Right outside of the San Diego airport I went to eat late lunch in a small taquería, El Zarape. It was recommended by a San Diego native friend Eric. The taquería had charming non-chain ambience with the menu written on a blackboard. As recommended by Eric, I chose pork chili verde and fish tacos.
Food at El Zarape was exquisite and the salsas were amazing. My favorite sauce was the roasted tomato sauce. If I go there next time, I would order two of Eric’s other suggestions, chile relleno burrito and carne asada tacos. I didn’t get to try the other two places suggested by him, Cuatro Milpas and Cantina Mayahuel. According to him, servers in Cuatro Milpas don’t even speak in English – you order in Spanish for ridiculously great Mexican food. Cantina Mayahuel is supposed to be a quaint little tequila bar with great food, especially Tasajo style torta.
I learned about the Gaslamp quarter in downtown San Diego from a stranger while waiting at the airport. The Gaslamp district got its name from ubiquitous gas lamps used in San Diego from the late nineteenth to the early part of the twentieth centuries.
The chicken shawarma sandwich at Sultan Shawarma in the Gaslamp quarter was a perfect pre-supper snack. Shawarma is slow roasted meat grilled in a conical configuration on a big rotating skewer (like rotisserie).
Meat is usually marinated beforehand and is also flavored by adding onions and tomatoes on top of it. Maybe we were hungry at that time, but the homemade chicken shawarma was succulent and had a great flavor. One of the best shawarmas!
Dick’s Last Resort
We stopped by Dick’s Last Resort in Gaslamp quarter to get some drinks since it looked festive with all the Christmas lights. At first we were surprised by tongue in cheek service when our server tried to be rude. Later we realized the place was infamous Dallas based Dicks last resort chain, which resorts to funny and rude service. That’s why napkins were tossed everywhere to appear like no one cares – however the bathrooms were clean.
A meal of deep fried alligator bites and some other fried stuff went smoothly with their 24 oz Miller Lite drink special. Our server tried to be rude and funny, although sometimes it came out offensive, but we still tried to have some fun with him. I can see that some people had funnier servers. Surprisingly, the service was decent even though they were supposed to be rude. It’s a fun place, but not for everyone.
Kono’s Café had the longest line for breakfast in Pacific Beach. They were serving amzing looking sub-five dollar egg burritos.
Old town San Diego with museums and shops surrounded by agave plants is a definite tourist attraction. We were drawn to Cafe Coyote after we saw a lady making fresh tortillas right on the patio outside the restaurant. A couple of tortillas were just a few dollars and there were a lot of flavor options. It was one of the best tortillas I ever had. The accompanying optional sauces made it my favorite place to snack in Old town, San Diego.
After that snack, we went to another Mexican restaurant for a meal. The restaurant remains nameless. However, being a Mexican restaurant in a border town, I was expecting a decent meal. Sadly, I have to report that it was one of the worst Mexican meals I ever had. Maybe it was a fluke but I was disappointed.
Next on the list was to try some of the west coast chains.
La Salsa, a Los Angeles based Mexican food chain, is, according to my California based cousin, famous for their fresh salsa bar.
Their taco salad and quesadillas were decent. Most importantly, I was surprised by their frozen alcoholic Margarita. It was better than I expected – maybe because I like margaritas with a slightly higher volume of tequila.
Our early happy hour started at the Yard House in the gas lamp district. Yard house has an unbelievable draft beer selection of 150 beers or something. Hundreds of beers on tap makes it very difficult to choose – we ended up choosing a sampler – indeed a good call.
Many California native swear by In-N-Out burger. For our late night snack, animal style double-double burger with two patties seemed fitting. Animal style is basically any burger of choice with beef cooked with mustard and served with grilled onion pickle, lettuce, and tomatoes. Burgers at In-N-Out are very similar to the DC based Five Guys chain. Burgers were very good for a fast food chain and it was a good last meal before leaving San Diego.
New York style Chinese food
One of the funniest and somewhat existential food experiences I had was seeing a sign for Chinese food – it was for New York style “fine” Chinese food. There aren’t just New York style pizza and bagel shops any more.
Posted in: Travel and Food | Tags: Cafe Coyote, Cantina Mayahuel, Chicken Shawarma San Diego, Cuatro Milpas, deep fried alligator bites, Dick's Last Resort San Diego, El Zarape, Gaslamp district, Gaslamp quarter, Gator bites, In-N-Out Animal burger, In-N-Out burger, Kono's Café, La Salsa Margarita, La Salsa San Diego, New York style Chinese food, Places to eat in San Diego, San Diego taquería, Sultan Shawarma, Tasajo style torta, Yard house draft beers, Yardhouse