Sep 032014
 

I’ve been thinking of ways to mix up our weeknight dinners at home, since I normally cook pretty much the same few dishes that S and I both enjoy (such as soy-braised pork, quick sautées and stir-fries, and easy pastas). Recently, I was given the chance to sample some offerings from Kennedy’s Karne, a local butcher shop based right in Escondido! Their specialty is Mexican food and specifically, carne asada.

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S and I were pretty excited to try making Mexican food, since it’s not something that we usually eat at home. It turned out to be a really fun “taco night” for the two of us! 

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I received a really generous sampler package, which included not only meat, but also sides – rice, beans, tortillas, salsa, guacamole, and chips!

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Feb 262014
 

I’ve been wanting to check out The Headquarters at Seaport District, a newly-opened plaza with boutique shops and restaurants. There were several restaurants that I wanted to try, including Pizzeria Mozza and Gelato Paradiso, but the one I was really curious about was Puesto. S and I really love the street-style tacos at the La Jolla location, and when I browsed the menu of the HQ location, there seemed to be a more extensive menu, and I wanted to try out the new offerings.

The place had a much different vibe than the La Jolla shop – the atmosphere was much more like a tavern/bar rather than a casual eatery. There’s seating in the patio and upstairs, while the downstairs is a bar area and communal tables. Instead of going through the assembly line to order your food and toppings, there is a waitstaff who will take your order. Like the LJ shop, though, you can still see pretty much everything that goes on in the kitchen:

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(I didn’t really get good photos of around the restaurant because it was too dark.)

S and I had a reservation, but because of Friday night traffic, we got there about five minutes late. At first they told us that they had already given away our table; then, they changed their mind and said that because we had an online reservation, we could only get an outdoor table. I was slightly annoyed that they had changed what they’d said, and we didn’t want to sit at an outside table. Luckily, there was space at one of the communal tables on the first floor, and we chose to sit there instead.

Complimentary chips & salsa

Complimentary chips & salsa

To my surprise, there was complimentary chips and salsa. The chips were nice and warm, and the salsa was mild in spiciness, but quite flavorful.

Looking over their menu, there are a variety of appetizers, salads, tacos, and entrées. We decided to try one new item, and one item that we knew was tried-and-true (at least, at their LJ location).

Bandera de Mole [$17]

Bandera de Mole: shredded Mary’s organic chicken in traditional, white, and green house-made moles [$17]

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Sep 222013
 

Fish tacos are definitely one of my favorite things about San Diego. Originated in Baja California, they consist of fried or grilled fish, pico de gallo, lettuce, and a mayonnaise-based sauce. According to the source of all knowledge, fish tacos were popularized in the U.S. by Rubio’s, a chain restaurant that I’ve never actually been to… since S tells me that it’s not that good. Haha. Most shops in SD have “Taco Tuesdays,” offering the tacos at a discount or all-day happy hour pricing.

Anyway, our absolute favorite place for fish tacos is South Beach Bar & Grill, located in Ocean Beach. We actually avoid going on Tuesdays because it gets so crowded. Pro-tip: they actually offer Taco Tuesday pricing ($2.75 per taco) during happy hour, Monday through Friday 3-6pm, or after 10pm. So S and I actually usually go after 10pm on not-Tuesdays, and we can usually get a seat right away. Their menu is actually quite extensive, but I’ve never tried anything other than the tacos.

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Oct 292012
 

Tacos are serious business in San Diego (duh), and the best way to celebrate the abundance of tacos? Taco Tuesdays! Many restaurants offer all-day Happy Hour pricing on drinks and cheap tacos on Tuesdays. Our go-to is S’s favorite, South Beach Bar & Grill, but last week our friends suggested we try Mitch’s Seafood.

Located on the harbor, it was a very casual yet busy place. You could sit at one of the tables inside, or along the “counter” on the pier, looking at the water and sailboats. It was dark already by the time we arrived, though, so I didn’t get a good photo.

Taco Tuesdays at Mitch’s means all-day $2 fried fish tacos and $3 grilled fish tacos, and $1.50 Tecates. They list the catches of the day on a chalkboard near the ordering counter, and the menu also includes sandwiches and soups. We started off with some chips and salsa.

Chips & salsa

The salsa was flavorful but slightly too watery for my liking. Another wish? Warm chips. I’ve been spoiled by places such as Roberto’s, so now I take off points for non-warm chips.

New England clam chowder

S and I decided to split a cup of the New England clam chowder. I was hoping to try the Manhattan clam chowder that my friend M recommended, but they didn’t offer it that day. I’m not a big fan of NE clam chowder, so I gave this an okay. S enjoyed it, though, and there were plenty of clams in the cup.

Fried calamari and shrimp tacos

I ordered two tacos, the beer-battered rock cod and shrimp. They got my order wrong, though, and I received a calamari taco at first. I snapped a photo before asking them to correct my order. (And I subsequently forgot to take photos of the cod tacos, haha… fail.) I really enjoyed the shrimp taco – the shrimp was really fresh and tender. I liked the rock cod, too, but there was a bit too much batter.

My friend actually ordered the calamari taco, and he really enjoyed it. I tried a piece of the calamari, and it was crispy and well-seasoned.

Some of our friends liked this place better, but S still prefers South Beach. I do like the salsa there better, and they have more offerings (in particular, the shark tacos). But the fish and shrimp at Mitch’s are really fresh (and probably better than South Beach), and definitely worth checking out.

Happy Hour offerings

Mitch’s Seafood
1403 Scott St, San Diego, CA
(619) 222-8787
http://mitchsseafood.com/

Aug 022012
 

I’ve heard about Oscar’s Mexican Seafood for a while and was super excited to try it out a few weeks ago.  My friend was pretty spot-on with his description of it as a “shack in PB, not in the beach-y part.”

There’s a tiny counter for ordering, kitchen behind, and seating outdoors.  Oh, and of course, there is a large assortment of hot sauces.  All kinds.

The menu includes fish, shrimp, and steak tacos, tortas, and a few sides.  I picked the smoked fish taco and shrimp ceviche.

Smoked fish taco, $3.50

Wonderful smoky flavor on the fish, made me want to buy some fish myself and fire up the grill.  Topped with shredded lettuce and some salsa, and of course, in true Californian fashion, two big slices of avocado.

Shrimp ceviche, $3.50

I did not expect the ceviche to come in a plastic cup, but hey it’s under four bucks and absolutely delicious.  The shrimp was fresh and tender, and the lime juice really brought out the sweetness.  Again, huge avocado slices on top.

Homemade beans, $1.50

Seemed like everyone was ordering these, so S decided to get one, too.  It’s a little different than the refried beans I’ve had elsewhere – less mushy and more… bean-y?  I thought it needed a bit more salt.  And are you surprised by now to see avocado slices?  Haha.

I thought it was a really great meal overall, very affordable and very filling (you can’t tell from the picture but the taco was pretty sizable).  I’ll be back to try some of the other tacos!

Oscar’s Mexican Seafood
703 Turquoise St., San Diego, CA
(858) 349-8181

http://oscarsmexicanseafood.com/

Jul 132012
 

I’ve heard S talk about Las Cuatro Milpas for quite a while now, and I’ve always wanted to try it.  But it only opens until 3pm and is closed Sundays, so we haven’t had the chance to check it out until a couple of weeks ago.  Per his suggestion, we arrived around 1:30 so that the line would be shorter, but it was still quite a wait.

It was truly a gorgeous day in San Diego, though, so I didn’t mind too much.

It was my first time in this area of San Diego.  It had a small-town, charming feel to it.  I love how the restaurant is basically located in the midst of a residential neighborhood – our friend said that it reminds me a bit of Taiwan; business and home are all in one place.

It was perhaps appropriate, then, that Las Cuatro Milpas is a family business.  According to San Diego Reader, it has been around for nearly three decades.

I couldn’t help adding a filter to get the “family-owned restaurant” feel.

The menu is simple.  Tacos.  Roll tacos.  Tamales.  Chorizo with eggs.  Rice and beans.  You get one choice of meat and that is pork.  (Actually, you can also get chicken tacos.  But everything else is pork-only.)

Tacos are $1.50 each – freshly fried shells, braised carnitas, shredded lettuce, queso enchilada.  Add in your own cilantro and onions.  Simple and ridiculously flavorful.

Roll tacos are five for $4.25, topped with sour cream, shredded lettuce, and queso enchilada, served over a bed of salsa – probably homemade.  Again, freshly-fried shells and delicious, flavorful, juicy, tender meat.

This is definitely one of the best tacos I’ve had, right up there with Chubby’s in Durham and Tacos el Gordo in Chula Vista.  Unlike Tacos el Gordo (or many other taco joints in San Diego), Las Cuatro Milpas isn’t “California-nized” – no avocadoes here, and this is more like the tacos you would find in Mexico.

The bottom line?  This is really a must-try – I promise, it’s worth the long lines.  (Actually, if you arrive around 2pm, there usually isn’t a line anymore.)  I will definitely be back for more.

Las Cuatro Milpas
1875 Logan Ave, San Diego, CA
(619) 234-4460

Open Mon-Sat, 9am-3pm

Jun 152012
 

SK has been telling me about La Lucha Libre taco shop for a while, but since it’s a bit far from where we live and usually pretty crowded during normal meal times, we didn’t make the trip until a recent night, when it was past 9pm and we still hadn’t eaten dinner.  Since I had a Mexican food craving, he suggested that we try out La Lucha Libre.

The shop is pretty small.  A line forms from the door to place your order, and the seating area is about 30 people at most, I’d say.  There is a special “Gold Booth” that seems to be for reservations only(?).  At nearly 9:30pm, it was still pretty crowded and we managed to snag 2 seats at the counter.

Menu board

The menu reminded me a bit of El Zarape’s, mostly because of the “Surf & Turf” burrito and tacos.  There are also some other speciality items that are a bit less common.

I ended up with a Surf & Turf taco (SK tells me that this is the favorite here), and TJ Corn.

Surf & Turf taco: marinated steak, shrimp, “special sauce”, $3.85

The taco was delicious – actually taste a lot like El Zarape’s, since their “special sauce” also had the tomato-y, mayo-y, chipotle-y mixture.  The steak and shrimp were grilled nicely (although the steak was a bit dry), and the grated queso enchilada on top added plenty more flavor.  It was also a pretty big portion, and also sort of difficult to pick up and eat.

By the way, each meal comes with tortilla chips (with refills!), so we also tried out their salsa bar.  My favorite was once again the salsa roja, but the creamy guacatillo(?) was also really good.

TJ Corn: queso enchilado, mayo, chili, & lime, $1.50

Before this meal, I’ve only had the Mexican “corn in a cup” once, at the Mira Mesa farmer’s market, and I loved it.  The salty cheese plays off the corn’s sweetness, and the creamy mayo just holds it all together.  Add a touch of lime to balance out the chili, and this is one of my favorite ways to eat corn.  Then again, it’s hard for me to resist corn – I pretty much love it prepared any style.

The bottom line?  I really liked La Lucha Libre, and I totally understand why there’s always a crowd.  The price is great, and the food is delicious.  I would definitely recommend it if you haven’t been here yet, and let me know when you’re going so I can tag along ;)

La Lucha Libre Taco Shop
1810 W. Washington Street, San Diego, CA
(619) 296-8226

http://tacosmackdown.com/index.htm

Hours:
Sun-Thu  11am-11pm
Fri-Sat  11am-2:30am

May 292012
 

Yes, you read the title correctly: I have a new camera!  SK (who has been super helpful and supportive) and I have been reading up on photography, and with the prodding of a few friends, I finally made the splurge and bought a Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF3 with a 14mm pancake kit lens.  Many of the photos from the previous post on food in Texas were taken with the new camera, and I must say, I fell in love with it pretty quickly.  It is compact, easy to carry, and pretty user-friendly.  Of course, I am still learning how to take beautiful food photos, but I have a pretty good teachers (shout-outs to IC and MC!), and all of you dear readers for feedback and suggestions :)

New baby

After coming back from Texas, the first place where I ate was Tacos el Gordo in Chula Vista, straight from the airport.  I’ve already mentioned that this is (in my opinion) the best tacos Mexican food I’ve ever had, and every time I visit, it only reaffirms my love for it.

Here is a menu, for your reference.  The counter is divided into several “stations” – a section for adobada, another for cabeza/lengua/sesos/buche… you get the idea.  Tacos are about $2 apiece.

I ordered my two favorites:

Pork adobada taco

Beef cabeza taco

The pork adobada is really amazing.  It is roasted on a vertical spit (see below) that’s topped with a pineapple.  My theory is that the pineapple does two things: the juices add an extra layer of flavor to the meat, and the acid makes the meat even more tender.  The vertical spit is turns slowly so that the meat can slowly cook to tender perfection. (FYI, this is the same method used to cook gyro meat.)

Adobada vertical spits

The cabeza is also a favorite of mine.  The meat is not as tender but tastes “crunchier” instead.  In contrast to the cucumber-yogurt sauce for the adobada, the cabeza taco is garnished with salsa verde, which, paired with the onion and cilantro, actually gives a pretty refreshing taste.

And of course, fried green onions and peppers are always free:

Fried green onions and peppers

Last time I visited, there were only the yellow variety of peppers.  This time there was also a green kind, and that thing is hot.  The yellow ones, I can eat the whole thing (skin + seeds) pretty calmly, but I was gulping water even before touching a single seed of the green peppers.  Haha.  Very exciting, but probably not for the not-so-spicy-inclined.  Green onions are eaten with some salt and lime juice – perfect.

Yep, this is still the best Mexican food I’ve ever had.

Tacos el Gordo
689 H St., Chula Vista, CA
(619) 691-8848

Hours
Sun-Thu  10am-12pm
Fri-Sat  10am-4am

May 192012
 

I was actually recommended to this restaurant by my boss, who described the tacos with the “crispy cheese.. it’s something different.”  Crispy cheese?  I had to check it out.

Located in downtown La Jolla, Puesto is decorated like a cute, fusion-y, fast casual restaurant.  It is brightly lit and open to the outside, which is pretty typical of San Diego restaurants (ahh the good weather…)

The menu is pretty simple: you choose salad bowl, guisado bowl (guisado = grilled foods), or tacos.  You pick your guisados, salsa, toppings, etc., and they assemble it as you desire.

I ordered two tacos, a carne asada and a huitlacoche.  I’ve never had huitlacoche, or “corn truffle”, before, but when I read about it, I knew I had to try it.  (This is going to sound a little gross, but I promise you that once you’ve tasted it, you’ll think it’s awesome.)  It’s basically a fungus that infects corn, called corn smut in the US.  Somehow, the Mexican farmers who discovered this fungus attempted to cook it – and found it to taste pretty darn good.  I owe these people a great big THANK YOU because huitlacoche is delicious.

The tacos are served on a cute little tray:

Two tacos, $6.45
Carne asada & Huitlacoche, with crispy cheese and avocado

Yes, that crispy layer you see is cheese.  They basically take shredded cheese and cook it on a griddle until a crispy layer forms on the bottom (kind of like cooking hash browns actually).  Then, fold the guisado into the cheese, place cheese into the tortilla, and voila – you have a perfectly neat little taco.

If you order the guisado bowl, you could add a variety of toppings (I think you can do that on the taco, too, but I didn’t really want anything).  SK chose lettuce, corn, and tinga, a hibiscus-chipotle-onion mix, for his carne asada guisado bowl.

Guisado bowl, $8.95

There were also several salsas, which we could sample.  They are, of course, homemade, and tasted pretty different from the ones I’ve had at burrito joints around here.  We ended up choosing the pistache, which is a pistachio and jalapeno mix, and tomatillo roja, a spicy red salsa.  SK liked the pistache a lot, but I preferred the tomatillo.  But all the salsas are pretty interesting, and I would recommend asking for samples and venturing into the unfamiliar… :P

The bottom line? I really liked the food here, even if it is a bit on the pricey side for “fast casual”.  They really brought a new twist on Mexican food (as I knew it, anyway), and it was delicious!

Puesto Mexican Street Food
1026 Wall St, La Jolla, CA
(858) 454-1260

http://www.eatpuesto.com

Hours:
Mon-Sun 11am-9pm

Mar 212012
 

SK and I are always searching for good Mexican food.  Of course, our favorite remains Tacos el Gordo in Chula Vista, but it’s a far drive, and sometimes we just want a good, filling burrito.  His current favorite is Lolita’s Taco Shop on Clairemont Mesa Blvd, where the carnitas burritos are “soo gooooood” – I actually don’t think they’re that good, since I prefer juicier meat and I find the carnitas at Lolita’s on the dry side.  But that’s a matter of personal preference, and I’m not reviewing Lolita’s here…

We tried out Roberto’s Taco Shop on Miramar Rd. – actually, we had meant to go to Rigoberto’s down the road, so Roberto’s was a total accidental discovery.  We were actually pretty disappointed at first, but once our orders arrived, were pleasantly surprised.

Tortilla chips, $1.85

My favorite part of these tortilla chips is that they were warm.  Such a simple thing makes them so much better.  There were 3 types of salsa: spicy, mild, and verde.  I actually liked the mild one the best (shocking!) because it had the most complex – the spicy salsa had no flavor other than… well, spiciness.

Carne asada burrito, $4.50

(Yes, I took a bite of it before I took the photo.  Let’s just say that it was intentional…)

I had no idea what to expect, but it turned out to be delicious!  There was plenty of guacamole, which should be appealing to you guys (I’m personally not a huge fan, though it’s starting to grow on me).  The meat was actually pretty good, too.  I also tried a bite of SK’s carnitas burrito and can’t really decide which one I liked better – it was very juicy, but I also like the beefiness of the carne asada.

Anyway, I’m very glad that we happened upon Roberto’s.  I talked to my friend about it later and he said that this place can be hit-or-miss, but clearly we went on a “hit” night.  They are also open 24 hours, so I hope that next time I come (probably for a late-night snack), it’ll be as good as this visit!

Roberto’s Taco Shop
6780 Miramar Rd., San Diego, CA
(858) 530-0800

Hours
24 hrs/ daily