into a decent tacqueria on every SD street corner? Please remind me of the central SD ones that will never fail me, so next time I can put the car on auto-drive. Texcoco, Paisa, and Gordo? Is that it? --end of rant--

                                                          6 Replies
                                                          1. re: pickypicky
                                                            DiningDiva May 23, 2012 08:55 AM

                                                            If off, let me say I FEEL YOUR PAIN

                                                            But seriously, you tried Silvia's? You're braver than I am girl. You could have gone back up Campo Rd. to Bancroft and seen whether or not the market there had their BBQ going. They do 2 styles of carne asada. Not sure if it's just a weekend thing or not.

                                                            Or you could have gone back up Campo to Spring, made a quick right and just on the other side of the 94/125 interchange on Spring St. (at Palm) is Carnitas Uruapan. I think they're open on Monday.

                                                            1. re: DiningDiva
                                                              j
                                                              JRSD May 23, 2012 09:50 AM

                                                              The Carnitas Uruapan in Lemon Grove was closed on a Friday night recently and Yelp has it listed as closed permanently.

                                                              1. re: JRSD
                                                                DiningDiva May 23, 2012 12:28 PM

                                                                It's been closed permanently for a while. They moved over to La Mesa. They're now on Spring St. at Palm, about a block East of the big trolledy stop.

                                                                1. re: DiningDiva
                                                                  j
                                                                  JRSD May 23, 2012 01:46 PM

                                                                  OK. When you said 94/125 I pictured Lemon Grove.

                                                                  1. re: JRSD
                                                                    DiningDiva May 23, 2012 04:07 PM

                                                                    It's a poorly engineered interchange, I can see where there would be confusion

                                                              2. re: DiningDiva
                                                                p
                                                                pickypicky May 23, 2012 12:11 PM

                                                                no, thank god, not Silvias. a yelp 5-star place called El Puerto, I think. While driving there, we did see an outdoor bbq with an awning and some rickety tables. (very Tecate to Ensenada Hwy-ish) I knew instantly we'd probably be FAR better off there and wished we'd stopped.

                                                            2. g
                                                              gourmandonater Jun 13, 2012 10:39 PM

                                                              For a special occasion maybe try Candelas in Coronado. It's super expensive, but the food is really good and it has an amazing view. Good place to take a date. For some bomb tacos and sopes, Tacos El Gordo on H street in Chula Vista is pretty hard to beat. Tacos El Paisa off National Ave is really good too. Edit... Just realized you already mentioned all those places. Hmm. El Mercado Negro in Ensenada! Not in S.D. but definitely worth the trip.

                                                              1. d
                                                                diyeiogt Jun 14, 2012 02:27 PM

                                                                Those are all good places! I would highly recommend Tacos de Mexicali on El Cajon Blvd.

                                                                New restaurant with some mean, delicious tacos. These are Mexicali style tacos, not TJ, which means they are bigger and there are a few key differences.

                                                                They have a pot of beans just to serve yourself and a huge salsa bar.

                                                                My new favorite taco place.

                                                                8 Replies
                                                                1. re: diyeiogt
                                                                  z
                                                                  zoey67 Jun 15, 2012 10:00 PM

                                                                  It's like the same old broken records over and over again....el comal, super cocina, tacos el gordo, the cockroach trucks. Why isn't anyone talking about something new and refreshing like Carnitas snack shack.

                                                                  1. re: zoey67
                                                                    DiningDiva Jun 15, 2012 10:06 PM

                                                                    Because CSS isn't actually a Mexican restaurant.

                                                                    But I do agree with you, it is the same old/same old...and it's pretty old and oh so boring

                                                                    1. re: zoey67
                                                                      Fake Name Jun 16, 2012 05:44 AM

                                                                      http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/830257 titled "Carnitas Snack Shack" with about 40 posts.

                                                                      I've enjoyed their offerings, and yes they are doing new and refreshing things.

                                                                      But for mexican-style carnitas, I'm heading down to Dos Brasas or out to Carnitas Urapan.

                                                                      1. re: zoey67
                                                                        Josh Jun 18, 2012 08:35 AM

                                                                        What does Carnitas' Snack Shack have to do with Mexican food?

                                                                      2. re: diyeiogt
                                                                        f
                                                                        fatty_mouthfeel Jun 28, 2012 01:27 AM

                                                                        Hmm, driven by Tacos de Mexicali a couple of times, will try. Anything in particular stand out?

                                                                        1. re: fatty_mouthfeel
                                                                          d
                                                                          diyeiogt Jun 28, 2012 01:35 AM

                                                                          The tortillas, both corn and flour, are made there and are great. The cabeza tacos are great, they use all meat and no different parts of the head. Nice carne asada, some of the softest lengua I've had, good al pastor, and delicious chorizo tacos.
                                                                          I love the beans they have to help yourself too, made the way beans should be made.
                                                                          Great salsa bar as well.
                                                                          Honestly everything is just really good quality and made with care and appreciation to they way it should be made.

                                                                        2. re: diyeiogt
                                                                          y6y6y6 Jun 28, 2012 10:30 PM

                                                                          I tried Tacos de Mexicali a while back sort of by accident. Liked it a lot, and need to go back.

                                                                          Fresh made tortillas. Beyond the ordinary salsa bar. Seriously nice folks.

                                                                          1. re: y6y6y6
                                                                            f
                                                                            fatty_mouthfeel Jun 30, 2012 09:44 PM

                                                                            Based on these recos I went today and really enjoyed it. The al pastor was a standout- smoky and nice chew- as was the chorizo/longaniza. The friendly owner (I assume) steered me toward the flour tortillas as a Mexicali specialty. I normally stay away from flour tortillas but these were tender and light and yum. Good salsa bar, as others have noted. I especially liked the little roasted and salted whole peppers.

                                                                        3. f
                                                                          fatty_mouthfeel Jun 28, 2012 01:34 AM

                                                                          What's good at Super Cocina? I've gone a couple of times and found it tasty, but not exceptional. However, my Spanish is only good enough to order, not to quiz the staff about what I should be ordering.

                                                                          Same question about El Sol.

                                                                          9 Replies
                                                                          1. re: fatty_mouthfeel
                                                                            c
                                                                            cstr Jun 28, 2012 05:54 AM

                                                                            The staff at Super Cocina are very polite and will explain any of their offerings, in English. They'll also give you samples to taste. One of my favs are the chicken with cilantro as well as their spicey pork in adobo.

                                                                            1. re: fatty_mouthfeel
                                                                              DiningDiva Jun 28, 2012 10:57 AM

                                                                              I agree with cstr that it helps to ask for a taste of whatever looks good to you. But I also think that it's important to remember that Super Cocina is "comida casera", or essentially Mexican home cooking. It not necessarily going to wow you or blow your socks off with how good it is. What is going to do is provide some insight into some typical dishes that would be served at home. It also trends towards very traditional dishes, some of them on the rustic side.

                                                                              I'll preface this by saying that I like Super Cocina quite a bit and think their flavor profiles are spot on. I also think some of their food is very heavy (heavier than you'd find in Mexico), the portions too large, and the corn tortillas cardboard and microwaved. If you go expecting to eat some decent food with fairly traditional flavors you'll probably wind up being happy. If you go expecting the Earth to move with how good it is, you'll be disappointed.

                                                                              The pork in adobo is very good, and surpisingly, so are the carnitas.

                                                                              1. re: DiningDiva
                                                                                p
                                                                                pickypicky Jun 29, 2012 08:16 AM

                                                                                thanks for this expansion on the Super Cocina meme. I've only been once and didn't love it. It was too stewed, steam-tabley tasting and had none of the fresh, clean, distinct flavors I adore in traditional Mexican cooking. Had I gone in and known the best thing to get, maybe. Otherwise, I continue cooking my own or buying a freshly made taco with fresh ingredients, an unusual salsa, and a great tortilla. But that's just me.

                                                                                1. re: pickypicky
                                                                                  DiningDiva Jun 29, 2012 08:29 AM

                                                                                  A lot of the stewy, steam-tabley things that Super Cocina serves are very, very typical of traditional Mexican food from the interior where it is colder. Remember, a good portion of Mexico is at elevation so it does get cooler and sometimes colder in the towns that are in the mountains. You need to great soups and stewy items to help keep warm :-).

                                                                                  I think the other thing to remember is that SC doesn't hire professional cooks. They hire very good home cooks, so how good an item is can depend upon who is cooking in the kitchen that day.

                                                                                  All that said, I still like Super Cocina

                                                                                  1. re: DiningDiva
                                                                                    p
                                                                                    pickypicky Jul 1, 2012 06:26 AM

                                                                                    Thanks, DD. I trust your knowledge on this. For me it is all the dishes before me at once that I don't find appetizing. (Like my brother who taught me at the church potluck to go for the 4 best things and leave the rest.) If I knew the best things to choose, it would seem more interesting. So if I return I'll arm myself with that knowledge.

                                                                                    1. re: pickypicky
                                                                                      DiningDiva Jul 1, 2012 08:09 AM

                                                                                      Just ask for a taste. They'll give you a little spoonful of just about everything in the steamtable. Then pick the 1 or 2 you like best.

                                                                                      1. re: DiningDiva
                                                                                        v
                                                                                        volvo99 Jul 9, 2012 06:04 PM

                                                                                        "Mexican" cuisine is an awfully wide tent nowadays...taco shops, oaxacan, mariscos-seafood, fusion, tex-mex, Mexico City cuisine; it is hard to answer the OP's question if we don't quite know what they are seeking specifically.

                                                                                        1. re: volvo99
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                                                                                          nyperr Aug 12, 2012 05:52 PM

                                                                                          I'm a New Yorker coming to SD for the first time for a few days. I've been reading your posts but would like advice on which Mexican restaurant to pick if I can only pick one. Normally I like to go to places where chefs use fresh local ingredients somewhat creatively. Even after reading here that the Mexican food in your city is disappointing, I just feel that we can't go back to NY without trying the best you have to offer.

                                                                                          1. re: nyperr
                                                                                            DiningDiva Aug 12, 2012 10:48 PM

                                                                                            Nyperr. . .when you get home try Roberto Santbanez's place Fonda.

                                                                                            While in SD try Super Cocina for comida casera (home-style cooking). El Take it Easy is farm-to-table Baja &Mexico inspired and really quite good. Interesting cocktails using tequila & mescal. Mayahuel is kind of funky, does mescal as well and a pretty darn good mole.

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                                                                              pickypicky Aug 13, 2012 03:50 PM

                                                                              We ate lunch at Tacos El Paisa on National Ave today. It was better than good enough. The al pastor was memorable, the complimentary tray of salsas etc explosively good-- and maybe the best part on a hot day, the aguas frescas. I'd forgotten how much I love simple Mexican street food and how long it's been since I had it this good.

                                                                              1 Reply
                                                                              1. re: pickypicky
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                                                                                zoey67 Nov 4, 2012 11:11 PM

                                                                                Ok listen up people, esp N county. I just discovered a hidden treasure of a place in one of those discreet commercial mini-mall in a quiet neighborhood of east Oceanside bordering on Vista. The place is San Luis Rey and they serve a chile verde plate that IMHO and I will not say this if I didn't really feel strongly about it...but is superior than Las Cuatro Milpas. And I really wasn't going to gush like this because every time I do it gets jinxed and they sell to some new owners and the food does a complete 360 for the worse. I pray this will not happen because N county can really benefit from something special like this.

                                                                                I know it sounds hard to believe but these guys have been open for only a year so you know they are fresh and willing to bend over backwards to gain a customer base. It's just a small cozy place that's clean and warm with real wooden furniture and not the yucky vinyl or plastic table and chairs. The food is just simply awesome, nothing fancy or trendy but cooked with lots of love using quality fresh ingredients. If you're anywhere in the area of oceanside, vista, san marcos, carlsbad, Fallbrook you have to put this on top of your list next time you want a good burrito.

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                                                                                pickypicky Nov 23, 2012 04:01 PM

                                                                                Finally got to Ranas! Perfect for my Brooklyn NY daughter who wanted good beans, good salsa, and a nice sit down place. Great, unusual choices like Huitlacoche Enchiladas and Pecan Enchiladas and Aztec Stuffed Chile with Potatoes. Terrific tortillas, salsas, aquas frescas. Daughter said she'd go back just for the tortillas and beans and Mexican coke.

                                                                                http://www.ranasrestaurant.com/

                                                                                We also saw Hector's Tacos on Jamacha, which looked good. Anybody eat there?

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                                                                                  helmswoman Mar 19, 2014 06:06 AM

                                                                                  I realize that this is an old thread, but want to weigh in on El Agave, which has come up on other discussions on this board. I've seen mixed reviews, and most of the negative reviews have to do with the price and with the fact that diners don't understand that it's a Mexican restaurant featuring cuisine of the Mexico City region, not a Tex-Mex taco/burrito joint. We just visited SD and on our last night there had a wonderful dinner at El Agave. The service (wish I had remembered to note our waiter's name) was professional and first-rate. We started with an outstanding margarita (on the rocks, please) with chips and an assortment of salsas that bear no resemblance to what you'd find in a Tex-Mex place. One seemed to be based on black beans, another on tomatillo, and the third I couldn't identify, but all were delicious. We shared a tuna salad--fresh, raw albacore tuna mixed with sweet red peppers, finely shredded tortilla, and cilantro. Delicious. We both had moles (there are several on the menu), and I would strongly recommend the 3-mole sampler on stuffed chicken. Somehow there was room to split a flan for dessert, which was delicious and atypical. As for price, yes, it is more expensive than tacos and burritos, but I found it fairly priced for the quality of the food, the atmosphere, and the service.

                                                                                  7 Replies
                                                                                  1. re: helmswoman
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                                                                                    RB Hound Mar 19, 2014 06:49 AM

                                                                                    I'm going to disagree with you here, helmswoman, and say that the vast majority of San Diego Chowhound posters (and readers) very much know the difference between the cuisine at El Agave and the cuisine at a "Tex-mex taco/burrito joint". We have quite a few posters here that spend a significant amount of time *in* Mexico, and are fairly into the culinary scene, so that sort of comment could be construed as insulting. This isn't some entity that begins with "Y".

                                                                                    In fact, most of us would say that our taco/burrito shops are *not* really Tex-mex, but more Cal-mex. But why split hairs? [grin]

                                                                                    1. re: RB Hound
                                                                                      scottca075 Mar 19, 2014 08:01 AM

                                                                                      I don't know how many of the Chow SD posters have actually been to El Agave since none of them in this thread seemed to discuss it at all.

                                                                                      I understand helmswoman puzzlement at El Agave being included in a "safely avoid" category with El Indio. I also think the negative reviews on El Agave she referred to probably did come from that "Y" place, since like many people she uses it as a back-up check.

                                                                                      I've been to El Agave several times and think it is one of the better, high end Mexican restaurants in town, ditto for Candelas Coronado (I haven't been to Candelas Downtown enough to say one way or the other) and Ortega's Bistro.

                                                                                      I don't know if Romesco Baja Med qualifies as "Mexican" in the same sense you wouldn't have called Chez Panisse "French", but it deserves to be in the conversation too.

                                                                                      And while neither El Zarape is the best in San Diego, neither are they in the El Indio or Old Town MC category either.

                                                                                      1. re: scottca075
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                                                                                        helmswoman Mar 19, 2014 08:47 AM

                                                                                        I almost never read "Y" reviews, as (OK, here I go being insulting again) I find the Chowhound readership to be more discerning and less apt to diss a restaurant for the sake of snark. I consulted several threads on the SD board for the trip, and there were some negative reviews of El Agave, based primarily on its price and the fact that they weren't what the diner was expecting. It's impossible to tell whether the posters are traveling hounds like myself or locals who know the difference between Mexican and Tex-Mex or Cal-Mex. I visited the El Agave in the heavily tourist-y Old Town, so it's possible that the negative reviews were not locals. Mainly, the purpose of my post was that I really enjoyed the meal and the experience and wanted to share it with others who enjoy good food and excellent service. I'm really sorry I missed Candelas, but will put it on the list of places to visit on my next visit.

                                                                                        1. re: scottca075
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                                                                                          RB Hound Mar 19, 2014 10:12 AM

                                                                                          A simple search of this board will yield dozens of references to El Agave. For whatever reason, nobody challenged y6's grouping of it in the avoid category in this particular thread, but nobody agreed with it either. It's a long post - maybe it just got lost in the noise.

                                                                                          1. re: RB Hound
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                                                                                            DoctorChow Mar 19, 2014 08:40 PM

                                                                                            OK, well I'm going to step up to the plate here and say that I think the food at El Agave falls into the very good to excellent category.

                                                                                            I have no idea why y6**3 chose to denigrate this place in his original post two years ago. It's one of only three restaurants I would recommend in Old Town.

                                                                                            1. re: DoctorChow
                                                                                              y6y6y6 Mar 21, 2014 01:11 PM

                                                                                              It's just my opinion. In my visits to El Agave I haven't enjoyed the experience nearly as much as I have at, for example, El Comal, Ranas, or Frida. A lot of that has to do with service and price, but I haven't been there in years, so maybe things have changed. I tend to see it as a touristy Old Town sort of restaurant.

                                                                                              My main reason for adding it to that comment is that touristy types will see it mentioned in San Diego dining guides all the time, and I think they'd enjoy the other things I mentioned more.

                                                                                      2. re: helmswoman
                                                                                        Fake Name Mar 19, 2014 08:45 AM

                                                                                        "the fact that diners don't understand that it's a Mexican restaurant featuring cuisine of the Mexico City region, not a Tex-Mex taco/burrito joint."

                                                                                        uhhh….

                                                                                        whut?

                                                                                        Huh?

                                                                                        Whaddyamean?

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