No offense to all the people in Arizona who got snowed on, but where it really got cold this week was San Diego. It’s been the kind of Southern California winter where your nose is too frozen to feel the sunburn. The sort of bone chill where you wake up in the morning, half-remembering dreams that were mostly about soup.
3627 University Avenue, Normal Heights
I’ve got a solution to that, and it’s called Super Cocina. The cafeteria-like City Heights restaurant has made a name for itself serving what it calls la comida casera, the Mexican version of what American southerners would call home cookin. I went looking for a Super Combination 2: one guisado and one soup, served with rice, beans, and corn tortillas for $10.99.
The heart of Super Cocina’s menu is its rotating assortment of guisados. The stewed dishes keep warm in chafing dishes behind the counter, usually the shades of green or red most associated with tomatillos or chili peppers, perhaps tempered by inclusion of ground seeds and spices. By the restaurant’s own count, it’s rotated through over 180 recipes, typically showcasing distinct regions of Mexico.
For example, because Super Cocina offers samples before you order, I could taste the sort of chocolaty mole associated with the state of Puebla, and a green mole credited to the Mayan influences of the Yucatan. I’m not sure whether the green mole included ground pumpkin seeds, but an orange pipián sure did. Choosing would not be easy, but I went for the warm spice of the pipián, the thick, nutty sauce attributed to central Mexico, and draped like a sheet over an entire chicken breast.
While the guisado menu constantly rotates, the soups menu remains relatively constant. Stacked with the likes of menudo, red pozole, and a Veracruz style fish soup, it too would seem to present tough decision. At least it would, if the birria de chivo didn’t stand out to me. That would be goat birria soup, a blackish red stock of goat meat and bones, flavored with guajillo chilis, with hints of ginger and clove. They tell me the recipe hails from Guadalajara.
As I stir the soup, pools of fatty oil appear and dissipate, with chunks of goat meat emerging, tender enough to cut with the plastic spoon provided. There’s spice enough to heat yet not overwhelm the palate, but the complex blend of flavors have stewed long enough to tame any gaminess in the goat. When it reaches my belly, the overall warmth radiates through my body, ousting the January chill as thoroughly as it rendered the collapsing ridges of fat lining that goat meat.
We can argue about it later, but while I’m eating this there will be no convincing me this isn’t the best soup in the world. Especially during a San Diego winter.