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Hottest Taco Joint in San Diego

Hello SD Hounds!
I am from Toronto and am helping curate a large Canada vs USA taco throwdown in October as part of a Food Network sponsored event. I would like to know what are the top/ hottest taco joints in San Diego to reach out to for this job. I'm thinking like Rick Bayless/ Big Star in chicago kind of "hot"- not necessarily the most authentic (I know, I know, but this is media), but rather, somewhere with a big following. Looking forward to tasting their goods!


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  1. I think La Puerta is exactly what you want.

    1 Reply
    1. re: ipsedixit

      That's not really a "taco joint" though. Maybe a "media" place that would work for them would be someplace in Old Town. Nice faux-Mexican photo opportunities. Let me think on it...

    2. Hottest as in spiciest? or trendiest? or popular? or good?

      4 Replies
      1. re: DougOLis

        There is no truly picante Mexican food in San Diego that I know of, and in any case, picante on a taco would mean the hot sauce. I'm sure that they mean popular/trendy/cool/super-good/cheap/central and/or all of the above.

        1. re: DoctorChow

          I had plenty of picante spices in Tijuana at La Caza Club--too spicey to the point I had to go back and forth from the border crossing line to you know where 3 times before it was safe to proceed. Guess my stomach did not react well to their spices.

          1. re: El Chevere

            Ahhh...sounds like my kind of place! Food that takes you just to the edge of being enchilado (or enchilada, as the case may be)! It's not in SD, though. And there is that border crossing line to deal with...uggh.

            1. re: DoctorChow

              Tell me about it....took me 2 hours to get back across on Saturday night starting at 8:30PM (I could understand 3 or 4PM, but that is the longest it took to walk across at that time and my future TJ trips will be conducted on Tuesday-Thursday evenings only from now on......fantastic pork chop at La Caza Club and right across the street from another highly regarded restaurant, El Taller.

      2. I'd send you to the Marisco's Pescador truck off the 5 in the Toys R Us parking lot. Not glamorous, no beautiful people, not Hollywood but, great Baja Style Fish Tacos. Tacos El Gordo for the meat variety.

        1. South Beach Bar & Grill seems perfect for this sort of publicity. And/or El Indio.

          5 Replies
          1. re: RB Hound

            and neither have been done before.

            It's a scoop.

            1. re: Fake Name

              If they go to South Beach then the west end of Newport's ruination at the hands of Food Network will be complete. Though maybe that will finally reduce the line at Hodad's.

              1. re: Josh

                Yes, Josh, I bet you'd just love to see the line reduced at Hodad's so you can start going again. :)

                I suspect that Abbey (the OP) probably had no idea that the most interesting tacos are probably from food trucks, and that it is about as far from the atmosphere she is seeking as it can get.

                1. re: RB Hound

                  Why not contrast some faux hacienda in Canada with Tacos el Gordo and some food trucks? ;-)

                  Carnitas Snack Shack has tacos ... and the seating area is kinda pretty, though also pretty small.

                  Maybe Romesco's bar menu?

                  1. re: The Office Goat

                    food trucks are great! Im good with food trucks!

          2. Why not TJ Oyster Bar in the Bonita section of Chula Vista or Karina's in Chula Vista?....granted, they serve more than just tacos but they do have great, authentic seafood tacos at that. I believe by 'hot' you are referring to popular. These are, both, popular and authentic.

            1. Abbey, are you looking for a place in the city of San Diego proper, or were you referring to the whole SD area?

              1 Reply
              1. re: DoctorChow

                whole SD- but very populr- long lines, huge following etc.

              2. Mama Testa...all tacos all the time. Owner beat Bobby Flay on the fish taco Throwdown

                Mariscos German or El Pescador for food truck fish tacos

                Northgate Market...the taqueria does a land office business and the market itself is kind of like Disneylandia for Mexican/latin products.

                TJ Oyster House...always busy, much beloved

                Blue Water Grill for fish tacos...check out the Guy Fieri was here tattoo on the wall

                Aqui es Texcoco...beloved by Andrew Zimmern and Tony Bourdain

                El Charco...in Chula Vista, Paco is awesome

                1 Reply
                1. re: DiningDiva

                  amazing advice. I will check out all of these from everyone who has posted, thank you!

                2. "Hot" in the buzz sense... mileage will vary with the food.

                  El Camino

                  Lucha Libre

                  Barrio Star (actually pretty decent)

                  Not "hot" in the buzz sense but makes damn fine tacos...

                  See Dining Diva's picks and also add:

                  El Borrego

                  Tacos el Paisa

                  La Fachada

                  1. Mariscos German food truck
                    El Pescador La Jolla
                    Bahia Don Bravo's fish tacos
                    Bull Taco
                    Roberto's Tacos shop for some of the best chicken tacos with guac..Del Mar/Solana Beach

                    1 Reply
                    1. I agree that Lucha Libre probably has the media/ cool vibe you're after.

                      if you want something different - El Pueblo, a 24 hour taco joint in the Valero gas station/car wash does great 99 cent fish tacos and offers some of the best mexican in the Cardiff/North County area. Not sure if a taco joint in a gas station/car wash is hype enough - might be more like Diners, Dives and Drive-ins? Worth a stop if you're heading down the 5 - take Birmingham exit.