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Thursday, January 11, 2024


Saguaro's in San Diego's Historic North Park neighborhood. 
Photo courtesy of Marshall Williams from his remarkable series of black and white photos called "Taco Vernacular."  CLICK HERE.

No trip to San Diego is complete without beaches, Balboa Park, and, of course, tacos. Invented in Mexico centuries ago, taco culture has migrated all over the planet, and some experts believe San Diego is an ideal place to embark on a taco tour. 

They have a good point: There’s ample local seafood—which helped give rise to the ubiquitous fish taco—a wide variety of fresh produce is available year-round, and the city is home to numerous innovative chefs looking to make their mark. The end result? 

San Diego tacos are convenient, budget-friendly, and utterly irresistible. 

 The best San Diego tacos come in a variety of forms, from steak to barbacoa to vegan, from highbrow to hole-in-the-wall. Try any or all of these amazing taco shops on your craving for tacos, tacos, tacos. 

Oscar’s Mexican Seafood 

Location: Pacific Beach and Hillcrest 

Best bet: Taco Especial 

Why’s it on this list? Named one of San Diego's best Mexican restaurants by Michelin, this beachy taco stand is quintessential San Diego. The fresh menu is seafood-inspired—though the steak taco is also one of the tastiest in the city. You’ll want to try the classics, like battered fish, and its more interesting combos, like shrimp and bacon. For the full experience, go with the Taco Especial (smoked fish, shrimp, scallops, and all the toppings). 


City Tacos 

Location: Encinitas, La Mesa, North Park, Sorrento Valley 

Best bet: Mexicali taco 

 Why’s it on this list? Meat, fish, veggie, creative salsas: whatever you can imagine in your tacos, City Tacos probably serves it. City Tacos stands out among the San Diego taco shops for its unique combos: mahi-mahi with strawberries, and the Mexicali, which tops skirt steak with mashed potato, poblano peppers, and a sprinkle of crema and cotija cheese. 


 Las Cuatro Milpas 

Location: Barrio Logan 

Best bet: Shredded pork tacos 

 Why’s it on this list? Since 1933, Las Cuatro Milpas has been a local San Diego taco favorite thanks to its famous homemade tortillas and deep-fried rolled tacos. Yes, there can be a line and, yes, it’s cash only, but it’ll be worth it. The menu is simple and inexpensive; Order up your favorite meats in simple street tacos—try the pork—and add cilantro and onions. If you’re still hungry, get five rolled tacos for just $5. 


 Tuetano Taqueria 

Location: Old Town 

Best bet: Birria with bone marrow taco 

 Why’s it on this list? After being recognized by Michelin as one of the best San Diego tacos, Tuetano has attracted fans from both sides of the border who swear by the authentic slow-cooked, Tijuana-style beef birria. The cuts are simmered in a broth seasoned with cinnamon, cloves, and guajillo chiles, and chef Priscilla Curiel’s signature is a unique topping of roasted bone marrow. 



Locations: La Jolla, Downtown San Diego, Mission Valley 

Best bet: Filet mignon taco Why’s it on this list? One of the best high-end San Diego taco shops, Puesto has to kick off our taco list with its filet mignon, jidori chicken, and lobster tacos. Their signature is a layer of melted crispy cheese that covers the whole tortilla. Topping that is the filet, avocado, and a pistachio-serrano salsa. The newest Mission Valley location also serves up beers on tap. 


 Lola 55 

Location: Downtown San Diego (East Village) Best bet: Baja-style fish taco 

Why’s it on this list? On the other end of the spectrum is the uber-chic Lola 55, a cocktails-and-tacos spot on the east side of downtown. Earning a Bib Gourmand distinction from Michelin, Lola 55 is known for frying up whatever the freshest catch of the day is in its Baja-style fish taco—beer battered and topped with chorizo-tomato vinaigrette and pickled serrano. Vegetarians should try the mushroom or squash relleno taco. 



Location: North Park

Best bet: Carne Asada burrito (world class with no potato filling) Why’s it on this list? So, you wanted to check out North Park hot restaurant and craft beer scene but you couldn’t find a parking space (and you don’t want to use the parking garage at North Park Way and 30th) what now? Saguaro’s at 30th and Capps in North Park has a drive through order window and only five blocks away is Balboa Park’s Morley Field and Bird Park area, where you can have an instant picnic under trees. 



Location: Barrio Logan 

Best Bet: Califas taco 

 Why’s it on this list? French fries in a taco, a thumping beat, and tattoo-inspired murals? Part of ¡Salud!’s appeal is its pure Chicano flare. Featured in The New York Times and on the Travel Channel, this San Diego taco hot spot is known for its delicious Southern Californian–Mexican fusion offerings. The Califas is a nod to the California burrito (with french fries and guacamole) and the Barrio taco is loaded with braised beef, peppers, nopal, frijol, and crema. Veggie options and mixed drinks available. 


 Carnitas Las Michoacanas 

Location: City Heights

Best bet: Carnitas 

 Why’s it on this list? It’s right there in the name—and you definitely want the carnitas. Inspired by the Mexican state of Michoacan, which is known for its carnitas, this small, South San Diego taco shop delivers some of the most authentic and tasty carnitas around. Order your meat by the pound or half-pound, and get a family pack of tortillas, beans, rice, salsa, cilantro, and onions for about $20. Cash only. 


 The Taco Stand 

Location: La Jolla, Encinitas, North Park, Downtown San Diego 

Best bet: Al pastor taco 

 Why’s it on this list? The Taco Stand opened its eighth location in early 2022, so you can now devour its Tijuana-style tacos all over the county. Along with handmade corn tortillas and chips, fresh guacamole, and salsas from scratch, you’ll find both classic San Diego tacos and modern twists. The delicious al pastor combines spiced pork and sweet pineapple. Top it off with a Mexican flavored popsicle or a made-to-order churro. 


 Tacos El Gordo 

Location: Chula Vista (multiple locations), Otay Mesa 

Best Bet: Adobada taco Why’s it on this list? Serving up street tacos in Tijuana since 1972, Tacos El Gordo opened its first San Diego County taco shop over 20 years ago. The original location on H Street in Chula Vista still offers drive-thru, but the larger spot on Broadway is known for different lines depending on your choice of filling: carne asada, adobada, cabeza, suadero, or tripa. Their adobada is a signature—chile-marinated pork shaved off a spit as it roasts. 

 List courtesy: Visit California except for Saguaro's via daily online magazine.

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