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Excellent Dishes in Unexpected Places

I am interested in examples of excellent dishes found in unexpected places-- the kind of place where the rest of the menu is indifferent at best, and the restaurant itself certainly doesn't look like anything special. I'm thinking of something like the pozole at Taqueria El Rodeo in City Heights, which I only discovered it because I used to live down the street. The menu looks pretty much like San Diego Standard Taco Shop and everything else I ever tried there was just okay. The pozole, though, is always good-- tender pork and hominy in a mild but rich broth, served with fresh chopped onions and cilantro, some shredded cabbage, and a nicely ripened half avocado.

What are your favorite unexpected finds?

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  1. Hamburger at Mexican Fiesta

    1. I think Super Cocina fits that category. Also, Marisco's Godoy, excellent marinated and grilled pupelo.

      1 Reply
      1. re: cstr

        I don't really think of Super Cocina as being in the same class, because while the ambiance is certainly unassuming just about all of the dishes are (IME) at least pretty good.

      2. I'm embarrassed to mention this place as its not somewhere I'd be caught dead in but it fits the bill and my grandmother likes it....Shakey's pizza. They have the worst pizza I've ever had in my life(worse than $1 dollar cheap pizza in NYC) and their sides are literally disgusting but their fried chicken IMO is pretty decent. Their pizza and sides would easily be a 2 out of 10(food poisoning warrants a 1 out of 10) where as I'd give their fried chicken maybe a 8 out of 10.

        I'm preparing myself for all the backlash.

        8 Replies
        1. re: polldeldiablo

          Since this exercise calls for subjective experiences that contravene intersubjective expectations you are probably safe. There will be no backlash. The chances of anybody else on this list having eaten fried chicken at Shakey's Pizza are just about nil.

          To the best of my recollection, I have only eaten at Shakey's Pizza in Tokyo. I was living there in the mid '80's teaching English and just scratching by. I went to Shakey's Pizza for all you can eat pizza and Denny's for all you can drink coffee. Quantity over quality . . . absolutely!

          1. re: notjustastomach

            There's still a Shakey's in Grossmont Center (by the Verizon store) in case you feel like giving the chicken a whirl.

          2. re: polldeldiablo

            Mojo potatoes at Shakeys are like crack.

            1. re: polldeldiablo

              In ~1989 my nerdy D&D playing 14 year old friends and I used to hang out at Shakey's Pizza all day long because they had their $4.99 all you can eat buffet all day long on Saturdays. We'd push some tables together in the back, play our nerdy little role playing games, and for some reason the staff put up with us letting us eat their not so great cheap food while we slayed dragons for 8 hours straight. Great memories if not of the food. ;)

              1. re: oerdin

                If you want to walk down memory lane, there is still a Shakey's in Grossmont Center.

              2. re: polldeldiablo

                I remember Shakey's from my 'tween years in the early-mid seventies. There's a Shakey's still standing? I'm surprised.