San Diego’s Best Mexican Restaurants You Can Enjoy From Home
It’s margarita season.
Mexican food is a huge part of San Diego’s culinary culture. After all, less than two centuries ago, California was still part of Mexico. It stands to reason then that exceptional Mexican food is readily available nearly everywhere. Or it was, until the coronavirus hit our shores and we went into defense mode by shutting down to flatten the curve.
But that doesn’t mean we have to give up our birrias, barbacoas, al pastors, asadas, dorados and sudados though -- our beloved Mexican restaurants are working hard to bring all your favorites into your home. We’ve gathered some of our favorites here so you can spend less time Googling and more time enjoying the best food and drinks America’s Finest City has to offer. And remember: tip generously and thank profusely.
An homage to Texcoco, the region of Mexico considered to be the origin of barbacoa, Aqui es Texcoco specializes in lamb barbecue -- whole lamb covered in maguey leaves and slow roasted for hours. Assemble-yourself platos are served family-style and feature loin or rib meat as well as cabeza, sesos, and pancita (tripe), with a complimentary cup of seasoned lamb broth to dip into for a messy, succulent bite. If lamb isn’t your thing, the menu also includes moronga, a sausage similar to Spanish morcilla, huitlacoche (corn fungus, but trust us, it’s delicious), chapulines (grasshoppers), and additional familiar fillings like chicken or mushroom.
How to order: Order online for pickup
El Comal serves up homestyle Mexican food at its finest. Thick homemade corn tortillas, Oaxaca-style tamales steamed in banana leaf, tacos dorados, red or green posole. and barbacoa de chivo are all comforting and filling. For Cinco de Mayo, the spot will be offering a couple of party packs for preorder -- choose from a taco party or a chef’s special party. Plus, you’ll get two 32-oz. margaritas in your choice of three flavors.
How to order: Call 619.294.8292 or order online for pickup
Lola 55 scores big with locals for its meaty, juicy filet mignon tacos topped with avocado mousse, smoky pasilla salsa, crispy leeks, and jalapeño toreado. Vegetarian options are equally thoughtful -- the squash blossom relleno, vegan sausage stuffed inside a squash blossom and deep-fried, is especially delectable. Takeout salads aren’t usually inspired, but Lola Caesar is the exception, made in the original style using whole crisp romaine leaves dressed in traditional anchovy dressing and showers of parmesan and pepper, with stout hunks of toasted bread. Ten different family meals make feeding everyone a breeze.
How to order: Call 619.542.9155 or order online for pickup
Oscar’s Mexican Seafood is a beloved San Diego mainstay -- nobody does Ensenada-style fish tacos better. But there’s more to the menu than that, including seasoned seafood piled into warm corn tortillas, crab and shrimp tostadas, or tortas stuffed meat served in toasted Mexican bread. There’s also tangy ceviches, meal-sized salads, and a trio of breakfast items, plus dinner plates with all the requisite sides.
How to order: Order online for pickup from the PB location
The Headquarters, La Jolla
Handmade stone-ground blue corn tortillas, sustainable meats and seafood, slow-cooked guisados, scratch salsas and killer margaritas make the Puesto experience memorable, even while sheltering in place. Choose a la carte tacos or family meals with all the ingredients for 20 tacos ready for at-home assembly. There’s plenty of cocktail options as well -- premixed margaritas for four come in three fun flavors, and there’s a fine selection of high end tequila and mezcal available by the bottle. Pre-order the Cincoteca En Casa party kit for Puesto’s virtual party and get everything you need for a two-course dinner with cocktails plus celebrity appearances, giveaways, and a concert to close the night, all on Zoom!
How to order: Order online for pickup and use the code EATPUESTO at checkout for 15% off your order (excluding the Cincoteca En Casa party kit).
You can always tell a great restaurant by how they treat side dishes and condiments. The Taco Stand makes its tortillas, guacamole, and salsas fresh daily, and every dish is made to order. Hand-carved al pastor has the right hit of tangy/sweet pineapple and tender, savory Angus carne asada is meltingly tender, while seafood choices like grilled mahi mahi, spicy shrimp, and batter-fried white fish are all fresh and light. If your craving hits early, the stand opens at 9am and has several hearty breakfast burritos in addition to the regular menu.
How to order: Order online for pickup or third party delivery
Tijuana is well known throughout Mexico for its street tacos and that’s exactly what inspires Tacos El Gordo. Think spicy pork adobada, mulas on doubled-up tortillas, asadas, cabeza (beef head meat), lengua (tongue), sesos (brains), and other traditional offal fillings. Besides tacos, the spot serves overflowing sopes, quesadillas, vampiros (crispy griddled tacos), and tostadas.
How to order: Order online for pickup at the H Street restaurant
Right next to Old Town’s cemetery sits Tahona, San Diego’s best mezcaleria. The to-go menu is short and tight, consisting of tacos in three styles: chicken tinga, beef barbacoa, or mushroom. They’re scrumptious, but what you really want to check out is the killer lineup of tequila and mezcal. Cocktails come in a half-dozen innovative versions from a twisty Paloma to a juicy watermelon Whaley House punch. There are 30 artisanal and ancestral bottles of mezcal encompassing a dozen or so agave varieties, three mezcal tasting kits, and even a virtual tasting with guest Francisco Terrazas on Fridays.
How to order: Order online for pickup
Bonita, Chula Vista
Seafood, notably raw and marinated in citrus juice, is the specialty of the house at TJ Oyster Bar’s three locations. In the best tradition of Baja, ceviches and aguachiles are piled onto tostadas or served cocktail-style. Fried fish, smoked tuna, garlic shrimp, octopus, and stingray are great choices, and larger entrees like whole fish empapelado (steamed in parchment paper) and burritos are also available. Wash it all down with a margarita, michelada, or a cold can of Mexican beer.
How to order: Order online for pickup at the 4410 Bonita Road shop
Chef/owner Priscilla Curiel had barely opened her tiny taqueria on the main drag in San Ysidro in late 2018 when she started getting loads of attention. Dig into her scrumptious tacos and you’ll understand what the fuss is about. Quesabirria, milky mozzarella melted on a tortilla and topped by warmly spiced, long-braised birria, is a homey bit of comfort food. Try the tuétano, a hefty chunk of beef shank bone that’s roasted until the marrow is lusciously soft, dunked in birria broth and seared on a grill. Spoon it on the birria or scoop bits into a hot tortilla with salsa macha. Weekend dinners are simple with a kit of birria, frijoles de olla, consomme, salsa macha, and tortillas -- enough for 3-5 people.
How to order: Order by texting 619.856.7030 with your name and payment via Cash App or Venmo
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