El Indio is perhaps the best known taco shop in San Diego County. For that reason, it was honored with the 2nd overall seed in the tournament. In it’s first round matchup, El Indio faced off against Aiberto’s of Poway. Aiberto’s was chosen because I felt it necessary to have some sort of representation from the Poway/Rancho Bernardo/Scripps Ranch area. Aiberto’s received rave community reviews, and hence squeaked into the bracket as the 15 seed even though I have never been there, and don’t personally know anybody who has. The randomly selected menu item (a random number was generated using Excel. The possible number each correspond to a menu item) was beef rolled tacos (with guacamole and cheese).
Not surprisingly, Aiberto’s which was the lone representative from an area not necessarily known for its taco shops, was thoroughly defeated by El Indio (33-11). While El Indio looked good in its first round match, a micro-analysis of its performance suggests it may have trouble in future rounds. Like Duke basketball, El Indio is solid fundamentally, and has great coaching (management), but may not have the athleticism (outstanding food and value) necessary to compete with some of the other “big guns.”
Overall Taste (5/25 points):
The rolled tacos were horrendous. The taste reminded me of frozen taquitos poorly nuked in a microwave. They were flavorless, and contained barely any beef. The guacamole tasted like something taken out of a year old package and mixed with water. The only redeeming quality was that halfway through my first rolled taco, the cheese melted to the perfect consistency.
Service/Atmosphere (1/5 points)
Everybody in this place, from the workers to the customers looked miserable. After trying the food, I could tell why: the customers probably wished for a barf bag, but were just too embarrassed to ask. The interior was dirty, and the pickled carrots had flies swarming around them. The music was too loud and inconsistent-alternating between punk rock and spanish genres. The only reason I awarded a single point for service/atmosphere, was I found it kind of cool that the place had a drive-through.
Hot Sauce (1/5 points)
Upon walking into Aiberto’s I was somewhat excited that they had 3 different kinds of hot sauce-2 red salsas, and 1 salsa verde. Unfortunately, like the food, the hot sauces had no flavor, clearly watered down. I could not even taste a difference between the red and green hot sauces.
Freshness (0/5 points)
As previously stated, the rolled tacos tasted frozen, and the guacamole was clearly not fresh. Disgusting.
Presentation (1/5 points)
The small rolled tacos were placed in a larger white styrofoam container. No attempt at garnishing was made. The white styrofoam container is a standard vessel for rolled tacos at many taco shops, but these just looked disgusting.
Value (3/5 points)
I paid $2.30 for 3 rolled tacos with cheese and guac. The price is great, but it tells you something about people’s willingness to pay (assuming away sticky prices and menu costs), and provides further evidence that fresh ingredients are not used. Nonetheless, I did not feel I was financially jipped by Aiberto’s.
Overall Taste (15/25 Points)
El Indio’s rolled tacos were solid, especially compared to Aiberto’s, but really nothing special. They were not warm enough, and the cheese never melted. The beef was not terrible, but did not contain enough seasoning. The guacamole however was fantastic. It was fresh and flavorful. The shell of the taco is made by frying their homemade tortillas, which makes a difference in the taste.
Service/Atmosphere (4/5 points)
El Indio was fairly busy, yet the operation was efficient. It is very clean, and run by a friendly staff in a professional manner. The combination of clean indoor and outdoor seating is a nice touch. The only thing El Indio is missing is that extra little charm found at some of the coastal taco shops.
Hot Sauce (3/5 points)
El Indio’s hot sauce is more of a “salsa fresca” than a traditional taco shop hot sauce. It comes in 2 varieties: mild and hot, and is made with what appears to be fresh tomatoes. It lacks the smokey flavor found at many establishments, and although fresh, is really only average in flavor.
Freshness (5/5 points)
Unbelievably fresh for a taco shop. The tortillas, guacamole, and salsa are all made on the premises with fresh ingredients. Unrivaled freshness.
Presentation (4/5 points)
The rolled tacos were presented on a nice, sturdy, black plate. They were garnished with a bed of greens, and appeared quite appetizing. The only drawback was the cheese was not melted at all, dropping the presentation score down a point.
Value (2/5 points)
I paid $2.64 for 2 rolled tacos, making El Indio significantly pricier than Aiberto’s. At the same time, using fresh avocadoes and tomatoes, and keeping the place sparkling clean drives their costs. With that said, I sort of felt I was paying a bit for the name “El Indio,” rather than the dining experience itself. A little pricey, but it could have been worse.