Post-Tournament Awards

January 13, 2009

As previously mentioned, I will be awarding a number of “post-tournament” awards.  These special honors are intended to recognize the best (and the worst) performers in individual categories.  Awards will range from “best hot sauce,” to “most likely to require a puke bag.”  Awards will be posted over a period of time rather than all at once.  However, before we delve into post-season honors, I once again want to congratulate Caliente for their overall excellence, resulting in their being named tournament champions.

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Tournament Championship: Caliente (1) v. Santana’s (7)

January 9, 2009

They saved their best for last.  In the closest, and highest scoring (at least from an aggregate perspective) match in tournament history, Caliente bested Santana’s 41.5-39.5.  While Santana’s more than demonstrated it belonged in the final, Caliente was able to gain a distinct edge in service/atmosphere, as well as value.  Following the match, Caliente ownership was informed of their tournament championship.  In response, Cal’s issued the following classy statement:

Thank You…we’ve been around here for 20 years.  The same cooks have been making the same fine food.”

Here’s to another 20 great years at “Cal’s.”  Lets hope other taco shops begin to follow their lead.

***Note: In the coming days, I will be unveiling a selection of “end of tournament awards.”  These special awards will include highly sought after honors such as “best presentation,” “best guacamole,” “best hot sauce,” and of course “least likely to feel sick the next day.”

Caliente (Sorrento Valley)

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Overall Taste (20/25 Points)

  • California Burrito (4/5 Points)
  • Carne Asada Quesadilla (5/5 Points): Absolutely phenomenal.  Caliente serves up two gigantic quesadillas that are filled with cheese, carne asada, refried beans, sour cream, guacamole, tomatoes, and onions.  This dish is very close to a 25 pointer on the typical scoring scale.
  • Carnitas Taco (4/5 Points): The carnitas was immensely flavorful, and very juicy.  I would have preferred the shell to be their famed homemade hard taco shell, but instead, the carnitas was placed inside two overlapping corn tortillas.
  • Chicken Torta (3/5 Points): The generous portion of chicken was certainly a prevalent flavor.  I am still not sure whether I enjoyed the flavor, but at least there was flavor.  The bun was terrible-very soggy.  Other ingredients included green Ortega chilis from a can, cheese, and onions.
  • Beef Rolled Taco (4/5 Points): Very solid.  Cheese, beef, and shell all tasty.  Guacamole not amazing.

Service/Atmosphere (5/5 Points)

I am sure you are getting tired of hearing this same description every time, but too bad, it’s an accurate representation that never changes:

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.

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Quality of the Hot Sauce (4.5/5 Points)

The only problem is the lack of hot sauce diversity as Cals only serves one red hot sauce:

Cals delivers a consistently high quality hot sauce that combines a smokey flavor with the proper level of spice.

Presentation (4/5 Points)

Everything was placed in sturdy styrofoam vessels.  The quesadilla was MASSIVE, and looked delicious.  The torta was overstuffed: stringy chicken, globs of cheese, green peppers, and onions spilled out of the toasted (but soggy) bun, and onto the tray.

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Freshness (3/5 Points)

The carnitas was very fresh.  Everything else was only okay.  The guac was not homemade.  The tomatoes lacked color.

Value (5/5 Points)

The massive hodgepodge of greasy goodness (including the super-sized quesadilla), totaled only $20.82.

Santana’s (Pacific Beach)

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Overall Taste (19/25 Points)

  • California Burrito (4.5/5 Points)-In my first round match, I described Santana’s California burrito as:

one of the best I have ever tasted.  The generously seasoned carne asada was perfectly grilled.  The potatoes were nicely cooked and properly textured.  The cheese was nicely melted, and the tortilla tasty.  Because I still needed to visit Cotixan, I had only planned to consume half of the burrito, but it was so good I finished the entire helping.

This time, I still immensely enjoyed my burrito, but it was not quite as good as during the first visit.

  • Carne Asada Quesadilla (4/5 Points)-Much better than it’s showing in the Final 4.  This time, I noticed the subtle complexity of the carefully selected cheese complimented the fantastic carne asada beautifully.  I still feel the quesadilla would be better if contained a few more ingredients.
  • Carnitas Taco (2.5/5 Points)-Like Cal’s, Santana’s wraps their carnitas meat with two soft corn tortillas.  These tortillas were bland.  The carnitas itself was overcooked, and the weak guacamole  was overwhelming. 
  • Chicken Torta (4/5 Points)-The bread was tasty, and toasted to perfection…not at all soggy.  The chicken was good, but overwhelmed by the expansive farm of lettuce.
  • Beef Rolled Tacos (4/5 Points)-The beef was solid.  The cheese was properly melted.  One of my fellow eaters* who does not typically enjoy rolled tacos described these as “the best he has ever tried.”

***Note: Once he tried them, this taster thought the rolled tacos at Cal’s were comparable to Santana’s.

Service/Atmosphere (3.5/5 Points)

The restaurant is clean, and efficiently run, but is not nearly as relaxing, nor as interesting as Caliente.  A little too “corporate.”

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Quality of the Hot Sauce (5/5 Points)

Again, phenomenal:

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.

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Presentation (4/5 Points)

Pretty much identical presentation to Cals.  In fact, in selecting the photo for Cal’s presentation, I accidentally uploaded the Santana’s picture first.

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Freshness (4/5 Points)

The guacamole was processed, but the carne asada was great, and the tomatoes were vibrant.

Value (4/5 Points)

At $23.71 for the entire meal, the value was still pretty good, but not quite as great as Cal’s.



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

January 6, 2009

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)

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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.
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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)

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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.

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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.”


Semi Final 1: Caliente (1) v. Mucho Gusto (12)

January 5, 2009

Becoming the first establishment to book a place in the final, Caliente handily defeated Mucho Gusto 36-29.5, in the battle of chicken rolled tacos.   Prior to the match, some Caliente supporters were recognizably nervous, noting that “Cals” is not exactly known for producing an exceptional rolled taco.  Fortunately for these fans, Mucho Gusto was unable to take advantage of the favorable menu item, and was eventually done in by their horrific value, and only average service/atmosphere.

Mucho Gusto (Del Mar/Carmel Valley)

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Overall Taste (14/25 Points)

In past matches, Mucho Gusto overwhelmed opponents by serving unbelievably delicious food.  Not this time.  The previously praised all white meat chicken was dry, and less flavorful than usual.  The rolled taco shell was slightly overdone, and so thick it was difficult to taste the chicken.  Perhaps most disappointing was Mucho Gusto’s stinginess on the guacamole, which was placed not on the rolled tacos, but on the side.  The omission of shredded cheese was unacceptable.

Service/Atmosphere (3/5 Points)

As usual, the establishment was clean, but compared to the fantastic environment at Cals, Mucho Gusto was unable to muster more than 3 points.

Quality of the Hot Sauce (4/5 Points)

Previously I mentioned the hot sauce was not as flavorful as at Cals.  Based on today’s experience, I must retract that remark.  The hot sauce was very good, containing both flavor and spice.

Presentation (3.5/5 Points)

In previous battles, Mucho Gusto received nothing less than full marks for presentation.  This time, the food was once again aesthetically pleasing, but was laid out in a bizarre and inconvenient manner.  The guacamole and sour cream were placed not on top of the rolled tacos, but on the side instead.  This necessitated the eater to scoop the accouterments up with either a plastic utensil, or the rolled taco itself.  It was difficult to get the proper proportion of ingredients on the rolled taco, and made for a highly stressful, extremely messy, eating experience.

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Freshness (5/5 Points)

Again, everything was fresh beyond belief.

Value (0/5 Points)

Again, everything was expensive beyond belief.  ($6.99 for four rolled tacos).

Caliente (Sorrento Valley)

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Overall Taste (15/25 Points)

These rolled tacos contained moister, yet still somewhat untasty meat.  Cals received an extra point for containing a better proportion of shell to meat.

Service/Atmosphere (5/5 Points)

As previously mentioned:

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)

Cals delivers a consistently high quality hot sauce that combines a smokey flavor with the proper level of spice.

Presentation (4/5 Points)

The rolled tacos looked pretty good, though not quite as great as Mucho Gusto.  Too much lettuce.  Cals though more than made up the difference by having a much more functional presentation.

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Note: I apologize for the distracting birds-eye-view photograph.  Pure carelessness on my part.

Freshness (3/5 Points)

The chicken was not great.  The lettuce and tomatoes were only okay.  Nothing rotten though.

Value (5/5 Points)

I have come to expect great value from Cals, and was not disappointed.  I paid only $3.75 for 5 rolled tacos.


North Regional Final: Filliberto’s (3) v. Mexico Viejo (6)

December 30, 2008

Let me be honest.  I had completely discounted Mexico Viejo’s chances of defeating Filliberto’s.  In fact, I had already delved into deep internal debate regarding how well Filliberto’s would match up against Santana’s in the final 4.  Well, guess what? Mexico Viejo, which had a very average performance in round 1, was anything but average in round 2.  In the battle of carnitas burritos, Mexico Viejo upset Filliberto’s 40.5-23.5.

***Note: I know some of you will have trouble believing the result.  All I can do is ask you to try the carnitas burritos at both establishments.  Anybody with a tongue should be able to taste the difference.

Mexico Viejo (Encinitas)

 

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Overall Taste (24/25 Points)

This carnitas burrito was one of the best I have ever had.  The tortilla was warm, soft, and light.  Juicy, seasoned, and cooked the perfection, the carnitas was masterful.  Perhaps most impressive was the care Mexico Viejo took to ensure the ingredients were presented in the proper proportion.  The guacamole, carnitas, tomatoes, onions, and tortilla all complimented each other nicely, without any of the individual flavors being too prominent.

Service/Atmosphere (3.5/5 Points)

Previously I awarded Mexico Viejo 1.5 points for service/atmosphere, writing:

Mexican Viejo is located in a small shopping center next to Brett’s BBQ (pretty decent for SD BBQ), and a Dairy Queen.  It is a large establishment, and while not spotless, cannot be considered dirty by taco shop standards.  While it was disappointing that there was no outdoor seating, the real problem is the place has no charm about it.  Too big, not enough energy.

This time, I was more impressed.  The eatery was buzzing, yet somehow, within 2 minutes of ordering, my burrito was ready for consumption.

Quality of the Hot Sauce (1/5 Points)

My previous opinion still holds:

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 (4/5 Points)

It is hard to do too much with burrito presentation, but Mexico Viejo pulled through.  Their burrito looked nearly as good as it tasted.

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Freshness (4/5 Points)

The carnitas was very lean, and clearly not canned.  The guacamole may or may not have been homemade, but at the least was a quality, pre-packaged brand.  The onions were fresh.

Value (4/5 Points)

$4.19 for a very large, and very tasty burrito is certainly decent bang for your buck.

Filliberto’s (Encinitas)

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Overall Taste (10/25 Points)

After tasting such a fantastic burrito at Mexico Viejo, me and my fellow eaters were in great moods as we walked into Filliberto’s.  Unfortunately, the jubilation did not last long.  Two bites into our burrito, the mood at the table turned somber.  The carnitas pieces were hard and burnt.  Additionally, the meat was overly fatty.  The tortilla too was overcooked, and the guacamole poor.  Onion played too prominent of a role in the flavor.

Service/Atmosphere (3/5 Points)

Before I paste what I previously wrote, I would like to mention something I overlooked.  The tinted windows make the shop very uninviting.

 

Filiberto’s is your classic, somewhat grungy Southern California taco shop situated a short hop from the ocean.  It contains a drive through, but more interesting, it maintains a unique method of delivering the food to the drive through customers. Rather than setting up a delivery window in the kitchen (think McDonalds), the delivery window is placed in a separate room in the seating area.  An employee walks 0ut from behind the counter and into the “delivery room,” passing off the food to hungry customers waiting in their car.  Bizarre, but cool.

Filiberto’s also contains a number of interesting wall decorations.  For no apparent reason, dozens of pictures of babies line the wall near the service counter.  Paintings of running horses, and other works of art adorn the other walls.  These artworks look a little tacky, but nonetheless add further charm to the establishment.

Quality of the Hot Sauce (3.5/5 Points)

Last time, I raved about the hot sauce.  This time, the sauce was more watery, and contained less flavor.  Still good, just not exceptional.

Presentation (2/5 Points)

The onion chunks were way too big (hence the overly strong onion flavor).  The tortilla did not appear soft, instead looking a bit stale.  I did appreciate the customized paper used to wrap the burrito.

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Freshness (1/5 Points)

The meat was terrible.  The guacamole was not fresh.  The tomatoes were not at all vibrant.  The only fresh ingredient was the previously mentioned onions.

Value (4/5 Points)

The pricing in this match was the closest I have ever had.  The differential in price (compared to Mexico Viejo) was only 1 cent: $4.20 before tax.


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

December 29, 2008

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)

 

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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.

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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)

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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.

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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.


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

December 27, 2008

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)

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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.

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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)

 

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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.

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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.