Food & Drink

Everywhere in the 619 to celebrate not-Mexican independence

Published On 04/29/2013 Published On 04/29/2013

San Diego's proximity to Mexico makes it privy to inside information, like the fact that Cinco de Mayo isn't really Mexican Independence Day. But that shouldn't stop you from acting like it is, and to make sure you do so in the most epic way possible, consult this list of the top guac, margs, and even waitresses to enjoy around the city. Best Margaritas Barra Barra Saloon 4016 Wallace St; 619.291.3200 Not only does the Barra Barra Saloon have the best margarita in town for only 5 bucks, but throw down a couple extra bones and you get to keep the shaker. To the disappointment of any klepto, there are several menu items that actually encourage you to take the glass, so hang out long enough and you might walk out with a full set of barware. Fill up your cabinets... Craziest Taco Filling The Lion's Share 629 Kettner Blvd; 619.564.6924 It looks like the lamb should have never trusted that lion after all. Now it's serving his tongue up taco-style with queso fresco, calabrian chili, and piquillo salsa in their Tacos de Lengua. Mind your tongue... Best Salsa Fidel’s Little Mexico 607 Valley Ave; Solana Beach; 858.755.5292 Since the 1960s, Fidel’s has gone from a taco-slinging barbershop (which seems potentially unsanitary) to an SD landmark. This is the place to go for the best salsa in town, perfected over the course of 50 years. Castro is not affiliated... Best Guacamole Blind Burro 639 J St; 619.795.7880 Even if that donkey is blind as a bat (and lacks opposable thumbs), he can still whip you up some fully customizable guac prepared tableside from a dim sum-style cart, with your choice of cilantro, queso fresco, candied jalapenos, bacon, onion, and cotija. Get your guac on... Best Outdoor Space En Fuego Cantina 1342 Camino Del Mar; 858.792.6551 After a day at the Del Mar Racetrack, celebrate your victory (or drown your defeat) worth a Mexican Burro (a tequila version of a Moscow Mule, not a racetrack reject) on En Fuego’s patio, or post up with a cerveza and some mahi mahi fajitas at their outdoor bar. So many burros... Best Nachos Baja Betty's 1421 University Ave; 619.269.8510 Baja Betty’s got nachos designed to share with (apparently) everyone but your mother. Nacho Mama’s Build-Your-Own Nachos start with a base of chips covered in either a cheddar/Oaxaca cheese blend or cheese dip. Pile them high with as many of the 19 different toppings as you can handle. Finish them off Wet Style and have Betty smother them with your choice of five different sauces. Yes, you heard "Wet Style"... Hottest Waitresses La Puerta 560 4th Ave; 619.696.3466 Their more than 100 tequilas are nice and all, but the staff of such a quality that drinking isn't necessary for them to become attractive. They also have a music themed specialty cocktail menu featuring drinks like A Whole Lotta Love and Afternoon Delight, enough of which might have you asking your server if she's interested in one. Find out about the Slippery When Wet... Best Tequila Selection Cantina Mayahuel 2934 Adams Ave; 619.283.6292 Being the namesake of an Aztec maguey goddess and having the rustic interior of a Mexican watering hole, Cantina Mayahuel will make you feel like you've crossed the border into some sort of underground tequila/ mezcal paradise. They have a wall full of bottles to choose from, and if you're having trouble deciding which ones to taste, just ask, because these guys staff will happily drop some knowledge on you. Cue the "Pee Wee" song...

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1. Barra Barra Saloon 4016 Wallace St, San Diego, CA 92110 (Old Town)

Located in the old-timey old-Mexican... uh, old-heart(?) of Old Town, Barra Barra Saloon is a stuccoed watering hole slinging five-dollar margs and Latin favorites. This places takes its tequila selections seriously, and features a new one every month, like Corzo silver.

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2. The Lion's Share 629 Kettner Blvd, San Diego, CA 92101 (Gaslamp Quarter)

Don't let the taxidermy, mismatched chandeliers, and surrealist paintings distract you from the food and drink at The Lion's Share (easier said than done, we know). This quirky, hunter's den of a restaurant satisfies your carnivorous side with a game-heavy menu of wild boar bolognese, chicken fried quail, elk loin steak, and bison tartare. You don't have to be a totally adventurous eater though to take part in the fun: the menu includes tamer plates like an aged white Cheddar-topped burger, hand-cut truffle fries, and roast chicken. Both the expected and unexpected offerings pair well with whiskey cocktails and if you can handle it, absinthe.

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3. Fidel's Little Mexico 607 Valley Ave, Solana Beach, CA 92075 (Solana Beach)

Open since the '60s, Fidel's has evolved from a barbershop-cum-taqueria (why don't more of these exist?) to a fully-fledged, three-story Mexican cantina that features a beautiful outdoor patio, a courtyard, and a taco bar. They offer up happy hour four days a week, and, luckily, their perfect salsa is available every day.

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4. The Blind Burro 639 J St, San Diego, CA 92101 (Gaslamp Quarter)

The crew at The Blind Burro treats diners to South-of-the-Border street food, including a grilled flour tortilla topped with cheese, tomatoes, and guac (it's like a Mexican pizza!). The space accommodates plenty of red-upholstered chairs and tables, and potted succulents that reference this restaurant's extensive tequila selection.

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5. En Fuego Cantina 1342 Camino Del Mar, San Diego, CA 92014 (Del Mar)

Come to En Fuego for taco Tuesday (a weekly holiday in California) and stay for margaritas on the patio.

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6. Baja Betty's 1421 University Ave, San Diego, CA 92103 (Hillcrest)

With more than 100 tequilas on their shelves, a tempting customizable-nachos mini-menu (with nearly 20 toppings to choose from), and the self-proclaimed best margarita north of the border, what else can you ask of Betty's? Oh, well, every Tuesday they have various $2 specials, from tostadas and stubbies to shots and bean dip. Looks like that paper with Jefferson's face on it is more than just a collectors' item.

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7. La Puerta 560 4th Ave, San Diego, CA 92101 (Gaslamp Quarter)

Street food-style tacos might be the meal du jour in San Diego, but this sleek place on Fourth Avenue also delivers heartier family recipes in quesadillas, sopas, and specialty burritos, like "The California" made with Arranchera Steak, French fries, and grilled onion. La Puerta offers more than 100 tequilas, plus mezcals, raicillas, sotols, and bacanoras. Just ask the bar staff for guidance -- they'll be happy to school you.

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8. Cantina Mayahuel 2934 Adams Ave, San Diego, CA 92116 (North Park)

If you're curious about agave, Cantina Mayahuel has you covered. The staff here will make you a margarita if that's what you really want, but these guys are purists who drink their tequila straight. Behind the bar, there’s an ever-changing collection of over 200 tequilas and 100 mezcals, including the bar's very own brand, Don Lorenzo Reposado Reserva.