Saturday, May 18, 2013
San Diego - Taco Wonderland
I'm not going to say tacos are the reason we went to San Diego, but they're definitely one of the main reasons we'll return. Taco shops in San Diego are as ubiquitous as Tim Hortons in Canada.
On our first night we lucked out with taco happy hour right beside our hotel, but the next day we went in search of authentic San Diego fish tacos and ended up in the Gaslamp Quarter downtown.
I usually try to do some research and go to top rated places when we travel, but we were starving so we just popped into the first place that looked good, Mariscos el Pulpo. This lobster out front...
... and the lobster-printed booth inside looked very promising.
We each had a crispy fish taco with cabbage and crema. Matt had a spicy shrimp taco and I had a surf and turf with grilled shrimp and steak. These tacos, and all the ones we tried in San Diego, come with two corn tortillas. I don't know the "official" reason for the second tortilla, but they came in handy for catching any filling that would fall out, making a second helping of taco goodness.
I also tried a Paloma, a cocktail of tequila and grapefruit juice, which I loved.
The next night we were going to have fresh seafood but the line at the place we planned to visit was too long, so we went to the taco place that happened to be next door. El Indio has been featured on Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives. It started as a tortilla factory in the 1940s and serves terrific Mexican food. We didn't know this place was famous, we just sort of stumbled upon it but I'm so glad we did.
One of Matt's favourite dishes is Chile Rellanos, poblano chile stuffed with cheese. They had a combo platter served with beans and rice and a taco! Like all the counter service taco places we visited, there was a serve-yourself salsa bar so we tried a few.
I had a beef and guacamole hard taco and a carnitas taco.
We also tried this Mexican soda as instructed.
One of the nicest things about San Diego is when you're out and about and need a quick snack, this is their "fast food". It's not necessarily healthier than McDonalds, but it sure is tastier! These are taquitos from a taco stand right near the Mexican border.
One of the local must-try places on my list was Carnitas Snack Shack in North Park. We gave the address to our cab driver but when we got out of the taxi, we couldn't find it! We did see another taco stand so we decided it was fate and had Mexican for dinner again. This was a fortuitous error, because it gave us a chance to try the California Burrito!
I'd read about the California Burrito before heading to San Diego. It's carne asada (grilled steak), cheese, guacamole and french fries (!) wrapped in a flour tortilla. I didn't think it would be that great but I made Matt order one and, silly me, I ordered a quesadilla. After one bite...
... I stole Matt's dinner. It was incredible! The seasoned beef tasted great with the french fries. Just like poutine, you have to wonder why this isn't more popular everywhere.
We tried a few more fish tacos and California burritos here and there. This one even came on a real plate!
Tacos and burritos aren't the only thing we ate in San Diego, but it was close. We usually on vacation with a decent food budget so we can try highly rated restaurants and local specialties, but we were so satisfied with these casual taco meals, we spent about half what we normally would on food. Next time I'll tell you about the other stuff we ate in San Diego, but it's the tacos we'll remember most.