Sarah Weinberg

A Few Hot Tamales in San Diego

Tamales are a year-round source of pleasure and sustenance in San Diego. Made from masa, a corn-based dough that is steamed or boiled in a corn-husk wrapper and filled with meat, cheese, fruit or vegetables, tamales are often part of San Diego families’ holiday celebrations. While the best tamales in San Diego are those made by a mom or abuela at home, here are some local places to buy these Mexican treats.

The Mission

The Mission Restaurant's sweet corn tamales breakfast

The Mission Restaurant’s sweet corn tamales breakfast satisfies the soul and stomach.

Start off your day right with an order of Plato Verde con Huevos at one of three Mission Restaurants in San Diego. The sweet corn and green chili tamale and eggs over medium covered with roasted tomatillo sauce and served with a side of black beans and salsa offers a sweet and savory combination not to be missed.

Pancho Villa Farmers Market

Pancho Villa Farmers Market chicken tamales burst with filling.

Pancho Villa Farmers Market chicken tamales burst with filling.

I love going to the Pancho Villa Farmers Market grocery store hungry! I do my shopping then sit and have a bite from the Mexican food “deli” section offering freshly made street tacos, birria, and five flavors of tamales. This busy supermarket makes tamales daily with generous portions of cheese, beef, pork, pineapple or chicken filling. The chicken can be a little dry, as these tamales are overstuffed with filling, but my favorite is moist masa stuffed with a hunk of melted cheese and a mild pepper.

Las Cuatro Milpas

The line out the door at this old-school joint in Barrio Logan is testament to the authentic Mexican food served within, and particularly to their fresh tortillas made from scratch in front of diners.  Las Cuatro Milpas offers solely pork tamales, but they do them right. Moist, with just the right amount of pork stuffing, this place is the go-to restaurant for local families catering their celebrations at home.

Northgate Gonzales Market

Just around the corner in Barrio Logan is the shiny new Northgate Market, one of several in a Southern California chain. This supermarket does incredible volume in the prepared food section and offers five flavors of delicious, inexpensive tamales made fresh all day long. The stuffing is not as generous as Pancho Villa’s tamales, but the ratio is pretty darn perfect. The pork filling is a bit too spicy for my family’s taste. Our Northgate favorites are the sweet corn and the cheese and pepper versions.

Tamales Ancira

What will they think of next? Strawberry tamales from Tamales Ancira in South Bay.

What will they think of next? Strawberry tamales from Tamales Ancira in South Bay.

Tamales Ancira in Chula Vista offers the widest variety of tamale flavors; tamales are all they serve (along with rice and beans on the side). In addition to traditional beef, pork, chicken, sweet corn, cheese and jalapeño, Tamales Ancira creates picadillo (ground beef with tomato, vegetables and serrano peppers), chicaroon (pork cracklings in a delicious tomatillo sauce), beans and cheese, pecans and raisin, chocolate, strawberry, blueberry and pineapple tamales. Get there before they close or call in your order because tamales are made fresh each day and usually sell out before closing.

Of course, some of the best tamales are served from little carts located throughout San Diego County, supplied by cooks crafting the labor-intensive treat at home and selling on the street.

Where do you buy your favorite tamales?


Baja-Med Cuisine in South Bay San Diego

South Bay San Diego, located south of downtown San Diego and north of the US/Mexico border, is a cross-border hotspot for the most authentic Mexican and Baja-Med cuisines. TV personalities Andrew Zimmerman and Anthony Bourdain have already lauded the San Diego/Tijuana region’s culinary excellence, and South Bay provides the perfect opportunity for those looking to try the best of the Baja-Med craze without the need of a passport or border waits. Check below for some of the local favorites.

Romesco Baja-Med Bistro

Tapas at Romesco Baja-Med Bistro. Photos courtesy of

Tapas at Romesco Baja-Med Bistro. Photos courtesy of

Javier Placincia, widely known as one of the best Baja-style chefs, has helped put the San Diego/Tijuana region on the culinary map. Anthony Bourdain visited his famous Tijuana restaurant, Mision 19, to experience the Baja-Med craze first hand. The Baja-Med movement uses fresh, local, Mexican ingredients with Mediterranean cooking techniques and ample room for creative, cultural blending. Lucky for us, Placencia serves his famous Baja-Med cuisine stateside at Romesco Baja-Med Bistro. The bistro serves a wide variety of traditional Mexican dishes as well as Spanish Tapas, Italian pastas and a wine list that highlights the best of the Mediterranean, California, and Baja’s famous Guadalupe Valley.

Where: 4346 Bonita Rd., Bonita California, 91902
Phone: 619.475.8627

Aqui Es Texcoco

Barbacoa de Borrego at Aqui Es Texcoco. Photo courtesy of Yelper Mikey P.

Barbacoa de Borrego at Aqui Es Texcoco. Photo courtesy of Yelper Mikey P.

Similar to Romesco Baja-Med Bistro, Aqui Es Texcoco started serving its famous Barbacoa de Borrego (slow-roasted lamb) in Tijuana in 1990. Since opening its second location in Chula Vista, visitors to San Diego don’t need to cross the border to experience the most succulent and authentic barbacoa-style lamb and homemade sides.

Where: 1043 Broadway, Chula Vista, CA 91911
Phone: 619.427.4045

Maye’s Desserts & Bistro

Savory Empanada at Maye's Desserts & Bistro. Photo courtesy of Yelper Misty W.

Savory Empanada at Maye’s Desserts & Bistro. Photo courtesy of Yelper Misty W.

Empanadas, in every flavor you could possibly imagine. That’s what is served at Maye’s Dessert & Bistro. It’s a great idea to start with a few  savory selections, such as Papas con Rajas (potatos, green chile and cheese), Hawaiian Rib and mouthwatering Pollo Chile Verde, but make sure to leave room. True to its name, the dessert empanadas are the real stars of Maye’s. Chocolate Éclair, Nutella, and Banana Cream are just some of the sugary offerings wrapped in perfectly fresh, hot and flakey pastry dough.

Where: 4240-A Bonita Rd., Bonita, CA 91902
Phone: 619.434.8227

> Discover more of San Diego’s South Bay

This is just the beginning of a great culinary adventure in South Bay San Diego. What are your favorite places to dine on authentic Mexican and Baja cuisine in South Bay?


National Margarita Day – Reasons to Celebrate in San Diego

Margaritas in San Diego's Old Town

February 22 is National Margarita Day and San Diego is ready to celebrate on this sunny and 60 degree Friday. Try out these local favorites that will have you singing a rousing chorus of “Margaritaville” by sundown.

Just A Few National Margarita Day Options

Fiesta de Reyes

Margaritas in San Diego's Old Town - National Margarita Day

Margaritas in San Diego’s Old Town. Photo Courtesy of Prayitno.

Casa de Reyes not only makes one of the best classic margaritas in town, but it supplies a lush Spanish Revival courtyard as the perfect backdrop to enjoy the afternoon sipping on a Margarita and enjoying authentic Mexican cuisine with your friends. You can never go wrong with their classic house margarita made with premium tequila, orange liqueur and homemade sweet and sour, but I always go for favorite, the skinny margarita, made with premium tequila, lime and agave syrup. If you’re looking for something more exotic, the spicy mango margarita at Barra Barra Saloon, located next door, will certainly hit the spot. And if you choose to try one of each, we won’t judge – it’s National Margarita Day after all!

Where: 2754 Calhoun St. San Diego, CA 92110 (Mission Valley and Old Town)
> Find out more Fiesta de Reyes

Cantina Mayahuel

These traditionalists only mix up one kind of margarita, on the rocks with their house mix of lime and agave syrup, so they can keep customers concentrating on the important stuff: tequila. Take your pick from over 100 tequilas and mescals and have one of the highly knowledgeable and friendly bartenders shake you up a quick, simple and delicious margarita. Combine with carnitas tacos and a side of guacamole, and you have a pretty perfect evening ahead of you.

Where: 2934 Adams Ave (at 30th st), San Diego, CA 92116
> Find out more about Cantina Mayahuel

Casa de Pico

Casa de Pico "Bird Bath margarita" - National Margarita Day

On this National Margarita Day, why not try Casa de Pico’s famous “Bird Bath margarita”

If your travels take you east, a must stop margarita spot is Casa de Pico, home of the renowned “birdbath margarita,” strolling mariachis and colorful umbrellas. The margarita comes by its name honestly, as the gargantuan margarita could easily supply refuge for a small bird on a hot day. But with its classic margarita contents I’d say the real refuge it is supplying on this sunny afternoon is for you and a friend or two.

Where: 5500 Grossmont Center Dr., La Mesa, CA 91942 (East County)
> Find out more about Casa de Pico

Café Coyote

Café Coyote, located in the heart of San Diego’s Old Town, is a San Diego classic. Today they celebrate the margarita by serving 20 different types of margaritas all day long for only $5 each. You definitely won’t find a better deal or variety in town. T.G.I.F!

Where: 2461 San Diego Ave, San Diego, CA 92110 (Mission Valley and Old Town)
> Find out more about Café Coyote

Where is your favorite place to partake in National Margarita Day in San Diego? Let us know in the comments below.


A Midnight Stroll through San Diego’s Old Town

I am in Old Town at midnight. I am not surprised. While it is a place, without question, built for tourists, I balk at the suggestion that ‘locals don’t go there’ and such ‘traps’ should be avoided by those looking for an ‘authentic’ experience.

For me, there is nothing more authentic and alluring than the post-structuralist pastiche of real and pretend. Old Town is a piece of living theater staged on the actual blood, sweat and bones of San Diego’s history. The lines between reality and mythology blur amongst historical landmarks and themed restaurants, dusty graveyards and costumed guides.

Cosmopolitan Hotel & Restaurant

I come for Café Coyote tortillas, Fiesta de Reyes mariachi and the trinkets of Bazaar del Mundo as much as I do for a drink and a some history at the Cosmopolitan Saloon Bar or a private tour of the Whaley House.

The Whaley House

The latter is my mission tonight. The Whaley House is arguably the most famous building in Old Town. Lovingly restored to its 1860’s heyday, Whaley’s mansion once stood as an impressive monolith of mortar and brick- a statement of Eastern structure and civility ready to tame and develop San Diego’s wild Western ways.  But let’s be honest, it’s famous for the ghosts. According to the Travel Channel’s America’s Most Haunted, the house is the number one most haunted house in the United States. The hanged criminal. The suicidal daughter. Fantastical realities which produce countless legends and leave us all wondering where history ends and histrionics begin. This is the essence of Old Town. And this is why I love it.

After the tour, most everything is closed except for the Old Town Saloon, lively with industry workers who finished the late shift in a little, old town vaneered with tourism. Feeling more meditative, I stroll through the dusty and deserted ‘town’ and find myself taken by the nightscape. Huge cacti, soft lamplight. It all makes for a haunting and happy midnight stroll.


Dining in North County Coastal San Diego

Discover San Diego’s neighborhoods with our Summer Sweepstakes. Join us every week as we showcase the best in what to do, where to eat, and where to stay in some of San Diego’s unique neighborhoods. Be sure to check back for exciting insider tips, giveaways, and more! This week’s spotlight is on North County Coastal.

From pizza and brew to San Diego’s only 5-star restaurant, there is something for everyone in North County. Here’s our top 5 spots in the North County Coastal.

1. Pizza Port: A true pizza joint located a few blocks from the beach is Pizza Port. Visitors will find homemade pizza and home-brewed ale. With two locations in North County, Solana Beach and Carlsbad, it’s the perfect place to take the kids after a long day hanging on the beach.

2. Wine Steals-Cardiff: With over 40 rotating by-the-glass wines and more than 250 bottles, this is a great place to sip some wine and enjoy the ocean breeze. The stone and wine barrel bar is the centerpiece while stone arches and dark weathered wood add the old world charm reminiscent of Tuscany. There are ample leather couches and coffee tables to add to the comfort and with $5 tastings on Wednesdays, you can comfortably enjoy your wine into the night.

3. Addison: Inside the Grand Del Mar, you will find San Diego’s only 5-star restaurant. The Grand Del Mar’s signature restaurant features Relais & Châteaux Grand Chef William Bradley’s artisanal approach to cooking, combining local ingredients with contemporary French influences. A seasonal menu offers an inspired evening of culinary expertise.

4. Fidels Little Mexico: With some of the best chips and salsa in San Diego, this is a great spot to try authentic Mexican food. The restaurant and cocktail lounge features a taco bar, strolling Mariachis (Thurs-Sunday only) and two heated outdoor patios.

5. Solace and the Moonlight Lounge: Okay, so this hasn’t opened yet, but will be shortly. If you’ve been to Urban Solace in North Park, then you’ll understand why it’s already on the list. The original location features new american comfort food and a fantastic selection of West Coast wines and handcrafted beer.

Discover North County Coastal for yourself with our “Enjoy the Grand Life in San Diego’s North County” sweepstakes. Unwind during a two-night stay at The Grand Del Mar, one of San Diego’s most exclusive luxury resorts. Discover the dramatic North County coastline by air on “The Unforgettable” scenic helicopter ride for two from Corporate Helicopters of San Diego.