EWS' Restaurant Reviews

San Diego area

Mexican

Las Cuatros Milpas

Opinion: Extraordinary.

1857 Logan Ave, San Diego, CA. A few block N of the Coronado bridge.

Small menu. Chicken or pork burrito, rolled tacus, tamales, menudos,

The pork burrito was brilliant, with succulent, slightly smoky filling. The rolled tacos were good. The tamales had generous filling, the masa was the heavier version, which I don't like as much. But very good, nonetheless.

Closed Sun.

La Posta

Opinion: If you're too drunk to stagger elsewhere....

Mission Hills, SW corner of 3rd and Washington.

Low prices, generous servings.

Cash only?

I went here on the basis of some Internet reviews, which rated it as the best take-out Mexican food in San Diego. Someone's been stuffing the ballot box. It's OK, but barely. I haven't had anything that I would want to order again.

The carne asada burrito is generous; I could barely finish it. There's a bit of salad and a little guacamole inside. However, the meat was a tough, dry, and pasty, and the overall effect was unpleasant at best. The fish burrito has salad and guacamole instead of cabbage and white sauce; the fish was fishy.

My son loves their rice, cheese, and bean burrito.

There is no salsa bar. No inside seating.

Baja Fresh

Mission Hills, across from La Posta

Overview: Overpriced. Quality is good, but quantity penurious for the price. Don't see much point in the place.

A friend had raved about this place, so I figured we'd try it. The prices are about 60% higher than others in the take-out arena, and the carnitas burrito I ordered was mostly air; I easily finished it and was still hungry.

The quality seemed good. They don't have refried beans, but black and pinto beans. My son took one bite of his rice, cheese, and (pinto) bean burrito and refused to eat it (although he likes ranch beans). I thought it tasted just fine.

Jalapenos

Ralph's shopping center, Carmel Mountain Road, Rancho Bernardo.

Cash ONLY.

Superb take-out Mexican.

We've been going here for about 5 years, after a Mexican friend raved about their al pastor. Now that we've moved down to Mission Hills, we still get takeout when possible.

Prices are quite reasonable. Servings are very generous. Burritos are stuffed with the main ingredient; I'm usually fine eating just half of a fish burrito or a carne asada burrito.

The siete mares soup is wonderful; there's a version with just fish, but it's only a little more to add shrimp, octopus, clams, etc. The octopus has never been tough.

The carne asada burrito is excellent, just meat and guacamole. The special carne asada nachos is likewise excellent, although you have to ask for jalapenos. If you get it to go, have the beans on the side so it doesn't get soggy.

I recommend the fish burrito, and I thought the el diablo shrimp burrito was very good and just the right level of spice, although my friends didn't care for it.

Their salsa are very good, particularly the mild pico de gailo. I add the hot salsa to it in a 3:1 ratio.

The only faults I have really found are 1. the carnitas is very good, but it's cut across the grain and is not the crisply rendered pulled pork that is more traditional in San Diego and 2. despite the name, very few items have any level of spice unless you ask or alter.

El Indio

Opinion: Quite good.

Kind of an institution. Probably the first (Mexican) place I tried in SD, but didn't live in the area so found other places. Went back after moving to Mission Hills because I was having so little luck in the area. For the moment, at least, it's the best around Mission Hills.

Carnitas Burrito: The pork is pulled (long separated fibers of muscle tissue, the way it should be), but not caramelized. With guac and salsa.

Fish Burrito: With guac and beans?!?. Not the way I would do it (much prefer the cabbage/white sauce version), but tasted good. Not nearly as much fish as Jalapenos. They should note that it comes with beans; my wife hates refried beans and wouldn't touch it.

Rice, Cheese,and Bean Burrito: Moderate spice, which meant my son refused to eat it. He's convinced the spice came from the cheese, but I have my doubts; I think it came from the rice. I thought it was the spiciest of the class, fine for adults.

Their hot salsa isn't very hot, both hot and mild are quite watery, visually indistinct, and not good for chips -- but good for adding inside burritos.

Take credit cards?

Rudy's

Opinion: Recommend highly.

Solana Beach, From 5, go west on Loma Santa Fe, turn left (south) onto Stevens Ave just past the Presbyterian Church. In a few blocks, look for a convenience store on the left.

The quality of the ingredients and the preparation is without equal; everything is superb. They even make their own hot sauce. I had never had any interest in hot sauce before I tried theirs; it is thick and smoky, not the watery red stuff you usually find. The carnitas is succulent and (usually) nicely rendered, just the way I like it. The carne asada is tender, with a clear grilled flavor. The carne asada burrito and the carnitas are packed with meat, with guacamole. The al pastor is very wet, with a fairly spicy sauce. I think some fresh chopped onion and cilantro are added. I suspect this is what al pastor is supposed to be like, it's the best I've ever tasted, very distinctive.

On a lark I tried the California burrito (carne asada, sour cream, french fries); I thought it was really good but I've only had one other before so I'm not much of a judge.

There is a piece of paper taped to the menu marquis that lists Mexican street tacos (they're printed in the paper menu). Don't miss these; they are excellent. Small soft corn tortillas with meat and pico gailo?; these were omnipresent when I lived in Santa Barbara, but I haven't had them in SD. Exactly the right level of spice for me.

Seating is rustic and minimal.

cons: No fish -- they only have space for one fryer, and once you cook fish in the oil, that's all you can cook in it. The owner is planning to open a branch in Carlsbad, and will have more space. I'm trying to talk him into a more southerly venue.

No salsa bar.

2006-04-13, 2006-04-20, 2006-04-28, ....

Mama Testa

Opinion: Recommend.

1517a University Ave., Hillcrest. Across from McDonald's.

Up-scale street tacos. Decor is a day-of-the-dead/wrestling theme. We had the asi-yasado (grilled chicken, cilantro, onion, tomatillo salsa) and se-te-pone (pork and napalitos). Both were very good. Portions were quite adequate. It's a bit expensive.

The salsa bar has a large selection of interesting (and labeled) salsa. Those we tried were quite good, and unusual.

Definitely worth trying; go with a few friends so you can order different dishes to try.

cons: Parking is, of course, horrible in that area. For salsa there are little black plastic mortars; because they're fairly deep and narrow you have to break your chips into pieces small enough to get to the bottom.

2006-09-03

The black refried beans were really smoky; I didn't like them, but others did. The barbecued pork with marinated onions? was way too vinegary. But the grilled chicken and the carnitas tacos were very good.

2009-03-31

Jimmy Carter's Mexican Restaurant

Opinion: Recommend.

We go here fairly often. Usually quite good.

The second time, we went for dinner. The burrito was cold; the cheese inside hadn't even melted.

The pollo en mole wasn't very good, as moles go. The chicken pieces were large (3/4 in) cubes of breast meat on top of some mole sauce. I'm not an expert on mole. The mole sauce was fine, but it should have something to cling to. Shredded chicken, or better, galina (stewed hen) and it really should have been cooked with the chicken, not added to it as an afterthought.

The waiters forgot to point us to the specials board, which we didn't notice until after the meal. There were more interesting things to try. Otherwise, the waiters were very nice and accommodating and fixed things without any complaints.

2006-09-10

We were planning to have lunch there today; when we got there, the windows were covered with newspaper. Looks like someone else is opening a restaurant there.

2008-05-24

Valentino's

Opinion: Recommend.

Tried the carnitas burrito. The carnitas is excellent; succulent and crispy. Has guac, salsa stuff, some lettuce on it.

Tried their #2 combo, enchilada and releno. I was surprised that the enchilada was cheese. The releno was actually a single layer of green chili atop a layer of cheese, egged and battered and fried, then topped with more cheese. It was a bit eggy, though pretty good, but so rich with all that cheese that I could only eat half. The enchilada wasn't very remarkable, but good. It was nice that the combo was served on a real plate. Quantities are very generous; I ate an enchilada, half a releno, and a quarter of the burrito for lunch, and couldn't eat dinner that evening.

I asked; they make their pollo en mole with their pollo asada. Sigh.

When we ordered our food, the salsa bar consisted of a green and a red (both were very watery and a bit messy with chips) and basic pickled jalapenos. Later, a very watery salsa appeared. They weren't bad, but rather thin. Chips are thick, good.

Parking is minimal; you can park in the lot that is uphill (E) of the grocery store next to Valentino's.

cons: There are two tables outside (lots inside); we sat at one. The garbage can was upwind and quite redolent. Think we'll do takeout next time.

2006-09-16

Now Lucha Libre, wrestling motif. We tried the surf & turf ($6.25) and Holy Moly (Mole) burritos. Rather unusual, but both were very good. The salsa bar has a creamy cilantro pesto that doesn't work for me.

Cosmopolitan

Opinion: Avoid.

The Cosmopolitan has taken over the space in Old Town previously used by Casa de Bandini. We finally decided to try it.

The first warning should have been arriving on a Friday evening at 6:30 and being seated immediately (I was even able to park). For Casa Bandini, I would have expected a 3-hour wait -- literally. The patio was mostly empty, and it looked like they had only half as many tables as before. The patio did fill up as the evening went on, but when we left at perhaps 8:00, the indoor area was almost completely empty. There's a good reason for this....

Prices are higher, the menu is shorter. A Carnitas plate was around $17. Portions are smaller, garnishes are minimal at best, plates look a bit empty. The Carnitas was unbearably salty. It came with a concha of refried beans, some mexican rice, and tortillas. Not even scallions. I had chicken verde, which was two corn tortillas, cubed chicken, some tomatillo sauce, and some shredded lettuce. The house margeritas were too sweet; I couldn't tell if there was any tequila in them.

While Casa Bandini was nothing brilliant, the food and margeritas were quite good, the atmosphere was festive, the service was unpredictable. It was a great place to take out-of-town guests. Now, the drink fountain is bare, the waitresses are drabs.

I expect that Casa Bandini left because the rents were raised too much. The Cosmopolitan's strategy is to increase price and cut every corner (even the mint basket at the cashier is empty), but if they're empty on a Friday night during spring break, I don't think they're going to last very long. We can always hope.

Oh, and the mariachis were so loud we couldn't talk.

2007-04-13

Word is that Casa Bandini's has reopened in La Mesa in the Grossmont Center, off 8, although the food's not as good, and the name may not be the same.

Roberto's

Washington

Opinion: Not bad at all.

Drive-through, parking is difficult. Beans in the carnitas burrito, quite good. 2007-10-07

Pinata

Fairly expensive, huge portions.

A bit disappointing today. The pickled vegetables were too vinegary and very crunchy; didn't like them at all. The chili verde was overly citrusy. We tried the nachos; the meat was pulled beef, which had been stewed with onions and peppers. It was quite good, but a bit wet which got the chips quite soggy. Everything was very mild; should have asked for jalapenos on the nachos. When we ordered, we asked for the olives on the side. The waiter said that they were out of olives, so he didn't bother to write it on the slip; naturally, it appeared with olives on it. No big deal, since they're easy to pick off. 2008-05-24

Cabais

3952 Fourth, Hillcrest

Opinion: Recommend

I tried the chicken burrito and the grilled mahi-mahi burrito. Both were quite good. The tortilla was very fresh and tender. The combination adds beans and rice on a styrofoam sectional plate; not worth it.

No pork (carnitas), only ground beef for burritos. Also sells sandwiches.

2008-01-20

El Cuervo

2008-06-06

110 West Washington St, San Diego, CA

Recommend. Inexpensive, very good.

Burritos have a fair bit of filler. The fish was a little soggy (but I had driven a mile or so with the food), the vegetables crisp. White sauce, tiny bit of heat. Very good. The Camarones Rancheros was shrimp in light tomato rice, excellent but rather messy.

They have a fair bit of parking, very cramped. On Friday at 11:30 it was rather hectic, with lots of people from the hospital ordering. Service was very fast. They have a fair number of salsas, not labeled. There was also a tray of grilled jalapenos and wax chilis.

Senor Panchos Mexican Grill

Opinion: Not what I like, but OK

3152 Midway Dr, San Diego, CA

2008-10-10

The fish in the fish burrito was very good, crispy and generous. Shredded cabbage. However, they used a white sauce that was very strong, vinegary and a bit sweet. Perhaps Miracle Whip? Ruined the burrito for me, although otherwise it was very good.

The carne assada was tender and well flavored, although a bit mushy.

It's a Taco Shop

NW Corner of W Point Loma Blvd and Midway.

Opinion: Recommend

Everything was flawed in some way, but nonetheless quite good. The chicken tamale had dried at the open end. The masa was dense, and it seemed a sheet of it had been rolled around the filling (I've never made tamales, but they usually don't have seams). The filling was pentiful, a little spicy and very flavorful. The beans on the side were a bit chalky and not very compelling. The fish taco was overflowing with lettuce. They used a sweetish white sauce that I don't prefer. It came in a single corn tortilla, which didn't survive long. A friend had the machaca burrito, said it was excellent.

Cons: Parking is, well, creative.

It has a drive-through.

2009-04-19

Oriental

South China Buffet, 2006-12-09.

$6.50/person, $4.00/child

El Comal Antojitos

3946 Illinois St, SD, CA, close to University Ave in North Park.

Excellent food, dreadful service.

Were there for lunch on a Saturday.

Three salsas, moderately spicy. Very good.

The chicken quesadilla was marinated shredded chicken and cheese in a soft corn tortilla, sealed and fried. Excellent.

I had the goat platter - chunks of roasted goat on bone garnished with cilantro and radishes, a timbale of rice, and a dish of refried beans. Very good, but rich, I was thinking it really needed tortillas. When I had, literally, two bites left, the waiter finally came out with some very nice corn tortillas, without a word of apology.

Took 20 minutes and two trips to the kitchen door to get the check after I asked for it.

2008-05-31

Other

Kristy's MVP Sports & Grill

3225 Midway Dr, San Diego, CA 92101 619-222-0388

Rather dreadful. Avoid.

Sunrise

3860 Convoy St #121
San Diego, CA
858-715-1608

Just not worth the time.

2007-09-04. First work day of the month, after labor day. Was very crowded for lunch. The choice was very similar to that place in CO that I rave about, except.... in the CO place, I would try a dish and think, "This is really nicely done. Spiced right, minimal, essence of the dish." Here, it's more of, well, I can identify the protein, and it's awfully gluey, ....

The potstickers were quite excellent. The sushi chef had made at least a dozen different type of rolls, and quite a few nice nigiri (although no identifying cards for us roundeyes). After that, it was really mediocre. I can't say anything was compelling. In SD there are so many really brilliant Chinese/Japanese buffets...this one isn't really in the also-rans.

I had been looking forward to their dim-sum. They had perhaps four char-su-sau and so forth. The barbequed pork bun, I couldn't stomach at all. A sticky rice in banana leaf was vile. The pork-sausage in pasta was unremarkable. I didn't try or remember the fourth. Desert, good assortment of cookies; there's the standard buffet soft serve, but no green tea ice cream, which, dreadful as it can be, is kind of de rigeur.

Movement very restricted, with the buffer in the back, and the channels to it, one basically opted out because the waitstaff have to use it to get to the drink machines, etc. Yes, soda included, but it's kind of a wash, since it's a Pepsi house. I had a coupon for $1 off each person, and they gave us $1 off the entire party. Lost in translation, I suppose, but it's not like it's the first time they've run this promotion ...

Tesuque Village Market

Tesuque, NM

Very expensive, horrible service, average food.

We had gone here around 7 years ago, with two 3-year olds. It took, I kid you not, two hours to get lunch. Never a pretty picture with hungry children. As we were leaving, the manager ran out and offered us discounts on our next visit; I swore there would not be a next visit. But, we were told that they had changed ownership, so.... Certainly, service was "better," but it was still horrible, probably because it's not as crowded as before. Food's OK, but nothing special. Fool me twice....

2008-01-03

Links

Citysearch. Lots of chains among their highest ranked. They list everything in the yellow pages, so the noise-to-signal ratio is pretty high. Tio Leo's Fairouz