In June I learned about a new *fancy* taco spot that opened up on University just east of 30th Street in North Park. Like any good lover of Mexican food, I felt compelled to check it out–four times. Between the uber-friendly owner Gerry, the unpretentious feel, and the array of interesting taco specialties, I think City Tacos is going to be a mainstay. Here’s how it went…I found out about the place from the North Park Facebook group page – which honestly is one of the best ways to stay current on what’s happening in this part of San Diego. Wife and I love to try new places and having a taco spot that is a step up from the chain-ish drive-thru options was a breath of much needed fresh air for the area. To be fair, Chef Ricardo makes a mean street taco at Alchemy and there’s always you-know-who with this. But for a pure taco fix that is walking or short biking distance away (always a bonus) this place seemed like it could be ideal.
Everyone said the owner was super nice and that he treated everyone like he was genuinely grateful they dropped by. Gerry did not disappoint. I was just having a conversation with friends who own a couple restaurants and bars and talking about the importance of having good service. To have the owner there really pouring his heart into the experience was a great start. So I couldn’t wait to get into the food. The place is a tiny spot with about 10 tables and an outside seating bench. You order at the counter and choose from about eight or so taco options, then they bring out the order. We never spend more than $20 for two people to walk away feeling pretty damn satisfied, so there’s that. Enough basics, let’s get to the food.
I usually try to build the suspense and start with something that was just okay. But if I only have your attention for the first few tacos I want to be sure you get right to it. I’ve now had this taco on four occasions. It has never disappointed. That may be partially due to my palate and a predisposition towards the combination of naturally sweet pineapple nestled comfortably against the truly lovely culinary invention that is chorizo. Whatever, it is good. So is the Oaxacan cheese underneath. There aren’t a ton of ingredients to hide the stars of this show. A solid taco. Put it on the list.
This is the shrimp taco. I put the picture here because I thought it came out pretty cool. I don’t have an up close photo of the chile relleno, but want to talk about it. I can’t say I completely remember what was in the chile relleno taco, but I remember it having a nice little spice and being quite good. It’s vegetarian-friendly, so you should feel comfortable telling your friends who avoid the meat that they will have an option if they come along.
*where my pollo asado photo should be*
This was made with grilled chicken breast with arugula, tomatoes, golden raisins (yes, raisins) and almonds with a tamarind aioli and flour tortilla. I would have put this one earlier in the write up but, well, too many good options I suppose.
This shows the breadth of tacos we tried. He has since added a couple more after a few weeks of tweaking the recipe, so definitely worth popping in again for that new one. In my view the scallop taco and chile relleno taco should go on your list. There are other places that also do a scallop taco – two of my friends strongly recommended another that they like better but I can’t remember where it was. I liked this one. And no, I didn’t need a soup spoon.
If you need it, there’s this
I got a chuckle out of the hot sauce just being called “extra.” It wasn’t so hot, actually. But that didn’t matter because the tacos had enough spice and flavor built in that they all stood on their own.
I am not-that-subtly shielding you from one of the handles, but leaving plain view of the two Mike Hess Brewing handles, the Lost Abbey handle and the three Mexicali craft beers from Cucapa. My first time in was before he got his beer and wine license, and we talked a bit about the incredible San Diego Craft Beer he could offer. He was already planning to offer Hess, which was good to see, but I was pleasantly surprised to see Lost Abbey and Cucapa. I ought to bring him a sample of Thorn Street’s Relay IPA or a nice Societe Harlot to sample. But for now, I’m thrilled he’s carrying something I enjoy drinking since many taco spots haven’t yet fully caught on to the many benefits of selling San Diego Craft Beer (aside for restaurants: I spoke to a distributor who actually has a calculator to prove how much better for your business carrying craft beer is – everybody wins!)
This shot is here because the little shop next door to City Tacos seemed kinda cool and it might make a great place for stocking stuffers or various items around the house. It’s called Kaleidescope. Check it out. Oh, and for those who made it this far, here’s a bonus:
It’s the definitive source to understand why San Diego is the nation’s craft beer capital. Enjoy!