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Tacos El Gordo (National City) [Split from LA carne asada thread]

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So - I finally made it to Tacos El Gordo in National City, the rec from the OP.

Great place, I'm glad I went (it was about a 15-20 minute trek from where I was working that day in Clairmont on Balboa). This was for lunch a couple of weeks ago. My friend wouldn't stop with "Do you know how many taco places are between here and there?? Are you sure you want to go that far?". But he's not the freak I am (or just about anyone reading this post is, for that matter). It wasn't that hard to calm him down.

Good sized place, and when you walk in there are 3-4 different spots to stand at a long counter offering up different tacos. I haven't seen this before, but the menu is posted above each, so it's pretty easy to flow with this. I ordered 2 asada tacos, 1 cabeza, and 1 pastor.

The asada was very good, grilled and fairly thin, very tender, almost to the point of flaky. I say "flaky" since that's how it seemed. Like when a brisket or short rib is cooked hard in a braise, and a part is left out of the liquid so that the connective tissue is completely gone and it is flaky. Not dry, really, since a lot of the connective tissue went into the meat, but sort of crumbly. Was it skirt? Was it flank? No way to know. It was, however, very salty. Noticably so. I had one taco at the start, and one at the end, to make sure I was ending with the asada. Definitely salty, more so than beefy in the end.

The pastor was good - definitely done right on with a little slice of pineapple if I recall fully and a nice creamy salsa on it which complemented the pork. Definitely "right", though I wouldn't say it was the best ever. Cabeza good too, chunky, tender and fatty. Neither of these were salty, just the asada.

This place is clearly good. I would definitely go if I was in the area. I'm glad to have another spot in my arsenal for SD. But way better than where I go regularly here? Or even "better" in any real sense? I have to say no, not to me. As good? Maybe so, since the idea of the "stations" was good and just about everything I had was solid. Why just "as good"? For comparison, I've made 2 trips to Tacomiendo since (always great) and one to Pinches where the meat was definitely juicy and completely beefy. The meat at Pinche's is definitely a cut above El Gordo quality wise. This is pure beef. To me, Tacomiendo wins not for the meat per se, but for the package with the salsas, escabeche, and fresh tortillas, along with good, solid asada. I probably sound like a broken record always pimping the same 2 joints. These are my haunts - what can I say? I know them well, and I think we're pretty lucky to have them.

Will I complain if I'm banished someday to another city (could happen if I remain snide and insufferable) that there is no good asada in that particular burgh and am searching forlornly for a spot as good as Tacomiendo? God, I hope not.

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  1. Note - the other places mentioned (Tacomiendo, Pinches Tacos) are places in Los Angeles, not San Diego. See the Carne Asada Burrito or Taco in Los Angeles thread on the LA board for the whole story.

    1. Any SD'ers want to chime in on their experiences with LA tacos/asada when compared to SD?

      3 Replies
      1. re: ns1

        LA tacos taste like broken dreams.

        1. re: SteveRB

          Now that's funny. Which ones - pollo? carnitas? Or across the board? :-)

          1. re: SteveRB

            I prefer the asada tacos in LA, less gristle, smaller pieces, better flavor. I've found most of the asada tacos here to be way too fatty, really greasy, and always taste like a charred grill. The meat is rarely cooked/grilled when ordered, even at the "good" places.

            Although, there's a place mentioned in a recent thread today that looks promising.

        2. The one thing that isn't mentioned in the reviews is how smoky the carne asada is at Tacos El Gordo. They grill over charcoal, and there is a noticeable difference from carne asada elsewhere.

          1. I stopped by Tacos El Gordo on the way back from a trip to San Diego.

            I walked in here and had no idea WTF was going on. Nobody was there so I couldn't look at someone to copy. Evidently there's 3 distinct stations and you go to each station depending on what you want. I ended up at the cabeza station (or whatever that specific grill is called) and he helped me out with my order. Said my order and he got it perfect; no suadero which was unfortunate.

            Had the following:
            1 adobado mulas
            2 adobado taco
            2 carne asada tacos
            1 chorizo taco

            Carne asada did have a great char/flavor to it. I agree it was a touch on the salty side. I was not expecting the guac/tomatoes but it's nice to see that their guac actually tastes good. The homemade tortillas were also a nice touch.

            The adobado tacos were pretty good, very well seasoned and flavorful. Reminds me of the adobado "al pastor" of LA except done on a spit...Chorizo taco was...a chorizo taco. No arguments but nothing special either.

            Adobado mulas was decent; kinda greasy and overall pretty forgettable.

            Total damage for 5 tacos, a mulas, and a drink was almost $18 - equivalent to one of the "higher end" LA taco stops (e.g. Mexicali).

            So to comment on LA vs SD tacos, I will say that I undertand the Tacos El Gordo hype. I mean I can get everything in LA (arguably better versions, ahem) but I have to visit several stops to do so - Mexicali for carne asada, tacos leo for al pastor, and daniel's tacos for homemade tortillas... whereas Tacos El Gordo is a one stop shop.

            Anyway, glad I stopped by. VERY glad there's also a stop in Las Vegas.

            2 Replies
            1. re: ns1

              Tacos El Gordo is part of a chain of Tijuana taquerias. The ordering process if pretty much what you find all over Mexico. You order what you want from each taquero, count up how many you ate and then go pay at a central cashier.

              1. re: ns1

                Should have gotten the cabeza. It's their best taco.