805 Seacoast Drive, Imperial Beach
The sign looks new: IB Street Tacos. Now Open. It’s been slung up on a banner above the street frontage.
Always suspicious when a place says it has “street tacos.” Means it’s actually middle class, doing a safe imitation of the real thing.
This guy standing outside sees me hesitate. “Food’s really good,” he says. “You should try it. They’re the real thing. ’Specially the battered shrimp. Or the octopus.”
Well, now I have to go in. The inside has an eating bar along the front window and a couple of tiny tables. That’s all they have space for.
“Welcome!” says this big Anglo guy, Jerry. He takes up half the counter. It’s his place, turns out. “Which one tonight?”
Just to get things going I ask for the battered shrimp. Jerry calls out the order in perfect Spanish to an orange-shirted crew working the stoves behind.
So, back to the list. I’m thinking of stuff to take home to Carla. The menu’s pretty simple. Ten items. Most tacos are $1.95, such as the adobada (pork), pollo asado, carnitas, the asada (“traditional grilled steak with spices”), and the pescado (“battered swai served with cabbage, onion, tomato, house and chipotle aioli”).
For $3 you can get a portobello taco with the ’shroom, poblano, arugula, black beans, corn, and cilantro aioli; a grilled or battered shrimp taco; a baby octopus with pesto and aioli; or a mulita.
“That’s two tortillas with cheese in the middle, then add any protein, like pork or carne asada, to stuff in there, too,” says the other guy, David, about the mulita.
That’s it. Oh, and they have a few sides such as grilled cebollitas (green onions) for $1.
Jerry brings out a little paper plate with seasoned cucumber chunks. “That’s just to get your appetite going,” he says.
While I’m waiting, I go to the cooler and pick out…aah, yes! Sangría Señorial, the grape cooler that tastes like wine but isn’t.
I try the cebollitas. Spicy, garlicky. The battered shrimp is delicious. Crunchy and mixed in with fresh-cut cilantro and red onion and tomato, plus that chipotle and creamy mayo. I add a dark red sauce that is blow-your-mind hot but also tasty.
To take home I get the mulita with carne asada, the pulpo al pesto (baby octopus), and the adobada. All in all, about $17. Carla later declares the adobada the tastiest.
Me: That pulpo. Sharp, but deep flavors, too. And not heavy. These guys have the light touch.
Turns out Jerry opened this tiny joint seven months ago and also owns City Tacos and Tostadas, both in North Park.