This is probably the most difficult post I’ve ever had to write. Okay, I’m being a bit hyperbolic here. But seriously, being a Mexican-food-obsessed Californian who’s living in Southeast Asia is freaking hard.
I’m the person who has to sample every single Mexican restaurant she comes across in Southeast Asia regardless of the fact that I know I’m going to be disappointed. I’ve had nachos in Vietnam that were made with wonton crisps instead of tortilla chips. I’ve eaten quesadillas in the Philippines that were made with quick melt cheese instead of real cheddar. I’ve ordered guacamole in Indonesia that was made from neon green powder instead of real avocado.
Mexican food in Southeast Asia is just a mess, yet I can’t resist it!
For those who don’t know, San Diego is located on the border with Mexico, so there is lots and lots of great Mexican food there. As a half-Mexican who hails from San Diego my love for Mexican food runs deep. So obviously during my month-long visit to my hometown this summer I made sure to stop off at as many of my favorite old Mexican food haunts as I could.
Disclaimer: My apologies for not having photos of all of these places. After 11 consecutive months in Southeast Asia, I was so excited to be eating real Southern Californian Mexican food that I forgot about taking photos of some of my food until I was halfway through my meal. Bad, bad blogger!
My Favorite Mexican Food Restaurants in San Diego:
When most Californians return home from a trip abroad their first stop is typically In-n-Out Burger. And trust me, I was tempted. But when my mom picked me up at LAX I informed her that our first stop would be at El Pueblo, one of my go-to Mexican food restaurants in San Diego. Given the late hour, I knew that this 24-hour restaurant would be open. And because it’s located near my former home in Encinitas it was a no brainer.
Seriously I was so excited to eat my first bean and cheese burrito (with a side of real guacamole!) that I completely forgot to take a picture. I apologize because it was a thing of beauty. I love El Pueblo because it’s cheap, good and fast. And it was exactly what I needed after traveling nearly 24 hours from Asia to the US.
When I made plans to see my dad and stepmom it went without saying that dinner at Fidel’s was a must. While I typically frequent cheap, hole-in-the-wall Mexican food places, Fidel’s is one of the few sit down Mexican restaurants I go to.
It’s actually really touristy but I’ve frequented this place since I was a little kid and dinner there is a longstanding family tradition. They have tons of traditional Mexican dishes from huevos rancheros to nopales (cactus) to carnitas to chile rellenos.
All of the portions are insanely huge, which means I always have leftovers for the next day. Because I’m a vegetarian, I tend to order the tostada suprema which is loaded with beans, cheese, guacamole, sour cream and tons of lettuce. And of course I always request an extra bowl of salsa which I pour onto it. So good!
During my second week in the States I traveled to Colorado to visit my sister. Per usual she requested that I hand deliver her a burrito from our favorite burrito place in Del Mar, Nico’s Taco Shop. And because I’m such a good sister, I obliged.
I have literally been going to this place since I was a tiny, tiny human. My grandparents used to live down the street from it, I used to dine there with friends in high school and my family always orders take out from there during holidays and big family gatherings. Let’s just say Nico’s and I have a long history.
So per tradition, my dad and I went there the night before my flight in order to
gorge ourselves on get my sister a burrito. I always order a bean and cheese burrito with salsa fresca and guacamole. My order never changes and it never gets old. But they also have killer beef and chicken taquitos (ah, the pre-vegetarian days), carne asada burritos and bacon-filled breakfast burritos.
Anyone who knows me knows how obsessed with Mexican food I am. So when I made plans to meet up with one of my best friends from high school, we did the same thing we always do. We walked to the beach from her house in Encinitas, pretended to be healthy and exercise but instead beelined it to a Mexican restaurant.
Encinitas is a mellow little beach town that’s literally lined with amazing hole-in-the-wall Mexican places. When I used to live there I could literally walk to 10 different delicious and cheap restaurants within five minutes. I had it really good back then.
I’ve sampled a lot of Mexican eateries in Encinitas but the super-trendy Bull Taco was a new one for me. And I’m so glad I finally tried it. This place is located right on the beach and with its casual atmosphere it pretty much captures the essence of Encinitas. You basically order from a window, take a seat on the massive outdoor deck and bask in the California sun. I will say that the food took an absurdly long time, but with this view it was worth the wait!
Bull Taco puts a contemporary spin on traditional Mexican food and serves gourmet concoctions like duck tacos, shrimp curry burritos and tater tot and guacamole quesadillas.
Because I’m a vegetarian I ordered the veggie quesadilla which was loaded with melted cheese, grilled veggies, guacamole and sour cream. As you can see I went a little crazy pouring salsa on it before I remembered to take a picture. Now you have an idea of how salsa obsessed I really am…
Oh Rico’s. There are honestly no words for how much I love and miss this place. Rico’s Taco Shop became a favorite when I was in high school. It’s a place I used to go when I would ditch class in high school (sorry mom and dad). And it became hands down my favorite burrito place when I moved to Encinitas in 2008. This is another restaurant where I always order the same thing because they literally have the best chile relleno burrito I have ever tasted.
Rico’s is famous among locals for the Justin Burrito – beans, cheese, rice, lettuce, french fries and guacamole, all wrapped in two tortillas. But really all of the food on their enormous menu is delicious, especially the tostada suprema!
This post was written in my apartment in Phnom Penh and I have to say that writing it was pure torture for me! What foods do you miss the most when you’re abroad?