Confessions of a Taco Fiend

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It’s assumed some the best tacos around are most likely found south of the border. From the treasured seafood mecca of Popotla to street stands throughout Baja, taco heaven awaits.

However, those without a passport can marvel in taco nirvana, too. San Diego chefs and cooks sling some seriously delicious eats on our local turf. They wedge the goods between doughy or crunchy tortillas. Pile them high with flavorful meats, cilantro and diced onions. And serve them up with some of the best house-made salsa that’s ever graced my lips.

My ‘taco night’ back in Georgia consisted of Old El Paso shells stuffed with ground beef, iceberg lettuce, diced tomatoes, a grip of pre-shredded Mexican cheese blend and the obligatory dollop of Daisy. I’m not going to lie, I still crave those puppies from time-to-time but overall, my heart sings for the tasty gifts of God served throughout this beautiful city. I spent the last two weeks in and out of favored taco spots and here are my top four finds.

The Taco Stand

Hands down my absolute favorite pick to satisfy my el pastor taco fix. Inspired by the taco stands of Tijuana, this eatery whips up handmade corn tortillas, cooks top grade meats and makes salsa from scratch daily. The el pastor taco has rotisserie marinated pork, which practically melts in your mouth, fresh cilantro, diced onions, cilantro sauce and just the right amount of pineapple that adds a sweet and tart balance to the taco. Get two tacos, a Mexican Coke and pull up a stool to watch these guys work their magic. Lunch and a show for about $8 bucks.

Photo by: Paige Nordeen

Cantina Mayahuel

Carnitas tacos at this joint off Adams Ave. are bomb.com. And yes, worthy of bringing back bomb.com. I’m not sure if it’s an excuse to have more Forteleza or more street tacos, but when I visit I easily burn through several rounds (both alcohol and pork). The meat is marinated to damn near perfection and unforgettably tender. Two mini corn tortillas embrace the carnitas, onions and cilantro. Wrap them up like a tiny taco mother holding its tiny taco baby and shred through them, one by one. Hit with a little lime and jazz up the flavor with their salsas. Oh, it’s good. Very good. Pro tip: come here with someone who is totally fine with posting up for a few hours. On my last visit my dinner date was a soldier. We took down tacos and battled the margarita madness like heroes. Fantastic time. Also, be sure to say hi to Randy when you go.

Photo by: Paige Nordeen

Las Cuatro Milpas

If you find yourself in the Barrio, pop over to 1857 Logan Ave. This hole-in-the-wall San Diego staple attracts the masses – rightfully so – with their flat and rolled tacos. The pork tacos are fantastic. Pulled pork and shredded lettuce are packed into a fried tortilla and topped off with a heaping amount of cotija cheese. Salty and succulent, these bad boys are downright delicious. Spice things up with some of their salsa. Go light at first – it brings the heat. Order the tortillas, beans and rice with chorizo. Make your own tacos by spooning a few scoops of the mix onto a doughy tortilla. You may or may not be able to taste the lard, which is just fine by me. Top it off with onions, cilantro and a squeeze of lemon. Life changing.

Photo by: Paige Nordeen

Encinitas Fish Shop

Fresh fish tacos all day every day. If wandering the wild and wonderful streets of Encinitas (or Pacific Beach and soon-to-be Point Loma), and feeling a sudden urge for something scrumptious, swing through The Fish Shop. Check out the fish case and choose whatever looks good – you can’t go wrong. Typically, I’ll opt for a sea bass taco, grilled and topped with the classic Fish Shop Seasoning. The fish is coated in a Cajun dry rub with brown sugar for a sweet and spicy finish. I’m not ashamed to admit my love for the flour tortilla and they have darn good ones. Tacos are topped with shredded cabbage, pico de gallo, mixed cheeses and a house cilantro white sauce. Pull up a seat at the bar, ask for my pal Cody, order a cold one and enjoy a perfect lunch.

Photo by: Paige Nordeen

Paige Nordeen is a food and wine enthusiast who skips around from one San Diego joint to the next and writes about it. Questions, comments concerns? Give her a shout at [email protected].

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