West Regional Final: Caliente (1) v. Roberto’s (9)

After getting stuck with the universally feared enchiladas in round 1, Caliente rebounded and put up a 41 point performance in round 2. While Roberto’s was not at all terrible, it was simply no match for the more talented Caliente. In the tournament’s second battle of beef tacos, Caliente defeated Roberto’s 41-32.5.

Roberto’s (Del Mar)



Overall Taste (16/25 Points)

Roberto’s beef taco was very average.  The shell was over-fried, and the taco as a whole was too greasy.  The beef was both too chewy, and inappropriately burnt on the edges.  

Service/Atmosphere (3/5 Points)

Previously I awarded Roberto’s 5 points for service/atmosphere, reporting:

The atmosphere at Roberto’s cannot be beat.  Seating is on a large, clean, outdoor patio overlooking a lagoon that filters into the nearby Pacific Ocean.  The smell of the sea salt permeates into the air, and combined with the presence of a beachy clientele, Roberto’s takes on a nice Southern California surfer vibe. The restaurant is busy, but run efficiently.  No complaints, and a great place to take in a quick bite on the way to the beach.

This time, I was immensely disappointed.  The atmosphere remained incredible, but the service was the worst I have received since I began reviewing taco shops.  My tacos were not ready for consumption until a full 30 minutes after ordering.  This length of wait is unacceptable, and was so long that the unthinkable happened…The proximity to the beach became a negative.  The ocean winds eventually became too much to handle, and I, along with my fellow eaters, became uncharacteristically grouchy while waiting for our tacos.

Quality of the Hot Sauce (4/5 Points)

My previous report explained:

Roberto’s is home to two styles of hot sauce: rojo y verde.  The red sauce is a bit watery, but still contains a kick and a little bit of flavor.  The salsa verde is the same way.  

This time, I felt the hot sauce was a bit more flavorful, and not at all watery. 

Presentation (3.5/5 Points)

My taco was wrapped in paper.  It was a bit on the puny side, but at least the shell was homemade.  The cheese was slightly melted and even contained a nice sprinkling of white cheese on top.  Major problems included the sickly looking full (not chopped) tomato slice, and a complete crack in the bottom of the shell.


Freshness (3/5 Points)

Nothing notable to report.

Value (3/5 Points)

$2.75 per taco.  This value grade may be a tad too generous, but oh well.

Caliente (Sorrento Valley)


Overall Taste (21/25 Points)

The taco beef was perfect: stringy (but not chewy), juicy, and flavorful.  The shell was perfectly, and freshly fried.  Only complaint was the cheese: it tasted good, but could have been more melted.

Service/Atmosphere (4/5 Points)

A trip to Cal’s feels like a vacation to a quaint Mexican village.  I have never experienced anything quite like it.  The restaurant is part of a group of separately owned restaurants that share the same building-a small house on a street corner.  Cal’s is home to beautiful patio seating with chairs and tables that combine to place you at a comfortable eating height.  The patio is surrounded by lush flora and the entire facility is very clean.

Quality of the Hot Sauce (4/5 Points)

In my previous visit, I noted the hot sauce had a “nice smokey flavor, and was spicy, but not too spicy.  Additionally, the sauce was mixed to the perfect viscosity.”

Presentation (4/5 Points)

Stuffed to the brim with juicy meat, vibrant tomatoes and lettuce, and two types of cheese, these taco looked supremely tasty (and it was).  Only negative was the overload of unmelted cheese.


Freshness (4/5 Points)

The shell was fried fresh.  The tomatoes and lettuce appeared fresh.  The beef was fine.  No complaints.

Value (4/5 Points)

My magnificently huge taco (the picture does not do it justice) only cost $2.25.


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