San Diego is home to some of the best “fast” Mexican food on this side of the border. Or at least that is our opinion. While attending college in San Diego we visited Mexican food joints at all hours of the day. Although some of these places are far from five star, they are as ”authentic” as Mexican food in California gets! **The below restaurants are not for the calorie conscious.. You have been warned!! **
(All of these restaurants have their own appeal – so they are not in any particular order.. try them all! )
1. SOMBREROS – With over 15 locations in San Diego, Sombreros is the king of late night food runs. Although I don’t eat meat, the CALIFORNIA burrito (carne asada, french fries, cheese, salsa) is a San Diego favorite. This place has some of the best Hot Carrots in San Diego!!! Most of the locations are open until late, and some of them are open 24 hours (Mission Gorge, El Cajon, Lakeside). (www.sombreromex.com)
2. ROBERTOS – This is another college student favorite. Friends would rave about the CARNE ASADA FRIES from Robertos. They have a pretty good Veggie Burrito too. This is another Mexican food chain that has multiple locations throughout San Diego – my favorite location is in Del Mar, where you can see the ocean! (www.robertos.us)
3. RAMIROS- Now don’t let the look of this restaurant fool you. Although Ramiros lacks a proper dining room, and / or restaurant setting, they have amazing breakfast burritos. My personal favorite is the breakfast burrito with potato, egg, and cheese..served all day!! This 24 hour drive thru Pacific Beach favorite is a very popular late night, post-partying dining option. Located a block away from the ocean, this is another place where you can just stop by, pick up some great food and relax on the beach.
4. SANTANAS- Another great option with multiple locations!! The great thing about Santanas is that all locations are open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. So there is no second guessing on whether or not you are going to get great Mexican food. The only second guessing is going to be on what to order. This menu has a wide variety of options with great custom burritos! You’ll never get bored with the food here. (www.santanas.com)
5. BAHIA DON BRAVO- Although there are a few locations for this restaurant, my favorite location is in Bird Rock, La Jolla. Talk about the perfect afternoon in San Diego. Bahia Don Bravo has an actual dining room, but that’s not the best part. If you are able to score a seat on the patio- it’s the best. On a good day, you can get a clear view of the beautiful ocean. This place is a bit nicer than the other joints on the list. My absolute favorite here is the potato burrito, and the potato taco. San Diego is famous for the California Burrito but the Potato Burrito here is to die for. Another recommendation would be Burrito Especial with your choice of meat. 5504 La Jolla Blvd <- My favorite location 🙂
6. EL COTIXAN – Gennesse Location- Every UC San Diego student has been here on a late night food run. This place is always packed because of the great food. For some reason, the Gennesse location seems to have the best ”cook” and taste. Don’t be fooled by the appearance and location. Nestled right next to a gas station, this is an unlikely dining haven. Open 24 hours, they have monster burritos and the San Diego favorite Carne Asada Fries. These fries are topped with carne asada, cheese, guacamole, and sour cream. Who knows if this is brain food, but it sure hits the spot for numerous students, and those with late night cravings. My personal favorite is the Burrito Supreme – add potatoes or rice. Although they don’t have a salsa bar, they have a great red hot sauce.
7. LOS PANCHOS- Another San Diego staple, Los Panchos has been a San Diego favorite for years. With multiple locations, you can alway dive into a great Pollo Asada Burrito or Rolled Tacos. Their hot carrots are decent, and their salsa is pretty good. Los Panchos is one of those places where you can find what you are looking for.
8 EL INDIO MEXICAN RESTAURANT – Located right off the 5 freeway before you enter Downtown San Diego- El Indio has been a San Diego favorite for years! They were just featured on the Food Network TV show “Diners, Drive-Ins, Dives” with Guy Fieri…so you know they mean business! This restaurant is a bit different from the rest on the list because this isn’t a little drive thru joint. El Indio is believed to be the birthplace of the ”taquito”. This may sound crazy because I know they have a large menu but they have an awesome bean and cheese burrito!!! Make sure you check out the San Diego burrito and the little taquito! (www.el-indio.com)
9. COTIJAS- Located in the friendly neighborhood of Rancho Penasquitos this taco shop gives the big name chains a run for their money. Although they are not open 24 hours, they have a drive thru and great deals! My absolute favorite is the veggie burrito. They have large portions, and great salsa. Another popular item on this menu is the fish taco. Unlike the tiny fish tacos you get at ”fast food’ restaurants, these will really fill you up. A good choice if you are ever driving on the 56 or the 15 freeway!
10. TACOS EL GORDO – Last but not least, this Chula Vista staple is as authentic as it gets. Tacos El Gordo has a store in Tijuana so you know this is no joke. I’ve heard that the tacos are just like the street tacos in Mexico. Some items to try are the Asada Tacos -( guacamole, grilled chilies, green onions on the side). Complete with a squeeze of lime and salsa. A Tacos El Gordo FAVORITE is the Adobada Tacos (although I have never had one, all my friends won’t stop telling me how great they are). These tacos come with marinated pork, cilantro, onions, salsa, and a special creamy avocado sauce. Sounds pretty authentic to me.
I guess it’s pretty safe to say that San Diego has some great Mexican Taco Shops- so next time you are in town make sure you stop by. If you are in the mood for a sit down restaurant, make sure you check out the Old Town area of San Diego. Coyote Cafe and Old Town Mexican Cafe are great San Diego favorites.