San Diego Reader taco issue

San Ysidro, Logan Heights, Old Town, Pacific Beach, El Cajon, Gaslamp, Linda Vista, East Village, Kensington, Del Mar, La Mesa, Tecate, Tijuana

Tuétano Taqueria: try the tuétano, a thick cut of beef shank that’s roasted until the marrow is meltingly soft, then dipped in birria broth and seared on the grill.
  • Tuétano Taqueria: try the tuétano, a thick cut of beef shank that’s roasted until the marrow is meltingly soft, then dipped in birria broth and seared on the grill.
  • Photograph by Matthew Suárez

Our cover photo contest winner: Daniel Peña Esqueda (@bajayummy). Chicano taco from Tras / Horizonte by Kokopelli, in Tijuana: charcoal grilled octopus marinated with chiles adobados and nopales.

Our cover photo contest winner: Daniel Peña Esqueda (@bajayummy). Chicano taco from Tras / Horizonte by Kokopelli, in Tijuana: charcoal grilled octopus marinated with chiles adobados and nopales.

  • Mary Beth Abate
  • No one knows the true origins of the taco

  • One noted taco historian dates it back to the 19th century based on references to “taco de minero,” or miner’s tacos, alluding to the mining practice of wrapping pieces of paper around gunpowder and slipping it into holes carved into the rock wall. Others point to historical evidence in the writings of conquistador Bernal Díaz del Castillo that people living in the lake region of the Valley of Mexico ate tacos filled with small fish.
  • Whatever origin story you believe, the fact remains that tacos, in the long evolutionary timeline of Mexican cuisine, are in their culinary infancy. They don’t have a millenia-old history — which may be a good thing, because nothing stifles creativity like the false weight of “traditional” and “authentic” labels.
  • We all have our favorite birrias, our favorite barbacoas, and our favorite Baja fish, our al pastors, asadas, dorados, and sudados. But we also have innovative chefs creating instant classics using ingredients and techniques from other cultures and cuisines. It’s a great time to be eating tacos in San Diego, and we’re just getting started.

Tuétano Taqueria

143 West San Ysidro Boulevard, San Ysidro

  • Tuétano Taqueria
  • 143 W San Ysidro Boulevard
  • San Ysidro
  • Chef/owner Priscilla Curiel’s new spot on the main drag in San Ysidro just opened last September, but she’s already garnering loads of local and national attention. Once you dig into her scrumptious tacos, you’ll understand why. Start with the quesabirria, milky mozzarella melted on a tortilla (made with masa from National City’s Tortilleria La Estrellita) and topped by warmly spiced, long-braised birria. For just $3 more, do get the tuétano, a thick cut of beef shank bone that’s roasted until the marrow is meltingly soft, then dipped in birria broth and seared on the grill. Try spoonfuls of marrow on the birria or by itself on a hot tortilla, maybe with a bit of salsa macha. Pair it alongside the cochinita pibil “dirty style” taco, a Yucatan specialty — pork shoulder marinated and slowly roasted in citrus juice and achiote, then pulled and piled onto a tortilla, shavings of pickled onion and cilantro leaves providing a piquant balance.

Tortilla N' Taco Factory

130 South Mollison Avenue, El Cajon

  • Tortilla and Taco Factory
  • 130 South Mollison Avenue
  • El Cajon
  • Affectionately known as, TNT, this location of the City Tacos empire serves as a centralized location for producing fresh tortillas for all the City Tacos venues and serving up its own signature tacos. High on my list of must-haves is borrego en su jugo, luscious leg of lamb, wild mushrooms, guajillo chiles and herbs lovingly braised in its juices, shredded and generously piled onto a corn tortilla. They do a fine al pastor, too, big hunks of pork marinated in pineapple, chiles, and spices skewered onto a trompo and vertically spit roasted to glistening goodness before being thinly sliced and showered with cilantro, onion, and a dollop of guac. Camarón lovers shouldn’t pass on the TNT Shrimp, adobo-rubbed and wrapped in asadero cheese with a tangy/spicy habanero/mango/pineapple salsa. At $2.00 - $3.75 each, you can feast well without breaking the bank.

Corazon de Torta’s braised beef in guajillo (left) and The Dirty (right)

Corazon de Torta’s braised beef in guajillo (left) and The Dirty (right)

Photograph by Mary Beth Abate

Corazon de Torta

2490 Commercial Street, Logan Heights

  • Corazón de Torta Guisados y Grill
  • 2490 Commercial Street
  • Logan Heights
  • Antonio “Tony Tee” Ley’s taco truck is based in Logan Heights, but can regularly be found at breweries and tasting rooms throughout the county. Long, slow cooking steeps rich chile flavor into the short rib guajillo taco, along with crunchy end bits scattered here and there to provide a delicious surprise. “The Dirty” puts carne asada under melty cheese and chipotle meat sauce for layers of savory flavor. There’s always a couple of vegetarian and vegan options, including the popular vegan cauliflower mole, so everyone leaves happy and full. Catch up with their weekly schedule via the usual social media outlets.

Tacos El Cabrón

532 4th Avenue, Downtown San Diego

  • Tacos El Cabrón
  • 532 4th Avenue
  • Gaslamp
  • Serving nearly a dozen different tacos, from camarón to cactus, Tacos El Cabrón satisfies almost any taco craving. I’m partial to the Camarón Enchilado, spicy pink curlicues nestled into a house-made flour tortilla and smothered in crema and chipotle sauces, but I can always be persuaded to nosh on the namesake El Cabrón, the slices of tender steak, creamy whole pinto beans and guacamole are a rib-sticking pleasure. Vegetarians have a couple of solid choices and any taco can be made a quesataco for just $.75 more. Night owls will appreciate their late night hours — Fridays and Saturdays they stay open till 3 am.

Coal Bros

1310 Morena Boulevard, Linda Vista

  • Coal Bros
  • 1310 Morena Boulevard
  • Linda Vista
  • Coal Bros hefty tacos get a wood-fired mesquite finish on a Santa Maria-style grill that delivers subtle sweet smokiness and a crispy finish to its outstanding fillings. It’s the perfect treatment for their popular ribeye, featuring juicy cuts of steak under a big mound of guacamole and slivered pink pickled onions. Smoked fish enthusiasts will love the Taco Mamon, a mouth-watering smoked tuna guisado, wrapped in a cheese topping and a drizzle of their signature sauce.

Tacos Mimi

4508 Cass Street, Pacific Beach

  • Tacos Mimi
  • 4508 Cass Street
  • Pacific Beach
  • When I can’t decide what kind of taco I want, I head over to Tacos Mimi. They have all the classics, carne asada, birria, al pastor and pollo asado street tacos, three kinds of shrimp tacos (spicy, grilled, or battered) and three vegetarian options, seasoned champiñones, crunchy fried papas or avocado with greens, plus the requisite Baja-style batter-fried fish, all folded into fresh, handmade corn tortillas. At a minuscule $2.50-$3.75 per, it’s a delicious way to try several different fillings without emptying your wallet.

Fernandez Restaurant

2265 Flower Avenue, Nestor

  • Fernandez Restaurant
  • 2265 Flower Avenue
  • Nestor
  • There’s a reason that Fernandez Restaurant almost always has a line of people waiting outside — Brothers Miguel Angel and Jorge Fernandez serve some of the best Tijuana-style birria around. Slow, overnight stewing results in a deeply comforting, soul-satisfying mélange of beef, chiles, and spices that can be ordered by the bowl for self-assembly using the accompanying fresh corn tortillas, radishes, cilantro, onion, limes, and chile de árbol salsa, or already tacoized in a birria oil-fried tortilla, ready for dunking in a cup of fragrant broth. Order it con nervio (topped with succulent tendon) or go for the burn with a chupacabra, gently fried tortillas, onions, serrano chiles, and melted queso under a bed of birria. Fans of lengua (tongue) should make the trek on Fridays, the only day it’s on the menu. Pro tip: The small parking lot is often full, but the restaurant provides shuttle service from nearby Southwest High School at 1685 Hollister Street during busy hours.
  • Ian Anderson
  • I defy you to ignore the specialty tacos

Aquí es Texcoco

520 Broadway number 5 and 6, Chula Vista

  • Aqui es Texcoco
  • 520 Broadway number 5 and 6
  • Chula Vista
  • The popularity of this this Chula mainstay’s lamb barbacoa finally caught up to it: this spring the beloved restaurant shut its doors… and moved to a new location a mile and a half north. Still on Broadway, its new location can hold twice as many customers, which becomes crucial on weekends, when devoted regulars rush in to gorge on three-dollar soft or grilled tacos featuring a choice of tender lamb, lamb rib, or lamb cabeza (a.k.a. head meat). Because Texcoco cooks the entire lamb, truly adventurous eaters may indulge in tacos of pancita (tripe and giblets) or sesos: tender and seasoned lamb brain. It’s okay to shy away from those, and a new taco offering: blood sausage. But another new taco proves a winner: pressed pork belly chicharrones.

California taco, carne asada taco, and fried mahi taco from Valerie’s Taco Stand in Vista

California taco, carne asada taco, and fried mahi taco from Valerie’s Taco Stand in Vista

Photograph by Ian Anderson

Valerie’s Taco Stand

2213 El Camino Real Suite D, Oceanside

  • Valerie’s Taco Stand
  • 2213 El Camino Real Suite D
  • Oceanside
  • Valerie’s so-called stand is really a small counter restaurant tucked within an Oceanside shopping center. But even at twice its size, it would have to be considered an overachiever. Valerie’s offers no fewer than 15 plumply loaded tacos to choose from, served on fantastically thick and chewy, freshly made corn tortillas, adorned with a thin layer of grilled crisp cheese and a sprinkling of cotija. At 3 to 4 bucks apiece, you’ll dine happily with sumptuous orders of carnitas, carne asada, or al pastor, but I defy you to ignore the litany of specialty tacos on the menu. The El Jefe taco dresses the combo of carne and bacon with chipotle sauce; the Diablo deep fries buttered shrimp and douses them with a spicy house salsa; and the easy to love Cali Taco adds French fries, chipotle, and queso fresco to carne asada to all but outdo its namesake burrito.

Mariscos Nine Seas

3030 Grape Street, South Park

  • Mariscos Nine Seas
  • 3030 Grape Street
  • South Park
  • There’s no taco in San Diego I’ve revisited more often than the fried Baja style fish taco of my friendly neighborhood Mariscos truck. Others I encounter in the ever-present line swear by the selection of $4.75 grilled shrimp tacos: the saucy, spicy diablo or the cheesy gobernadora, each topped with peppery celery and red bell peppers. And it’s tough to argue the allure of the $6 patron, also known as the “boss taco,” a surf and turf champ combining top sirloin, shrimp, and marlin. But none manage to pry my appetite from Nine Seas’ basic grilled or crispy fried sea bass tacos. At less than 2 bucks a pop, I’ll get three or four in combination when I’m feeling inclined to eat healthy. But make no mistake: that perfectly seasoned Baja fried batter taco is the one to bury me with.

Panchita’s Kitchen & Bakery

3803 32nd Street, North Park

  • Panchita’s Kitchen and Bakery
  • 3803 32nd Street
  • North Park
  • The pan dulces of Panchita’s bakeries are well known to fans of conchas, bolillos, and sweet Mexican pastries, always available at locations in Golden Hill and Barrio Logan. But the brand’s lesser known North Park location is the only one to offer tacos, including mesquite-fired carne asada and pollo asado; house-stewed birria; and beer battered local fish sourced from noted fishmonger Catalina Offshore Products. All of these range between $3.75 and $4.50 a pair, while the fish and a vegetarian friendly nopal (cactus) taco go a little higher at $$3.75 each. But the winner in my mind is the $4 Oaxaca taco. The trick to this one has more to do with its tortillas than filling: two birria-dipped corn tortillas go on the grill to melt stretchy Oaxacan cheese between them before filling the quasi-quesadilla with your choice of chicken or al pastor pork.

Mike's Taco Club

5060 Newport Avenue, Ocean Beach

  • Mike’s Taco Club
  • 5060 Newport Avenue
  • Ocean Beach
  • Open til 2:30 am on Friday and Saturday nights, this quintessential late-night taco shop has made an institution of itself soaking up the after -last-call cravings of Newport Avenue nightlife. Which means, for many of us, that Mike’s offers mostly vague recollections of surf and turf California burritos eaten outside, amid O.B.’s salty mix of sea air, boozy breath, and weed. However, by light of day — well, the atmosphere is much the same, with a few European tourists tossed in. But it becomes clear seafood tacos are the way to go. There’s the grilled fish of the day, probably a couple to choose from, such as salmon or yellowtail. There are grilled shrimp, and even better, grilled scallops. But to make the experience memorable this time, opt for the Trifecta, which combines all three.

La Catrina Tapas & Cantina

3139 University Ave, North Park

  • La Catrina Tapas and Cantina
  • 3139 University Avenue
  • North Park
  • Though among the priciest tacos I tried in the past year, the prime grade ribeye tacos offered by this elegantly casual Baja-influenced restaurant did earn every dollar, and even without the smear of bone marrow puree that goes with them, a pair of these for $12 was entirely worth it. There’s a surf and turf version with grilled shrimp and refried beans for $11, and prime New York steak combined with French fries on the cleverly named New York Tacos. But the surprise winner for me was the taco de flor de Jamaica. At $10 for the pair, they combine hibiscus flower with eggplant, mushrooms, and garlic butter to produce a unique, interesting, and most importantly great tasting vegetarian taco that holds its own next to prime beef.

Carnitas Uruapan

4233 Spring Street, La Mesa

  • Carnitas Uruapan
  • 4233 Spring Street
  • La Mesa
  • After I wrote about a great burrito from this little shop, readers commented they’d followed Carnitas Uruapan for half a century as it bounced from Tijuana to different locations in East County, so I reached out to its family ownership for some history. Indeed, the original location opened in Tijuana, by the old El Toreo de Tijuana bullring that was torn down in 2007. Before that one closed, its owner’s cousins, Margaret and Rogelio Rodriguez, opened a location on this side of the border, in Spring Valley, around the early 90s. When Highway 125 construction hit that area, it moved to to nearby Lemon Grove. The owners passed on, and that location closed, but they left the name and concept to longtime cook, Marco Rodriguez (not related). For decades, this Rodriguez cooked the restaurant’s carnitas the way he learned in his native Michoacán: three hours slow cooking in its own lard, with orange peels and little seasoning. Rodriguez and family have kept the tradition going (his son Marco is responsible for my new fave burrito), and that simple carnitas recipe is still what you’ll find in Uruapan’s excellent carnitas tacos.
  • Ed Bedford
  • Ideal meet ’n’ eat

Not Not Tacos

550 West Date Street, suite B, Little Italy

  • Not Not Tacos
  • 550 West Date Street
  • Little Italy
  • The brilliant thing Sam, The Cooking Guy, the brains behind Not Not Tacos, did was tap our inner child, the one that loves mashed potatoes and cheeseburgers and cashew chicken, and stuck those favorites into tacos. Think blatantly gringo tacos. His store in Little Italy’s new Piazza Della Famiglia food hall always seems to have a line of customers. The most requested item is the Korean short rib taco ($6.75), with a ginger garlic soy sauce, gochujang and sour cream. But my favorite is the mashed potato taco, the cheapest at $3.75 (but add bacon for 50 more cents). Sour cream, Cholula, and green onion sex it up. The second go-to: Kelly’s Shrimp. It has a tangy combo of chipotle cream, cilantro, green onion, red cabbage. Coming in a close third, that gochujang kick of the short rib taco.

Taqueria Revolucion

362 E. San Ysidro Boulevard, San Ysidro

  • Taqueria Revolucion
  • 362 East San Ysidro Boulevard
  • San Ysidro
  • The search for the genuine TJ taco could end a quarter mile north of the border. It’s a family operation. The owner’s mom, Hilda Vallejo, helped with the recipes, often greets you, and the tacos are down to earth and generous. My favorite among the meat-based tacos is the birria. Shredded beef slow-cooked till it’s tender and still juicy, and so rico. But my favorite has to be the taco de nopal. Cactus made flavorful! The sabor is helped by salsas (choose from three intensities) and tons of guac. Must-have drink to accompany these: Sangria Señorial, the winey Mexican non-alcoholic beverage ($2.75). Hilda’s son Emilio has been busy: after only four years, he has three Revoluciones in South Bay, and is planning a fourth in Hollywood.

Tury’s crisp Vampiro taco with chorizo and carne asada

Tury’s crisp Vampiro taco with chorizo and carne asada

Photograph by Ed Bedford

Tury’s Tacos

2181 Logan Avenue, Logan Heights

  • Tury’s Tacos
  • 2181 Logan Avenue
  • Logan Heights
  • This place is in back of Border X, the pub that makes its own Mexican-style beers. Tury himself is here to make his tacos, as he has for the last 24 years, starting in Mexicali. His chicharron (pork skin) is great, so are his chorizo and asada tacos. And on Taco Tuesdays you get four at $1.50 each. (Other days, they’re $2.50.) But, my go-to is the Vampiros tostada ($3.50) with pastor-style pork. It’s like a little round boat loaded with flavor. Tury’s has unlimited salsas and add-ons like guac and eatable peppers that don’t burn your mouth out. Weekends, he makes a pretty mean ceviche tostada for $8.99. Now add atmosphere: a game garden out back and live music like Cuban jazz in front (Thursdays).
  • Beach + Taco Shack
  • On the beach in front of Hotel Del Coronado
  • Coronado
  • Is this place outrageously expensive? Oh yes. It has only one thing going for it: ain’t nowhere else I know on the island of Coronado where you can actually buy tacos on the beach, cerveza too, and then sit on that beach and feed and guzzle. Also, have to admit, they do great tuna and shrimp tacos. Yes, you pay $7.50 per taco, but the yellowtail is fresh and tender. The shrimp are huge, and you get a chipotle cream sauce and lime crema. So, let’s say you’re paying $15 for one each of these and $22 for two beers? Take a deep breath, find a table in the warm sand for the two of you, nuzzle your feet into it, and chomp. As they say, location, location, location.

La Selecta International Market

1415 Third Avenue, Chula Vista

  • Selecta International Food Market
  • 1415 Third Avenue
  • Chula Vista
  • Tacos here are $1.69 each. This traditional Mexican-style market, with money order counters, jewelry vendors, and nail painters, also has a food section where they make tacos for you, at the back. You order, pay at the checkout, and pick up their tacos at a hole in the wall outside. The tacos have most of the standard fillings, including chicken, pork al pastor, asada and cabeza – head. But it’s the tortillas that are the stars here. Customers swear by their flavor because they use just corn and water. No whiteners, softeners, preservatives, no “instant” corn flour. People come from all over. Passing bus drivers stop outside to collect their tacos. Good time to come: weekends when they feature birria de chivo – goat stew in tacos.

Fusion taco? This one from Carnitas Snack Shack has smoked pulled pork and mac’n cheese.

Fusion taco? This one from Carnitas Snack Shack has smoked pulled pork and mac’n cheese.

Photograph by Ed Bedford

Carnitas' Snack Shack — Embarcadero

1004 North Harbor Drive, Downtown San Diego

  • Carnitas Snack Shack
  • 1004 North Harbor Drive
  • Embarcadero
  • More than anything else, this feels like a taco party bar. It’s situated almost on the piers, so sunset is a great time. But actually, anytime feels good here. They just got their Feng shui right. Then there’s the tacos. Carnitas is the namesake choice, though blackened mahi mahi is one smoky fish dish, with the combo of avo cream, guac and pico de gallo. But the champ has to be the smoky pork and spicy mac taco. Pulled pork and mac and cheese work so well together, with help from sriracha and sour cream. The mac and cheese tame the wilder flavors in there. Bottom line: this will be an ideal meet n’ eat place for summer. But come for that smoky pork and spicy mac.
  • Lolo’s Restaurant
  • Calle Lázaro Cárdenas #20 Ext. 1
  • Tecate
  • Honestly, Lolo’s tacos are fine but standard. But they are the real Mexican thing. They probably just taste better in Tecate’s beautiful central plaza, where Lolo’s patio reaches out under the trees. Carne asada tacos go for 75 pesos, say $3.75. Tacos dorados, crisp tostadas of chicken or beef run the same price. Or take the tacos in combination, with a chicken tostada taco, a chile relleno and a beef enchilada. It’s one big plate-load for about $5.50. Or that amount would buy you two big tacos with fixins. Actually you can get tacos way cheaper around the square, but Lolo’s has the atmosphere and that prime position. Of course, you’ll meet Lolo himself, Heliodoro, a generous host who can tell you about the history of the taco itself.
  • Patrick Henderson
  • Improvisations on a taco theme

Spicy camarones a la diabla at Tahona

Spicy camarones a la diabla at Tahona

Photograph by Matthew Suárez

Tahona

2414 San Diego Avenue, Old Town

  • Tahona
  • 2414 San Diego Avenue
  • Old Town
  • Located nest to the Old Town cemetery Tahona specializes in gourmet tacos and tequilas. The menu changes seasonally, but the Pork Belly Negro is a flavorful classic thanks to the way the slightly sweet pork works with the heat from the habanero-pickled onions. The spicy camarones a la diabla are a great choice for people who want something slightly spicier than the typical taco. As far as cocktails go, the piña colada with tequila is refreshing but you may start singing that old Rupert Holmes classic if you have too many of them.

Even meat eaters will like Lola 55’s squash blossom relleno

Even meat eaters will like Lola 55’s squash blossom relleno

Photograph by Matthew Suárez

Lola 55

1290 F Street, East Village

  • Lola 55
  • 1290 F Street
  • East Village
  • Open less than a year, Lola 55 has earned a reputation as a top taco destination among locals. Case in point: the filet mignon taco is meaty, juicy, with a nice char on some edges and a great mouth feel; but it’s the crispy leeks push this to the stratosphere. About a third of the tacos are vegetarian, and the masterpiece in that category is the squash blossom relleno, vegan sausage stuffed inside a squash blossom and deep-fried. Skip the rice and beans for the house caesar salad, which is served as long strips of romaine topped with an anchovy-forward dressing and big bread chunks.

Ponce's Mexican Restaurant

4050 Adams Avenue, Kensington

  • Ponce’s
  • 4050 Adams Avenue
  • Kensington
  • Celebrating its 50th anniversary, Ponce’s is one of the last Mexican restaurants that is still serving a delicious-but-Americanized version of the cuisine: ground beef tacos in hard shells. It’s not exactly authentic, but it’s comfort food at its finest, especially if you get a combo with a cheese enchilada, rice, and beans. The sauce soaks into the hard shells — wonderful! Although there are plenty of quality margaritas to gulp, I stick with the soda on tap — it’s delicious Mexican-style Coke!

City Tacos La Mesa

8325 ​La ​Mesa ​Boulevard, La Mesa

  • City Tacos
  • 8325 La Mesa Boulevard
  • La Mesa
  • Located smack dab in the middle of La Mesa Village, City Tacos has become a favorite spot for locals, as the long lines attest. The Mexicali, which includes angus steak and mashed potatoes among other ingredients, hits the umami mark, while the vegetarian fried avocado taco (topped with a blue cheese sauce) is a tangy complement. The Pescadilla, made with smoked tuna machaca, is surprisingly complex in its flavors, while the chorizo asado deftly combines spicy sausage and sweet pineapple.

Puesto at The Headquarters

789 W. Harbor Drive, Downtown San Diego

  • Puesto At The Headquarters
  • 789 West Harbor Drive
  • Marina
  • Located near Seaport Village, Puesto At The Headquarters is one of the area’s most innovative taco meccas. The filet mignon taco with fried cheese ranks in my all-time taco top 10, while the duck confit taco with black beans and cilantro chimichurri almost made the list. The taco of the month special is always worth trying. I still fondly remember their octopus taco from a few years back. Vegetarians should check out the Sweet Pea taco made with melted cheese, green peas, snap peas and roasted carrot salsa.

Pacifica Del Mar

1555 Camino del Mar, Del Mar

  • Pacifica Del Mar
  • 1555 Camino Del Mar
  • Del Mar
  • Pacifica Del Mar has been a popular seafood destination for nearly 30 years. These days, every local seafood spot has to have a fish taco, and Pacifica spices things up Cajun-style with a blackened version that is crispy on the outside, moist inside. It’s available all the time but real taco lovers go on Tuesday when chef Chris Idso improvises on the taco theme, making everything from Buffalo cauliflower tacos to peppered ahi takoshimi served in a wonton shell. But the real star of Tuesdays may be the Korean lobster taco, which combines Maine lobster meat sautéed with kimchi, Napa cabbage slaw, kimchi aioli, and cilantro sprouts, all on a corn tortilla
  • Matthew Suárez
  • Taste that lingers for hours

The concentrated juicy steak taste of the bone marrow lingers for hours after a meal at Brasa Taquería in Colectivo 9

The concentrated juicy steak taste of the bone marrow lingers for hours after a meal at Brasa Taquería in Colectivo 9

Photograph by Matthew Suárez

Brasa Taquería

1265 Avenida Revolución, Tijuana

  • Brasa Taquería
  • 1265 Avenida Revolución
  • Downtown, Tijuana
  • “I trust you; get me what you get,” said my friend as we got to Brasa, between 6th and 7th. Since they opened in December 2018, I have made a habit of going to Colectivo 9 weekly. I ignore all other choices at the food court and get two tacos de arrachera (flank steak for $1.75 each) with handmade tortillas. Add a huge piece of tuétano (bone marrow) for $1 extra for each taco. Chase them down with a craft beer from Barrica 9 (ample selection for cheap). The concentrated juicy steak taste of the bone marrow lingers for hours afterwards.

It takes six hipsters to make this intriguing battered cauliflower taco at TacoNveggie in Tijuana

It takes six hipsters to make this intriguing battered cauliflower taco at TacoNveggie in Tijuana

Photograph by Matthew Suárez

  • TacoNveggie
  • Corner of Colombia and Colima Street
  • Colonia Madero, Tijuana
  • How many hipsters does it take to run a veggie taco stand? Apparently, six of them. One grabs a plate and a tortilla, passes it down to a guy who scoops rice and beans, then to another bearded fellow who adds the guisado. The unique guisados vary daily for $1.50 and include torta de huauzontle (hairy amaranth patty), battered cauliflower, mushroom birria, eggplant entomatada, and more. The tacos are more of an intriguing experience than they are tasty. As for the other three hipsters, one is in charge of the money, one serves aguas frescas, and the last one is on the phone.

Kokopelli

271 Larroque, Tijuana

  • Kokopelli
  • 271 Larroque
  • Colonia Federal, Tijuana
  • Kokopelli has gone through many changes since its humble beginning as a taco truck. It grew to a couple of restaurants, had a brief stint as an upscale fine dining place in Chicago, came back to Tijuana as Tras/Horizonte, and circled back to the original truck. It recently reopened steps away from the PedWest border in the modern Airbnb and business collective called Estación Federal. Their classics are back for around $3 each: grilled portobello with pesto and spinach, octopus a la Gallega with nopales, panela cheese with crickets and beans, and the smoked sweet salmon. Down the tacos with a cocktail at Cereus Bar or coffee from Nativo.

Satabu at Telefonica Gastro Park

Satabu at Telefonica Gastro Park

Photograph by Matthew Suárez

Satabu

8924 Boulevard Aguacaliente, Tijuana

  • Satabu
  • 8924 Boulevard Aguacaliente
  • Teléfonica Gastro Park, Tijuana
  • You can find Satabu tacos and “burrotes” in two of Tijuana’s trendiest locations: República Malta (beer garden) and Teléfonica Gastro Park. They have 10 different tacos from $2.75-3.50: asada, chicken-bacon, rabbit, lamb barbacoa, panko shrimp, chipotle octopus, seared tuna, mixed mushrooms, chile relleno, and roasted beets. My favorite here is their take on the Yucatecan traditional plate cochinita pibil, replacing the pork with conejo (rabbit) accompanied by chile achiote and pickled red onions. It results in the same tangy pibil taste but with leaner and healthier meat.

Los Chilos taco truck has been outside an Autozone on 3rd Street in downtown Tijuana for six years

Los Chilos taco truck has been outside an Autozone on 3rd Street in downtown Tijuana for six years

Photograph by Matthew Suárez

  • San Francisco/Los Chilos taco truck
  • Downtown, Tijuana
  • This taco truck has been outside an Autozone on 3rd Street in downtown Tijuana for six years, but on the perimeter for over 30 years. The paint on the side of the truck reads “Mariscos San Francisco,” but the back says “Los Chilos.” The name doesn’t matter; they serve killer seafood tacos. A friend swears by the marlin quesadilla, my ex loved the combinación de mariscos, a soupy mixture of all their seafood. I go for the classic fish ($1) and shrimp tacos ($1.50). The fish rotates to whatever is best at the market, but the batter is always golden crisp and delicious.

Cine Tonalá has five choices of tacos. The braised beef rib features a mound of shredded beef ribs on top of refried beans with pickled radishes, cucumbers, and red onions.

Cine Tonalá has five choices of tacos. The braised beef rib features a mound of shredded beef ribs on top of refried beans with pickled radishes, cucumbers, and red onions.

Photograph by Matthew Suárez

Cine Tonala

Avenida Revolucion 1317, Baja

  • Cine Tonalá
  • 1303 Avenida Revolución
  • Downtown Tijuana
  • More than just a movie theater, Cine Tonalá provides a spacious rooftop dining experience in downtown Tijuana. Their menu has five choices of tacos for $5-6 a pair all prepared with small handmade tortillas: pork jowl, umami mushroom, octopus, marlin, and braised beef rib. The last one is my favorite. It features a mound of shredded beef ribs on top of refried beans with pickled radishes, cucumbers, and red onions. Chase it down with a choice from the ample cocktail and beer selection. My recommendation, the Santo Tlali: a mezcal-based drink with maracuyá (passion fruit), pineapple juice, and habanero bitters.

Border Psycho Cantina

821 Avenida Revolución, Tijuana

  • Border Psycho Cantina
  • 821 Avenida Revolución
  • Downtown Tijuana
  • Opened December 2017 near Tijuana’s arch in downtown, Border Psycho is the closest craft brew from the border. The menu, besides offering burgers and fries, has two kinds of tacos and other Mexican appetizers like sopes, nachos, flautas, and huaraches. My favorite here is the shrimp huarache al pastor, which is very similar to a taco. Huarache, meaning sandal in the pre-Columbian language Purépecha, is a flattened, yet thick corn masa in the shape of a sandal, with cheese and grilled shrimp imitating the Mexican pork al pastor flavors, plus pieces of pineapple, cilantro, and red onion.

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