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Nati’s: Ground zero for ground beef tacos

Stick with what works at Ocean Beach landmark

Ground beef taco and cheese enchilada combo
  • Ground beef taco and cheese enchilada combo

Nati's Mexican Restaurant

1852 Bacon Street, Ocean Beach

(Has gone out of business since this article was published.)

Few cities in America have a variety of Mexican food as wide as San Diego. There are Baja-style seafood places, Mexico City-style antojitos spots, Sonora-style taco places, and gourmet spots where nary a burrito can be found.

I love all the styles and feel Mexican is one of the top five cuisines in the world.

Nati's interior

Nati's interior

But, truth be told, the Mexican dish I dream about most often isn’t really Mexican at all: it’s the hard shell, ground beef taco served at Nati’s, an Ocean Beach restaurant open since 1960.

I’ve been going there since I was a kid (my parents went there on their first date) and I try to find non-pot-smoking excuses to go to Ocean Beach so I can get my fix.

Knowing what I know now, I can’t call Nati’s true Mexican food: It’s more like Mexican food the way moms who weren't Mexican used to make. That doesn’t make it bad or inauthentic. It’s just a different type of authentic.

Nati’s is part of a dying breed. San Diego used to have all sorts of Mexican places catering to primarily caucasian tastes with ground beef tacos, beans topped with melted cheese, and crisp, pizza-like quesadillas.

If you don't want ground beef tacos, try the bean burrito

If you don't want ground beef tacos, try the bean burrito

Nati’s style of Mexican food is more Tex-Mex and in the late 1970s, as people became more aware of the variety of Mexican food styles, the local eateries started adding things like fish tacos and carne asada to their menus.

Here’s the deal: If you want to be disappointed at Nati’s, order anything but a combination plate featuring the aforementioned ground beef taco and a cheese enchilada (plus rice and beans).

“Oh, but I want chicken,” you say.

Okay, go somewhere else.

“But I like the old school way that Nati’s looks,” you say. “I like the comforting feeling of being surrounded by senior citizens from Arizona. I just don’t want ground beef.”

Okay, go somewhere else. Or get a bean burrito or maybe a cheese enchilada.

Nati’s has a lot to recommend it — old school charm, real Mexican Coke, the spiciest spicy carrots from here to Ensenada (and they’re free!) — but you have to stick with what works.

Say it with me: ground beef tacos.

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Comments

Another thing that works at Nati's? Strong and stiff Puerto Vallerta margarita's! Sipped on the outdoor patio with a sea breeze coming off the beach! Paradise!

I live right behind Nati's and lived in OB for over 5 yrs now and have never eaten there. Haven't heard many good things about that place. And your review now seals it for me.

Ground beef tacos....really? I could go to Taco Bell for that kind of abuse and where the cheese tastes like grated plastic. Ok, TB wouldn't have the cool atmosphere that Nati's may have, but I'll leave that to the AZ tourists and hop over to Ortegas on Newport, or better yet, whatever they're calling Oscar's Mexican Seafood these days (has changed names 3 times in the year and a half it's been open) .across from South Beach Bar and Grill on Newport. They have killer tacos of the fresh fish kind.

Don't forget the sour cream enchiladas..also worth going to Nati's for!

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