San Diego- We pay a fortune to live here for three reasons: weather, ocean, tacos. Here in Encinitas, our taco choices have been plenty. But on December 1st, 2016, the Encinitas opening of The Taco Stand completed me. We now have:
- cheap tacos at our endless hole-in-the-wall Mexican food places
- fancy tacos at almost every sit down restaurant in town
- Haggos tacos, for an organic taco experience
Do you see the gap? Nothing in between “cheap and tasty” and “elevated Ameri-Mex”. Finally, we have something in the middle, The Taco Stand, which has been my favorite. We’re good. DONE.
But not so fast.
When I heard about a place called “City Tacos” recently opened on the 101, I couldn’t imagine more tacos coming to an already saturated market. I was discouraged and even a little mad, blaming Hubby for having to blog about tacos again, when clearly this was all his fault. But I suppose more tacos isn’t a bad thing, so I went with a hungry belly and opened mind….ish.
City Tacos is located in the Lumber Yard and offers inside or outdoor seating. The outdoor tables come with little fire places which, I had to admit, were inviting and comfortable.
Who doesn’t love a foosball table? The Taco Stand doesn’t have a foosball table.
Bryan Ferry and then The Smiths played through the outdoor speakers and my skepticism on this place started to dissipate.
Waiting in line, we looked at their menu. Sure they offered some “regular” ol’ tacos, but the other tacos here sounded ridiculous! Ingredients like octopus, portobello mushroom and crispy avocados are components I’ve never associated with my beloved taco. Their pico de gallo is anything but standard here with fig, pineapple and honey added into the traditional onion-tomato-cilantro mix. “City Tacos” should be called “Wild & Crazy-Ass Tacos”. A much more appropriate name if you ask me. Which no one ever does.
There was no way I was going with my standard Grilled Chicken Taco here. Not here. Instead, I went for a variety of concoctions to share with Hubby like the Especial taco with shrimp, squid and octopus. A Pescadilla which has smoked tuna, and an Al Pastor Salmon, being their Taco of the Month.
I’m ALL about a good do-it-yourself salsa bar. So many places we have been to serve good tacos, even great ones, with these teeny-weeny cups of salsa they think you should have with it. I want to make my own choice! And I want a lot, not a teeny-weeny cup full. City Tacos won my heart first with their sign.
Then with their salsa bar. Here’s why: First of all, their salsas and sauces are clearly marked so you know exactly what you’re getting.
And second, they offer large boats, not minuscule cups, to load up with. The Taco Stand has a top notch salsa bar, but offers those minuscule cups which leaves me with no option but to take large soda lids to load up their pickled onions, cilantro and lime wedges with. No need to do that here. Boats. We have boats.
I couldn’t get a good photo of all the goodies in this bar, but they have lots of yummy things including chunks of jicama and rounds of crispy cucumber. Look, a good salsa bar isn’t really for your tacos, right? We want a mini meal before our meal. Hey, I’m just saying what we all already know. We want to start eating the bar before our food comes. So you order chips and go to town on the bar. A salsa bar needs to stand alone and here, it does. We macked out hard on jicama and cucumber dipped into all the delicious salsas. No chips needed.
Soon our food started coming and it didn’t stop. The side of vegetarian pinto beans didn’t sound super exciting but was beautiful. A large cup of delicious homemade beans topped with a confetti of crispy vegetables, a sprinkle of cotija cheese, with a gnarly looking roasted pepper nestled on top.
The big, strong men in our group played the “I AM MACHO. SEE ME EAT HOT PEPPER” game. But apparently this pepper was so hot, that all they could do was take a nibble and pass it to the next guy. And watching big, strong, macho men nibble, is really funny.
We ordered lots and lots of unique tacos. Some vegan, some Paleo, some seafood. And then there’s Debbie and her daughter Emme, eating grilled chicken tacos. Come on ladies! You can order those tacos everywhere! Branch out! Try a City Taco lobster taco over fried rice noodles or a taco with watermelon and broccoli! But for some, it’s traditional tacos all the way, every time. (I’m not ratting these were two out for being some of the wimps afraid to eat the scary Filipino food at Carin de Ria on our the last blog, but….THEY WERE!) For others, we went HAM on these Wild & Crazy Ass tacos!
Israel, City Taco’s super friendly manager, let us know that there are four City Taco locations with three more coming. Sorrento Valley is next. He sounded so excited and passionate about the fresh and unique ingredients City Taco uses, he was bursting with pride. He brought us out two orders of Bunelo tacos for dessert. It’s apple pie on crack as a taco.
When you have out of town guests come to visit San Diego for the first time, would you only take them to Moonlight Beach to get a feel of what Encinitas is all about? No! They would need to also see Swami’s and probably Beacons as well. It’s the same with our tacos. Apparently there was one more spot left open for yet another taco shop on the 101 in Encinitas. City Tacos is not like the others.
You can’t take guests to only one taco place and do our taco-rich city justice. You would need a minimum of a three-taco joint experience. When my guests come to town, we start them slow and easy, heading over to Karina’s Taco Shop for a cheaper taco or carne asada burrito meal. Our next stop with them is over to The Taco Stand because… YUM! And the third place now, is City Tacos. But be careful not to start here. City Tacos is for advanced taco eaters! People need to be educated and ready for the sophistication offered through the tortilla here. And that does not come on their first taco eating day. Work them up to it. Plan your tacos carefully. But trust me, finish with some Wild & Crazy Ass tacos here.
Please join us Sunday, January 26th, wait… that’s TONIGHT!!!!
Home and Away