South Regional Final: El Indio (2) v. Santana’s (7)

Another heavyweight has fallen.  In a battle of carne asada tortas, Santana’s knocked off El Indio 40-32.  This performance marked the second consecutive time Santana’s has crossed the 40 point barrier, becoming the first establishment to do so twice.  

***Note: To read the first round review of the restaurants in question, click the links on top of the pictures.

,El Indio (Downtown San Diego)


Overall Taste (15/25 Points)

El Indio’s torta was somewhat bland and their carne asada tasted too much like ground beef.  The sandwich was also a bit too mushy.

Service/Atmosphere (3.5/5 Points)

Previously, I wrote:

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.

Everything except for the comment about efficient service still holds.  I was forced to dock one half point for inefficient service on this visit.

Quality of the Hot Sauce (3.5/5 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.

***Note: This time around, I found the flavor slightly more delightful, resulting in an additional half point.

Presentation (2/5 Points)

The torta was wrapped in tin foil, and placed on a sturdy, black plate.  An unwrapping of the foil revealed a soggy and smushed down sandwich.  Compared to the fantastic presentation found at my last visit, I was extremely dissapointed.


Freshness (5/5 Points)

Much like Mucho Gusto, El Indio excels in their freshness.  Unfortunately, this time around, the freshness did not result in added tastiness.

Value (3/5 Points)

Tortas tend to be among the pricier menu items at taco shops, so I was not too disappointed in being asked to fork over $5.70 for my sandwich.

Santana’s (Pacific Beach)



Overall Taste (18/25 Points)

Overall, Santana’s cooked up a pretty solid torta.  The bread was much, much tastier than at El Indio.  The carne asada actually tasted like carne asada.  The only serious problem was the overload of lettuce which overwhelmed some of the other flavors.  While it is easy enough to brush off excess lettuce, I feel that burden should be on the chef, not the customer.

Service/Atmosphere (4/5 Points)

Santana’s is home to a clean, attractive interior.  An open view of the kitchen reveals cleanly cooking conditions.  Outdoor patio seating is available, but the view of the surrounding area is nothing special.  The juke box and drive through are very nice touches.

Quality of the Hot Sauce (5/5 Points)

The salsa bar contains 5 unique salsas, some of which I have seen nowhere else.  The five flavors were “original,” “ranchera,” “chilanga,” “tomatillo asado,” and something else that was unlabeled.  All of the salsas were flavorful, and brought something unique to the meal, but my favorite was the green “ranchera” salsa.

Presentation (4/5 Points)

The torta was placed in a large styrofoam container which helped hold the sandwich together without flattening it.  The bun was not soggy looking and even contained a fair share of toasting marks.  As an added bonus, the torta was pre cut, allowing me to eat in a more organized manner, and worry less about the filling spilling out.


Freshness (4/5 Points)

Fresh carne asada.  Fresh salsas. [Freshly toasted bread].  Not quite Chipotle level, but no complaints.

Value (5/5 Points)

At only $4.50 for a good sized torta, Santana’s must be rewarded for its great value.


***Note: I finally found my camera charger, so, going forward, you can expect a return to the higher quality pictures.


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