Semi Final 2: Santana’s (7) v. Mexico Viejo (6)

The cinderella story is over for Mexico Viejo.  After just eking out a first round victory, Mexico Viejo shocked tournament followers by offering up a 24/25 carnitas burrito in round 2.  Unfortunately, in the Final 4, Mexico Viejo reverted to something closer to their true talent level, losing 17.5-34, in a battle of carne asada quesadillas.  Santana’s, which is already preparing for its much anticipated face-off against Caliente in the finals, was dominant once again.

Mexico Viejo (Encinitas)


Overall Taste (6/25 Points)

Yuck.  The carne asada tasted like overcooked pot roast, and was quite possibly boiled rather than grilled.  The quantity of cheese was minimal, but due to Mexico Viejo’s ill-advised choice of “American cheese,” the lack of “queso” may have actually been a good thing.  The tortilla was dry.  No other ingredients were included in the quesadilla.

Service/Atmosphere (3.5/5 Points)

Once again, Mexico Viejo churned out my selection in unbelievable time.  I ordered, and within 2 minutes, my quesadilla was ready.  The atmosphere though is nothing more than average.

Quality of the Hot Sauce (1/5 Points)

At least Mexico Viejo is consistent with their hot sauce:

Like Aiberto’s, Mexican Viejo displays an offering of 3 different types of salsas at a bar with pickled carrots, cucumbers, and spicy peppers.  There were 2 red sauces, and 1 salsa verde.  The hotter version of the red sauce tasted less like salsa and more like tomato sauce.  The  mild version was nothing more than an extremely watered down version of the hotter sauce.  The salsa verde was spicy, but contained a higher proportion of H20 than the human body.  It’s aftertaste was bizarre, and not in a good way.

Presentation (2/5 Points)
The quesadilla was presented in a styrofoam tray, and appeared a little dry.  The carne asada looked and smelled unappetizing.
Freshness (1/5 Points)

The carne asada was poor.  The tortilla was stale.  The cheese: the cheapest possible.
Value (4/5 Points)

No complaints as I paid only $4.50 for a sizable quesadilla.
Santana’s (Pacific Beach)


Overall Taste (16/25 Points)

The carne asada was delicious-generously seasoned, and grilled (not boiled) to perfection.  Unfortunately, the quesadilla contained no ingredients other than cheese, tortilla, and carne asada.  Not bad, but certainly not one of Santana’s stronger menu items.

Service/Atmosphere (4/5 Points)

Same as in previous visits:

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)

Hands down, “quality of the hot sauce” is one of Santana’s strongest categories:

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 quesadilla was presented in a white styrofoam box.  Accompanying the quesadilla inside the box was a plot of tortilla chips, guacamole, and sour cream.  The quesadilla was cut into slices, and layered in a lovely arrangement.  Grill marks gave the tortilla some nice color.


Freshness (4/5 Points)

The cheese used was a white cheese that tasted (even if it wasn’t actually) sophisticated.  The carne asada was grilled fresh, and was of decent quality.  The guacamole was not all that fresh.

Value (1/5 Points)

Other menu items at Santana’s are more affordable, but at $6.50 for an only average sized quesadilla, I was not at all impressed.


So there you have it: SANTANAS v. CALIENTE in the final.  Results will be available on Friday afternoon.  I anticipate a tight battle that may come down to categories other than “overall taste.”


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