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San Diego sitdown Mexican

  • b

Seeing San Diego Mexican restaurants being discussed in another thread, I thought it would be a good breakout topic. I realize that it has been covered before, but it probably is good to bring up from time to time. I also realize given the changes in Old Town, it may be too soon to rate those places, or the relocated places that were moved out of Old Town.

So, if you had to pick a sit-down Mexican restaurant in the San Diego area, which ones do you like, and which do you avoid? I've seen some negative comments on the On The Border restaurants. I've found them OK, but I'm not that discriminating. I've gotten better and worse food at various El Torrito and Acapulco restaurants - both of which seem to be quite dependent on location when it comes to quality.

I've found Cozymel (UTC area) to be a half step above the other chain places, though there have been a few disappointing trips there. I like the margaritas at Su Casa in La Jolla, and have yet to get anything there that turned me off, but nothing foodwise stands out in my mind. Tony's Jacal in Solana Beach is a good place to go for something slightly different (maybe CalMex 70s style food? I don't know - wasn't here then. :-)

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  1. I can recommend Don Chuy in Solana Beach, Tio Carlos (near Rosecrans) and Mama Testa (went there last week and food was very good). On the Border is nothing to get too excited about but also not that bad if I compare them for example to El Torrito or similar chains.

    2 Replies
    1. re: honkman

      We really enjoy Cocina Sanchez. Great Albondigas and chips/salsa they make themselves. I was surprised no one mentioned Old Town Mexican Restaurant--though I'm not that thrilled with them, myself. A new one in Old Town, though is Rancho La Lena--ceviche tostado and a very reasonable and interesting Sunday brunch on their patio.

      Has anyone tried Chuey's downtown?

      1. re: honkman

        I agree with Tio Carlos...food was fabulous, owner was gracious, price was very reasonable, have nothing but good things to say of it..was there in November 2008 and liked it SO much considering a cruise out of SD vs LA JUST so we can visit there again. Have had Mexican food in Mexico, LA, San Antonio, etc but nothing compared to this place.

      2. Chilango's
        Between 2nd and 1st on University in Hillcrest
        Mexican food in the style of D.F.
        Not perfect, but very good.

        Casual, moderate. Not a taqueria, not comdia casera.

        3 Replies
        1. re: Gayla

          I will second Chilango's, I really enjoyed the creamy rajas con hongos and epazote last time, reminded me of my days in Distrito Federal eating long lunches in the Zona Rosa with the boss.

          1. re: Pablo

            I've always enjoyed Chilango's...though much of the time I really don't know what I'm ordering, all they dishes have been very good, and different from what I'm used to here in san Diego.

            1. re: KirkK

              I agree with the support for Chilango's, but don't go looking for a traditional combo plate.

        2. Okay, strange name, but I really enjoy:

          Jimmy Carter's Mexican Cafe
          807 W. Washington St. (Mission Hills)
          (619) 296-6952

          Check out the review below.

          Link: http://entertainment.signonsandiego.c...

          1 Reply
          1. re: srk

            I can also recommend Jimmy's original restaurant on the Fifth:


          2. Both in North County-roughly 30 minutes from central San Diego

            El Callejon in Encinitas - love their fish dishes and guacomole...and the huge TEQUILA selection!


            La Especial Norte in Leucadia - excellent soups and some nice seafood, reasonable prices.


            1 Reply
            1. re: Komatik

              I agree they used to have great soup, but I haven't been there since I moved from Leucadia to North Park.

            2. En Fuego in Del Mar is pretty good. The usual enchiladas, carne asada, tacos but done quite well. I've heard they have very good margaritas.

              For cheap, hole in the wall food, El Cuervo in Hillcrest has very good, cheap burritos, tacos, taquitos. You can either eat in or take out. The other big plus is that they don't water down their horchata.

              Still waiting for a good Oaxacan place in SD....

              1. b
                Brian Saunders

                I start a thread and naturally leave out a place I've recently tried and enjoyed - Hacienda de Vega in south Escondido. It's a tad bit on the expensive side, but their food is a little different and very yummy.

                2 Replies
                1. re: Brian Saunders

                  I agree that the food is different at Hacienda de Vega, and it is very tasty and probably a tad expensive, but the problem I have had with them, is their service. From the hostess to the wait staff they have always seemed a bit curse (rude?) and forgetful. It is a beautiful restaurant and with the food I thought it would be a huge hit. However, I have talked to other people and they have had similar experiences with the service.

                  1. re: littlestevie
                    Brian Saunders

                    I've read in other Web forums that the service at Hacienda de Vega can be spotty. Either we lucked out the night we were there, or they have improved that aspect of things.

                2. Don Chuy's (across the street from Tony's Jacal) does a very good job with straightforward mexican food, with competent service. It is a very unassuming place, and is much better than Fidel's. We enjoy Tony's Jacal as well, but Don Chuy's does a better job of bringing me back to my childhood memories of mexican food in Tucson.

                  2 Replies
                    1. re: buzznutter

                      Tony's Jacal--This is San Diego Mexican from the 60's--I can varify that. Don't miss the turkey tacos, guacamole and chile colorado/bean burrito with sauce--ahh the tastes of my childhood!

                    2. I like Teo Leo's. There's several Teo Leo restaurants in San Diego. One not far from Sea World on Morena Blvd, also in Mira Mesa, near Del Mar, I forget where else. It's casual, inexpensive. I LOVE the chips and salsa. Great a la carte menu for that quick cheap lunch. Good carne asada burritos. Good crab enchiladas. Great night atomsphere as well, with bands.

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: Kristie
                        Brian Saunders

                        I always forget Teo Leo's when I'm thinking of the "local chains", probably because I don't often see one in my usual travels. I'm not sure where I'd rate them compared to the usual suspects (I only went once, a while back, and don't remember anything negative), but it does sound like a place I should give a try again.

                        1. re: Brian Saunders

                          I've always been kind of ambivalent about Tio Leo's. I haven't eaten at one in probably five years (I'm no longer in their area), but in general, I always thought their food was quite good, and the menu included some items that aren't commonly seen at Mexican restaurants outside of the barrios. On the down side, at one of their restaurants, I was served some of the worst guacamole I've ever tasted. If that stuff *didn't* come out of a can, then whoever made it should be prosecuted and shipped back to Kansas. IIRC, this was at a period when the price of avocados was at an historic high, but some things are just not amenable to substitution.
                          . . jim strain in san diego.