Post Tournament Awards: Rolled Tacos

February 25, 2009

Growing up I was a big fan of the frozen taquitos from the local mega mart.  It was not until I was introduced to taco shops that I realized just how good a true rolled taco, fresh out of the fryer, can be. 


Best Rolled Tacos: Santana’s

I have to be honest.  I was pretty dissapointed with most the rolled tacos I tried throughout the tournament.  Santana’s were okay, but this is not a full-fledged endorsement.  The beef was solid, and the cheese properly melted, but in no way were they exceptional.

Also Considered:

Caliente-Received the same score in the finals as Santana’s for their rolled tacos.  Again, pretty good, but nothing to rush out for.

Worst Rolled Tacos: Aiberto’s

Aiberto’s rolled tacos were horrendous.  The taste reminded me of frozen taquitos poorly nuked in the microwave (Note: I always prefered to cook my frozen taquitos in the oven.  The result was a crispier shell).  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.

Also Considered:

Nobody.  Aiberto’s was that bad…



Post Tournament Awards: Carne Asada

February 15, 2009

Carne Asada is the staple meat at most taco shops.  It goes great in burritos, quesadillas, nachos, and some believe tacos and tortas as well.  It was randomly selected as the filling in a number of match-ups, allowing me to try a wide variety of preparations.



Best Carne Asada: Santana’s

My first trip to Santana’s allowed me to critique their California burrito.  One bite later, and I was in disbelief.  Their carne asada was perhaps the best I ever had.  Generously seasoned, and perfectly grilled, I had absolutely no complaints.

Also Considered:

Caliente-I am pretty sure there is nothing they do poorly.

Worst Carne Asada: Kotija Jr.

This was an utter dissapointment.  I included Kotija Jr. in the tournament because I had been tipped off that they had “the best carne asada in San Diego.”  Not so.  The carne asada was tough and chewy, nearly necessitating a trip to the dentist following consumption of the “meat.”

Also Considered:

Cotixan-My first bite revealed carne asada that was very tough.  The beef was over seasoned in an attempt to mask its poor quality.

El Indio-Their carne asada tasted like low-grade ground beef.  Odd, for an otherwise solid establishment.

Post Tournament Awards: Service/Atmosphere

February 3, 2009

Some people think a good taco shop should be as clean as an abandoned port-a-potty.  They argue the grungy atmosphere adds to the experience.  I disagree.  A good taco shop should be sanitary, relaxing, and have friendly employees.  

Best Service: Mexico Viejo

I visited Mexico Viejo three times.  In each of the three visits, my food was ready within ninety seconds of ordering.  All of these visits took place during the peak lunch hour.  Taco shops are known for their quick service, but Mexico Viejo was so quick I am still trying to uncover their secret.

Also Considered:

Caliente-Second only to Mexico Viejo in speed of food readiness, Caliente is staffed by wonderful employees who rise to the challenge every lunch rush.

Worst Service: Roberto’s

On one visit, I waited over thirty minutes for an order of beef tacos.  Unacceptable.

Also Considred:

No other shop came close to the remarkably slow service found at Roberto’s.

Best Atmosphere: Roberto’s

Roberto’s may have room to improve in service, but it’s atmosphere 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. 

Also Considered:

Caliente-You have heard it many times before, but its true: a visit to Caliente feels like a vacation to a quaint Mexican village. 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. 

Worst Atmosphere: Aiberto’s (Who else?)

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.

Also Considered:

Rudy’s-Taco shops should not be located in liquor stores.

Nico’s-Their decision to remove the video games left eatery, located in a bland Carmel Valley shopping center, with no charm.

Juanita’s-Juanita’s is small, dirty, and loud.  The indoor seating is disgusting, and the outdoor seating is subpar, basically located on the very busy, and very loud 101.  Juanita’s looks and feels like a shack.  The bars on the windows give the joint a sketchy feel.

Best Overall Service/Atmosphere: Caliente

Runner up in both service and atmosphere, Caliente was the easy pick for best overall service/atmosphere.

Also Considered:

Santana’s-Pretty solid on both counts.

Roberto’s-Chances are food does not typically take 30 minutes to prepare at Roberto’s.  With even slightly better service, Roberto’s would be an absolutely delightful place to grab a bite.

Worst Overall Service/Atmosphere: Aiberto’s

The depressing atmosphere rubs off on the employees, all of whom mope around lethargically. 

Also Considered: