Local Wally's Guide to San Diego

Local Wally's Guide to San Diego

best mexican restaurant in San Diego

BEST MEXICAN FOOD IN SAN DIEGO: LAS CUATRO MILPAS REVIEW

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Las Cuatro Milpas San Diego Best Mexican Food

LAS CUATRO MILPAS RESTAURANT REVIEW

857 Logan Ave, San Diego, CA 92113 |  (619) 234-4460

THE LOWDOWN:  Sketchy location and run down setting doesn't keep the locals and those in the know from lining up from 630AM to 3PM everyday for San Diego's best tacos, tamales, burritos, rice and beans. 

PRICE:  Cheap Eats - You can't spend more than $10 per person here if you tried.


Forget about trendy "street tacos" with tiny morsels that's barely enough for a bite.  This is Las Cuatro Milpas, San Diego's best Mexican restaurant.  OK, sure, it's a bit sketchy.  There neighborhood has homeless people on the sidewalk and you're not quite sure what to do when you get to the front of the line but don't worry, I'm here to help you.

First, be prepared to wait.  Consider yourself lucky if there's no line but there's nearly always a line.  Las Cuatro Milpas opens at 630AM and closes at 3.  The line moves reasonably fast so just come, don't worry about it.

Menu at Las Cuatro Milpas, 2017

The menu is simple enough. Tacos.  Tamales. Burritos.  Rice and Beans.  Honestly, I'm not even sure you can pick what meat goes in the tacos or tamales.  When you get to the front of the line you just tell them what you want and they make it.  No questions, no options.  Their tacos are deep fried and topped simply with Mexican cheese and some lettuce.  The rice and beans are huge portions and served in a bowl.  You can easily share one order with the table.  They do have a spicy version of the beans with chorizo, I believe, but the standard with some hot sauce is good enough for me.

Hot sauce at Las Cuatro Milpas

Here is the salsa bar.  LOL, while other Mexican restaurants have lots and lots of options Las Cuatro Milpas has one.  It's red, it's hot, and it's all they got so take a couple. 

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So order your food and watch them cook it in front of you.  Oh yeah, you need CASH.  Do not make the rookie mistake of coming here with your American Express and then getting all negative on Yelp when you have to leave without tacos after waiting so long in line. 

Once they had you the tray of food you can grab some hot sauce and add some onions and cilantro on top.  Drinks are all in the can, waters are a buck, no beer, no wine, and NO MARGARITAS.  This isn't a theme restaurant.  There are no pinatas or ironic black velvet portraits of Elvis.  It's ain't that sort of joint. 

Once you have your food I like to head to the back where they are making tortillas. There's another dining area around the corner but that's my favorite table right there.

Tamale, rice and beans

After all that here is what I got - one tamale floating in a bowl of rice and beans - $5!  The tamale is the best tamale I have ever tasted and I've tasted a lot of tamales.  I even make my own tamales but I'm giving up now and just buying these.  Filled with meat (pork?), nice and plump and the masa is the perfect texture.  The rice and beans are delicious but attack my stomach pretty much within an hour after I eat them so, well, don't come here before getting on an airplane.  Just saying....

Las Cuatro Milpas tortillas

Oh, and every order comes with homemade tortillas! You know those tortillas you get at the supermarket?  Not even close to how good these are. 

TIP:  Bring a cooler as if you are like me you will have leftovers. They have to-go boxes near the cash register you can grab.

SUMMARY:  If you love Mexican food you need to come here.  If you're a local and you haven't been here yet then do it this weekend.  And if you're a tourist do not make the mistake of only eating Americanized Mexican food in Old Town or upscale tacos in upscale restaurants - come here for a taste of the real deal at Las Cuatro Milpas.

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Old Town Mexican Cafe Review: Where to Find Good Mexican Food in San Diego

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Old Town Mexican Cafe in San Diego

Old Town Mexican Cafe in San Diego

OLD TOWN MEXICAN CAFE - 2489 San Diego Ave, San Diego, CA 92110 - (619) 297-4330

Quick Overview:  Probably the best Mexican food in Old Town San Diego, their specialty is their carnitas (tender pork) and handmade tortillas.

Tip:  For the most authentic experience sit on the right side of the restaurant, the original seating with booths and colorful decorations. The left side was originally their patio seating, now converted into more dining area. It's sunnier but has less ambiance.

Old Town Mexican Cafe Bar

Old Town Mexican Cafe Bar

REVIEW:  OLD TOWN MEXICAN CAFE

Buses drop off tourists, lines out the door, Food TV hosts gushing, but is the food at Old Town Mexican Cafe really any good?  After all, it's located in San Diego Old Town, arguably one of the most touristy places in all of San Diego.

I used to dine here all the time back when I first moved to San Diego to go to SDSU. Back then I was not a Mexican food expert by any means. Heck, I ate canned tamales and Taco Bell (disclaimer: I still would eat canned tamales if you put them in front of me). When I first started coming here you could get a heaping plate of carnitas, slow cooked pork served up with a plate of onions, cilantro, cups of roaring hot salsa, and a plate of handmade tortillas, for $5.50. I was poor, the food was great, life was good.

Carnitas at Old Town Mexican Cafe

Carnitas at Old Town Mexican Cafe

Today that plate costs around $15. That's still a good price but was it as good as my memories? Well, perhaps. The beans were great and unlike some who knock off points for melted cheddar cheese instead of Mexican cheese I'm cool with that.  Tasty, good.  As for the carnitas you can order them cooked different ways, from deep fried chunks to pan fried crispy. I ordered crispy, a mistake as the meat was dry and no longer succulent but the crispy edges were tasty. I think the non-crispy version would be better, or the deep fried chunks. And yes, they have horrible plating by today's standards but this is how it has always looked and it's always been more about the food than the presentation here.

You wrap the whole thing up in a handmade tortilla. Wait, let me tell you about these things. If you've only eaten supermarket tortillas get ready because these extra thick tortillas are the bomb, really delicious. Stuff them with meat and all the fillings and top with salsa and you are good to go.

Salsa at Old Town Mexican Cafe

I forgot to tell you. When they bring you the chips (really great chips, by the way, and free with every meal which is cool) make sure you ask for the hotter hot sauce. The salsa on the left is the hot one and is really tasty. The salsa fresca on the right is good but not quite hot enough, so mix it up and go to town.

Margarita at Old Town Mexican Cafe

Margarita at Old Town Mexican Cafe

You should also get a Margarita.  House margaritas in most restaurants are not very good so upgrade to a Cadillac. I don't remember the price but it wasn't bad and the margarita surprisingly strong, I had two and regretted it later but enjoyed the ride nonetheless.

Mexican Ribs at Old Town Mexican Cafe

Mexican Ribs at Old Town Mexican Cafe

I also ordered the Mexican Ribs, about the same price as the carnitas. I used to love these ribs, cooked on a rotisserie and spiced up with a delicious salty blend. Well, I knew I was in a bit of trouble when they brought out a side of BBQ sauce. And the ribs, while tender, had none of the great spices I was expecting but rather tasted like baby backs tossed on a gas grill. Meh. Don't get these, but the rice, yeah, the rice was really good.

Making tortillas at Old Town Mexican Cafe

OLD TOWN MEXICAN CAFE REPORT CARD 2017

Tourist Recommendation:  A

Local Recommendation: B

Ambiance:  B+

Food Quality: B+

Margarita:  A

Wally Comments: I still like Old Town Mexican Cafe and would not hesitate to go back with friends from out of town. There's a nice ambiance here and the food authentic enough to please everyone. The portions are good, the tortillas and margaritas worth the wait. For locals I'm not sure I would wait in the long lines and instead just head up the hill to Ponce's or go to North County to Fidels or Tony's Jacal but overall Old Town Mexican Cafe is a solid pick for authentic Mexican food in San Diego.