Wednesday, August 3, 2011

It happened again...

Damn you Jeff Bilodeau. This was supposed to be my first day clean and sober, kicking the habit, getting that damn monkey off my back. That delicious monkey. But Jeff wouldn't let me. He told me I can't stop now. And fuck if he wasn't right.

I stopped at a place on the way home, a place I'd been to before. A place I remember having liked. Or at least thought was decent. Saguaro's on 30th in North Park. I'd been here somewhere in my first 20 days or so I think.

They serve their California burrito with pico only, but now that I was no longer bound by the pointless rules of my own make-believe program I was free to make changes. Put some sour cream on that bitch, amiga!

The addition of sour, plus the .35¢ fee for using a credit card had jacked the price of my precious to $7. On top of that, I had forgotten they use potato chunks, not fries. It was a bit of a letdown. I can't let it end on a down note, not after all the effort I put into it. Besides, I'm kind of afraid to quit now. I think my body's grown dependent on them.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011


This evening I found myself near SDSU. And if you've been paying attention you know that one of the best California burritos ever is nearby, at a shop called Trujillo's. What kind of Californian would I be if I didn't stop and get one?

To my complete lack of surprise, it was motherfucking delicious. They don't even use guac or sour- which if I had remembered I would have requested. Just pico. And it's STILL a top 5 Cali burrito, if not the best.

What's that? The color on that photo is a bit off, making the Orange Bang appear pink in color? Well that's because it is pink! That's right, Strawberry Bang, bitches! Some things are not meant to be strawberry flavored- I'm talking to you, Quik bunny- but this is effing amazing. It's no Orange Bang, but it's freaking tasty. Well done, beverage scientists, you continue to impress me.

Now that the pressure of constantly finding new places is off I can just relax and enjoy the food. Hit me up if you want to go on a burrito run.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Day 90- the circle is complete

Final day. I can't believe I actually made it through. And I really can't believe that I still find California burritos as delicious as the first day I had one. How's that for dedication?

I had a lot of options for day 90. I still had a long list of places I hadn't hit yet. Two in PB, 4 or 5 down south, some north county inland. Not only that, but earlier tonight my fellow comic Damien Pruitt looked up "taco shops" in San Diego on Yelp and got 405 results. Clearly there's still a shit-ton of places for me to try. So what would be a fitting end to this journey? With so many choices, there's really only one that makes sense.
El Zarape. Bring it back full circle to the place that started it all. Not only is it the only choice that makes sense, it also gives me a chance to really compare El Zarape's California burrito to everything else I've tried. As the first one I ever had, I had no frame of reference. No California burrito barometer to really judge it against. And days 2 and 3 were underwhelming, so El Zarape seemed even more amazing by that comparison. I had to see if it truly held up.

Accompanying me on the swan song of my odyssey were comics Rajan Dharni and Jasyn Brackett. We just left another great show at Live Comedy Live and were mere yards away from where it all began. I ordered my California burrito and took the exact same seat, at the same table, from Day 1. Holy shit was it delicious. They serve it with everything... and it is awesome. I would definitely call it a Top 10.

I guess I was pretty lucky that I had started here. If I had my first Cali burrito at a crappy place B90X may never have been born. And my colon would have thanked me. But El Zarape and their delicious food of the Gods set the wheels in motion on an amazing adventure that has touched the lives of many people. Or at least a few. One? Whatever, it's been fun. Thanks for tagging along.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Day 89- Salsa Brava

I was actually on my way to a different taco shop when I saw this one on El Cajon. A small, run-down looking place. I'm a sucker for those. So I decided to stop here instead.

I speak very little espanol, but managed to have an in-depth conversation with the woman there about their credit card machine and what we need to do to make it work (since my card didn't go through the first time). Thank you every restaurant job I've had.
They have a fantastic California burrito here, with one major flaw. Anyone who's been reading this blog regularly (aside from having too much free time) knows that at this point I'm pretty much looking for reasons to not recommend a place; there's just too many. Salsa Bravo has an almost world-class California burrito. They have the crispiest fries ever, which counts for a lot. They use guac and sour, and plenty of cheese. But the carne asada is kind of gristly. And that is a big 'no me gusta.'

So on we go to the final day, and a fond farewell to this pointless journey.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Day 88- Taco Surf

Taco Surf is a little shop in PB, and it's been recommended to me by a couple of people now. Normally I stay away from PB, but I figured I might as well give it a try. Like most things in PB, it disappoints.

It was pretty busy, but in trendy kind of way. Not in a holy shit this is awesome kind of way. It's expensive, too. $7. They serve it with guac and sour, but they use hash browns instead of fries. In all fairness, the hash browns are fantastic; super crispy. And the carne asada is great too. Overall it's a great fucking burrito. It's just not a great California burrito. Because hash browns- no matter how good- are no substitute for fries. And I'm pretty sure I said "Can I get a California burrito," not "Can I get a breakfast burrito, but hold the eggs. And could you charge me a couple bucks extra?"

I was stoked they had Orange Bang, but I'd say pass on their Cali burrito.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Day 87- El Sabroso and the EPIC FAIL

I think this El Sabroso is unrelated the one I hit before. I think it actually has 2 names, which is kind of weird; the other being Lucy's. Never noticed it, even though I've driven by it many times on my way home from Bar 11 comedy on Wednesday nights- an amazing comedy show hosted by Nick Crosby, if you haven't checked it out yet.Anyway, El Sabroso most likely has a fantastic California burrito. Their carne asada is great, they use all 3 toppings, there's plenty of cheese, it's relatively fast, not too expensive... however, I can't be sure how great their Cali burrito is. Because they didn't put ANY FUCKING FRIES in it!!!

It's 50/50 if I eat the Cali burrito in my car while I drive away. This particular night I did not or I likely could have corrected the error. WTF, Sabroso? The nice lady at the counter even asked me twice, "California burrito, si?" To which I replied- both times- "Si." So as much as I'd love to say the Cali burrito here is awesome, I can't.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Day 86- Valentine's

Found this place downtown, late on a Thursday night. Only a few days left of B90X, and I've been debating whether to keep going with new shops or use the last few days to re-try my favorites and see if they hold up. Not really enough time left for that, though.Valentine's has a really good California burrito. Possibly even a top-10. I was expecting a letdown for several reasons: it was $7, the service is slow as shit, and they don't even know what Orange Bang is. But their burrito is effing delicious. Great carne asada, great fries, pico, guac... sooooo good. I'd say it might be a little salty for some, but awesome nevertheless.

I was surprised to find such a great California burrito this late in the game. Figured I'd just be coasting these last few days. Thanks, Valentine's, for proving me wrong.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Day 85- Diego's

I went way inland for this one. After a grueling Muay Thai session, I headed out to a spot that Google maps had assured me was the location of a taco shop. They got it right, technically. It wasn't the one they said it would be, but it was a taco shop. A brand new one, actually.

Diego's has a pretty good California burrito (but sadly, no Orange Bang). They serve it loaded, although it is far from fast. I was the only customer they had and it still took a while for them to whip it up. And it is ungodly hot in that place. Holy fuck, it's like you're standing on the grill. But like I said, a good meal.

So if you find yourself in the Mission Gorge/Mission Trails area, do two things. First, ask yourself "What the fuck am I doing way out here in the middle of nowhere?" Second, stop by Diego's and have a California burrito. BYOOB.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Day 84- Aiberto's

Yes, another fucking "berto's." Located on University, just East of the 15, it's a run-down looking little shack. Cash-only is kind of a pain in the ass, but it's the price one pays for B90X.

Their California burrito is served fast and cheap, but with only pico. As you can imagine, I found it to be pretty bland. Not a great California burrito by any stretch.

But more concerning to me than the proliferation of substandard Cali burritos is the drought of Orange Bang I'm currently experiencing. Seriously, I haven't had an Orange Bang with my Cali burrito in a while. And I ask at every place. They should all have Orange Bang. In fact, California burritos should always be served with an Orange Bang automatically. Shit is delicious! It's like drinking diabetes. Or something.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Day 83- Alanberto's

Another taco shop brought to you by the Google-powered 'taco shop quest.' I was headed for a late-night California burrito at a place near college area called Gualberto's, but I guess those sissies close before 1AM.

I ended up a couple blocks down the road at Alanberto's. And by the way- how many fucking"-bertos" are there in this town? I would think they'd run out of variations, but not so.

The California burrito here is good. It's cheap, which always helps, and relatively quick. I was all set to write about this pace being slow as fuck, since I sat in the drive through for about 18 minutes. But it seems that delay was caused by the guy 2 cars ahead of me. I don't know what the hell he ordered, but once he was gone with his dolphin burrito or whatever, the car in front of me and myself got in and out of there like... I don't know, something fast.

So, not a great California burrito, but it'll work.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Day 82- Hard Rock Cafe

*Apologies to Jiavani Linayao, whose outrage at my shitty choice of taco shops is justified by her admission that her 3 favorite places are Lucha Libre, El Zarape, and Livingston's. ;) *

Yeah, that's right- Hard Rock Cafe. I was meeting a bunch of friends after the last day of Comicon, and this is where we met. I had intended to not eat and just grab a burrito after, but then the server came over and gave us his spiel.

He said that Hard Rock had invented a California burrito burger, and that it was pattented or copyrighted or exclusive, something to that effect. He also claimed it's either the most popular or best selling burger in the country. I'm paraphrasing but that is, no shit, what he said. I would guess he's never heard of this place called Mc-something or other. They have this burger called a Big Mac, which- while probably not great- I'm fairly certain is more popluar and better selling than anything else on Earth.The burger was OK. Not that great, barely good even. It's served loaded, but they use some kind of weird seasoning on the burger patty. The flavor is just odd. The California burrito is basically an Americanization of a Mexican dish, and this burger is the Americanization of an Americanization. It's a weird, unnecessary alteration, liked colorized movies. If you're at a Hard Rock, I'd almost suggest ordering it just for the WTF factor.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Day 81- Mr Burro

A shop I stumbled upon during a now-routine taco shop quest. I'll find a place via Google, and when I get there it either doesn't exist or it's closed at some retarded hour. Don't tell Jane Lynch I said that.

Mr Burro is in the same plaza as McGregor's, which if you haven't been there is an awesome bar. They were just getting ready to close when I arrived, but were happy to fix me up with a California burrito. You can get it regular for $5, or deluxe for $7, which is what I got. I prefer it loaded if given a choice.
A $7 burrito had better be pretty effing good. Like, cupping the balls good. That's setting the bar high, and usually setting yourself up for failure. Their California burrito was tasty, but not worth that price. It was loosely wrapped, making it hard to eat, and the carne asada was a bit chewy. So not a bad burrito, but there's definitely better for cheaper.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Day 80- Rojelio's

Another shop in the college area, where I've come to expect good California burrito's for cheap. And for the most part that's what you'll find here. With few exceptions.

Rojelio's definitely fits the pattern. They are cheap and fast. And their California burrito is served with guac and sour. It's pretty basic, but it's a good burrito. If you're in the area it's worth a visit.

The funny thing is that as I was on my way here, I was thinking about how sick I am of this whole B90X thing. The hassle of finding new shops and posting reviews. Which I obviously don't have to do; I do it because I want to.

But even in the midst of this struggle, this battle with B90X fatigue, my true colors would shine through. As soon as I had that burrito in my hand I could not wait to devour it. This shit is still the best food ever. I don't think I've ever eaten one thing for 80 days in a row. That's a true testament to the perfection of the California burrito.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Day 79- Bravo's

Today begins Comicon, the main reason that I fell so far behind on this blog. After a full day of nerd vacation, I took my friend Jesse- who was visiting from LA- to try a California burrito. For some reason this is really just a San Diego thing. I have several friends in LA who say they can't find one anywhere. Add that to the list "Reasons San Diego is fucking awesome."

This was a classic taco shop: cheap, fast, and located in a shady neighborhood. While we were waiting for our food, two cop cars went screaming past in full pursuit of something. No idea where they were headed but they were on a mission.

Their California burrito was a bit of a letdown, though. They serve it with pico only, and the carne asada is kind of dry. Onward we go.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Day 78- El Rodeo

Again, not to be confused with a previous visit- L Rodeo in OB. This one is on Waring road, a little north of college area.

The staff is really cool, the service is fast, and the California burrito is served loaded. Even the fries were really good. But for some reason the burrito as a whole was just OK. It's about average so it won't disappoint you, but don't go out of your way for this one.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Day 77- Gallego's

As I wind down this amazing journey, I find that I'm encountering more "meh" California burritos than really good ones. Gallego's definitely falls into the former category
Located just a block away from the Comedy Palace, I was hoping to find a great California burrito here. Having a good stop so close to a comedy club is always a plus. But it was not to be. The pico was too.. I don't know, oniony? It had a weird flavor to it. The carne asada was a bit chewy, kind of tough, like steak. And they went pretty light on the cheese and sour cream. Overall I'd say pass on this one.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Day 76- Nico's #7

Not to be confused with Nico's in OB, although for some reason they both sport a chicken as their mascot. This Nico's is world's away from the one that is a current top-5.

They have a horrible storefront-which isn't always an indicator of quality, but in this case it's pretty accurate. It's not a terrible California burrito, but at $7 it's not great. They serve it with only sour cream, which I still think is a travesty. A true California burrito, in my opinion, should be served with everything. Or at the very least, 2 toppings.

Interesting side note on this one- I had a massive headache, to the point where once my shift at the bank was over I wanted simply to grab my burrito and go home. No comedy at Winston's tonight for me. But- and I'm not making this up- after about 2 bites, my headache drastically decreased. I decided to go do comedy, and I had a great time. Has the California burrito become my spinach? Or (if you're more into Superman than Popeye) my yellow sun? Hmmm...

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Day 75- Nolberto's

SD comic Dewey Bratcher gave me a brilliant idea, but it's a couple months too late. I should've made B90X a charity event! Dammit, Dewey, where were you 2 months ago! People sponsor me, like, 10¢ per burrito I eat. Then I could donate it to charity. Or at least to pay for my doctor bills when I'm done with this.

I still love the California burrito. Well, the good ones at least. But I haven't been finding a ton of good ones lately. And it's becoming a grind finding new places every day, fitting them into my schedule, and updating this stupid blog. I think maybe 3 people read this. So if you're one of those 3, let me know. Post a comment on FB or something.

Anyway, I picked Nolberto's for today's California burrito. Chase Brockett, legendary local comic, informed me that Nolberto's isn't a real name in any language. He may be right; I think it's just another variation on the "-berto's" theme in taco shop names. I don't know why that's so popular. I probably could've done 90 "berto's" shops.

But anyway, back to Chase's assertion. I have to agree with him on the name, because their Cali burrito is not very good either. So-so carne asada, decent fries, minimal cheese, and only sour cream. I'm going to give this one a "pass."

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Day 74- Bravo's

I've strolled past this place many times in OB, and for some reason it never occurred to me to see if they have a California burrito. Maybe it's the fact that it says "Bistro" in the name, or that it looks a bit too upscale to be a taco shop. Whatever the reason, the logistics of finding new places is becoming more difficult so I stopped in.

I'm glad I did. Their California burrito is on the expensive side- $7- but it's definitely worth having. Even though they only use guac, this is a really good burrito. The fries are some of the best around, and the carne asada is great. Best I've had in a while.

There are better places in OB, but if you get a California burrito here you won't be disappointed.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Day 73- Mexican Fiesta

This is a small brick shack downtown that just seems so out of place, surrounded by huge, shiny skyscrapers. I've tried to go there before, but they seem to keep odd hours. Luckily today I caught them when they're open.
The set-up is interesting. There's a tiny window that you order through, and then another tiny window that you get your food from. It almost seems like a converted crackhouse. Or maybe like the taco shop version of the house from Up. An old placed that somehow stuck around while shit was built up all around it. In fact, I would love to see Mexican Fiesta sprout 100,000 balloons and float through the city. That would be epic! In fact, they could be throwing down California burritos as they drift along, like some kind of bizarro Mardi Gras float that uses food instead of beads. Burritos and tits... not a bad idea.

Let's rein this in a bit, that was 3 crazy tangents in one paragraph. Their California burrito is cheap and fast, and it's good. But it's not as good as most I've had. Their carne asada is effing amazing, and they have really good tortillas, but the cheese is pretty light, and they serve it with just pico. If this was loaded it would be damn good, but as it is it's just OK.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Day 72- Gloria's

I had been to Gloria's once before. It's a tiny shop in Golden Hill. Unfortunately I couldn't eat there because it's Crips neighborhood and I was wearing my Bloods colors. Also, they only take cash.

So cash in hand (thanks to my lucrative rock-slinging business) I made another trip out there. I wanted to like it. I really did. It's a cool little shop, kind of old and run-down-ish. Not exactly shady (a place where you wouldn't be surprised to get stabbed; like "Damn, I went to Gloria's to get a Cali burrito and this dude stabbed me." "Damn, that sucks. How was the burrito?" Which is different than 'sketchy,' a place that would most likely give you hepatitis).

Anyway, back to the reasons I wanted to like Gloria's. There's just one old Mexican guy who works there. Their California burrito is less than $5. They use guac and sour. The fries are good and crispy. But the carne asada is gristly. Like, really gristly. Remember the creature that lived in the trash compactor in Star Wars? Right after they rescued Leia? Imagine that you killed that thing and cooked it. That's kind of what their carne asada was like. And that's not the kind of thing that other factors can make up for.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Day 71- Senor Pancho

A little place near SDSU. Unfortunately they are literally right across the street from Trujillo's, which is a solid top-10. Eating at Pancho's when you have Trujillo's right there would be like saying "No, I think I'll pass on watching Arrested Development. Herman's Head reruns are on and it's a hassle to change the channel."

As if their location wasn't bad enough, their California burrito is pretty bad. The carne asada isn't seasoned, they use huge chunks of potato, and sour cream is their only added ingredient. It was almost like eating an American steak and potatoes meal. But not a good one, more like Sizzler. Their burrito is about as Mexican as taco bell. The only good thing they have going for them is their unusually architected (fuck you, spell-check, that's a word) building.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Day 70- Harvest

I'll admit, Harvest doesn't sound like a promising name for a taco shop. I found it in Clairemont, about a half mile from the Comedy Palace. It was kind of run down, which is a good sign. Well, not so much run down as past it's prime. It had the look of a place that was the bomb back in the late 80's when it probably first opened, but then kind of stagnated as the world sort of progressed around it, desperately clinging to its past glory. Sort of like when movie theaters first came out with cup holders, and everyone was all "Holy shit, that's awesome!!!" But then stadium seating came along, and now those sad old theaters that used to be the peak of greatness are just shitty old theaters that have cup holders.

Anyway, Harvest was actually pretty good. They serve their California burrito with pico and sour. The carne asada is really tasty, a bit on the salty side though. The fries are good, the cheese is plentiful. As far as Cali burritos go, this one is definitely recommendable. It may not be the greatest one out there, but it won't disappoint you. No matter what Adam Wolpe says.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Day 69- El Rey

I've been to a lot of odd taco shops on this journey. I've been to ones that don't open until 10PM, ones that are little more than a hole-in-the-wall kitchen with a couple of seats, one that's actually located in a landfill. El Rey is at least as strange as any of those. But not quite as in-your-face strange. More subtle, like a Jim Jarmusch movie.

El Rey is one of 4 businesses that occupy an industrial building in the middle of a sleepy, middle class urban neighborhood. There's a liquor store, a pizza joint, a barber shop, and El Rey. And I'm pretty sure there's no other business within a mile or so. Just this weird oasis of booze, food, and... barbery... surrounded by a bunch of houses.
And by all my standard criteria it should not be that good. The cook is a middle aged white guy. The carne asada is pre-cooked, sitting in a metal pan on the grill. They use only pico. The fries are not crispy. The tortilla is almost- almost- rubbery in texture. But somehow it works. Their California burrito is delicious. The fries are awesome. the whole thing is just great. I'd even say Top 10 for this one. Check it out.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Day 68- Valencia's

Wow. It's been a while since I've had a bad California burrito. And I don't mean a sub-standard, not-as-good-as-most California burrito. But legit bad.

On my way to OB, I figured I'd drive down Morena and just find a taco shop. I haven't really been in this neighborhood much, I was sure I'd find something. What I found was Valencia's. It looked like a decent place. Not too fancy, fairly deserted except for 4 kids watching the soccer game on the TV. Sadly, Valencia's was a huge letdown.

I hate to call a California burrito bad, because it's a California burrito. A near-perfect food. But damn, this one was pretty bad. They did almost everything wrong- the carne asada was kind of gamy. They used way too much pico; the first two bites were all tomato. It may as well have been a veggie burrito at that point. They used potato chunks instead of fries (undercooked, by the way).

I should have known I was in for a bad meal when I placed my order.

Me: "Can I get a California burrito?"
dude: "Yeah. You want it regular, or with everything?"
Me" "What's your version of regular?"
dude: "Meat, cheese, fries, and pico. Everything is with guac or sour cream."
Me: "Oh, then I'll have it with everything."
dude: "OK. So did you want guac? Or sour cream?"

Yeah, so apparently 'everything' means a choice of one other topping. Also, when I ordered an Orange Bang- which was in the drink dispenser behind the counter- he gave me the cup to pour it myself. I had to reach over the counter and around the pop machine to pour my own drink. I tipped myself a dollar, in case you were wondering.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Day 67- Los Pinos

Nothing like a California burrito after a long Saturday at work. Google and I still have a dubious relationship when it comes to finding taco shops. There have been a few occasions when Google has completely misled me, giving me directions to a taco shop only to discover that it no longer exists. Then there are slightly less spiteful interactions, such as today's.

I found a place a few miles East called Salazar's. At this point, as long as it's a shop I haven't been to before I will give it a go. When I arrived, however, I found that it was not called Salazar's- it was called Los Pinos. Pretty sneaky, Google, but your clever ruse isn't derailing me today.

Los Pinos is a nice little shop, and their California burrito is probably one of the better ones I've had recently. Not top 10, though. It was ready fast, probably under 3 minutes, and they only use guac. Their carna asada is good, their tortilla is much more durable than most of my recent fare. Good, but not outstanding. And they are cash-only, which can be a hassle. Los Pinos does have one cool thing going for them- their drive through is literally just a window on the side of the building that you pull up to, place your order, and receive your food. About as low-tech as you can possibly get. Nice touch.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Day 66- La Loma Bonita

Great night of comedy at Winston's, now to follow it up with a delicious California burrito. I decided to check out a spot I saw on my way to the Nug Life radio podcast last night ( The guys there run a great show, you need to check it out if you haven't already.

The taco shop du jour was La Loma Bonita, an unassuming little place, gaudily decorated, right next to a pizza joint. They serve their Cali burrito loaded, and it's not bad. The carne asada is really good. My biggest complaint is the separation of ingredients. It's definitely noticeable, because after handing it to me- basically right off the grill- one side of it was cold from the amount of guac and sour they poured in.

Not the worst way to serve a California burrito. Other than that, it was probably about average. Maybe a little better. But let's be honest- even an average California burrito is better than 89% of food out there. I'm not sure what the other 11% is, but I know chocolate chip cookies and Orange Julius are in there.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Day 65- Porkyland

Yes, Porkyland. I know it sounds like a porn spoof of Zombieland, but their California burrito is surprisingly good. I wasn't expecting much at all, it seems like such a generic, cookie-cutter, soulless chain. I went in preparing for mediocrity. Mr Spock, set expectations to "low."

I mean, what the hell kind of name is Porkyland for a taco shop? Is that racist?

Although a bit pricey at $7, their California burrito is pretty tasty. They have hands-down the crispiest fries of any place ever. So crispy it's like chewing on egg shells. But much more delicious. And they serve it loaded, which is always a plus. Good proportions on the toppings too. The downside, other than the price, is the somewhat chewy carna asada, and the flimsy tortilla. Almost as bad as the one for the Miramar Dump.

Not a bad burrito at all if you find yourself near a Porkyland. But there are definitely better ones nearby.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Day 64- JJ's

This was a place I had been trying to hit for a few weeks now. But they keep odd hours, hampering my ability to patronize their establishment. So today I made sure to fit them into my schedule.

Lots of promising aspects here- a slightly shady part of town, obviously independent, and very tiny. Like, extremely. The whole shop consists of the kitchen, and a counter with 3 stools. When the cook went to step outside, I had to get out of the shop entirely so he had room to walk out the door. Plus, their California burrito is $5 even. That's a score.
Their California burrito was pretty good. I can't really compare it to the other 63 I've had though. They make theirs with sour cream and salsa. And by "salsa" they mean hot sauce. This is the only shop that serves it with hot sauce in the burrito. I'm not a hot sauce guy, so I haven't had one like this before. But it was tasty. One negative is that they use flimsy tortillas that fall apart, making it a messy meal. But I'd recommend them if you're in the area and you enjoy hot sauce.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Day 63- Gualberto's #4

Back to Kearny Mesa, and one of the shops that had been closed Sunday. Today's pick was Gualberto's #4, and I already liked their California burrito's chances.

They were located in a more run-down type of strip mall, sort of the opposite of yesterday's experience. And the fact that they had such an odd name, as well as a mysterious "#4" made me think this one would be good. Sadly, they didn't live up to my expectations. It was just kind of bland, the carne asada seemed overcooked. Just not a good meal in general.

Yesterday and today proved to be exceptions to the strip-mall standard, as both of them were more the opposite of what I had expected. I could call the last 2 days "A Tale of Two Strip Malls." Actually, I think I just did.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Day 62- La Casa de Emiliano. And freedom.

Fourth of July. What better way to celebrate freedom than blowing shit up and having a California burrito? I thought today would be difficult because of the holiday, but I had no trouble this time.

I went to one of the shops that were closed last night- La Casa de Emiliano. I honestly didn't expect much because this place is in a strip mall. Not a Clairemont-type strip mall (think Warren, for all my Michigan peeps), which would be more acceptable. This was a really clean, modern, upscale strip mall. So the deck was stacked against them.

But their California burrito was surprisingly good. Sour cream and pico, no guac, and damn good fries. The pico tasted a little... off... somehow. But overall a good burrito. Worth checking out. I also give them credit for not kicking me out of the shop, as I had just come from an ass-kickingly rough Muay Thai class, and I looked more like a crazed homeless guy than a burrito aficionado.

Would you serve a burrito to this man?

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Day 61- Vallarta Express

Sundays are becoming more and more of a struggle. I usually go on my California burrito hunt later in the day, and lots of places are either closed already or not even open Sunday. This particular day, I was burrito questing around 8:30PM on my way to comic legend Dallas McLaughlin's epic Blarney Stone show.

I went by 3 different taco shops on the way, all of which were closed. Curses! I hate driving blind looking for places. But it seems today was my lucky day. Within 2 blocks of the Blarney Stone, I happened upon a stand-alone drive through called Vallarta Express. Open 24 hours, in fact.
It was a tiny place, with barely enough room inside for customers to stand and order their food. In fact, it was about the size of a large walk-in closet; the guy in the kitchen could literally stand in one spot and operate all facets of the taco shop by just turning in different directions.

Tiny shops like this tend to be better quality for some reason, not sure why. But that's not an across-the-board rule. And having "Express" in the name usually correlates with a drop in quality. Vallarta's was OK- they serve it loaded with all 3 toppings- but mine had a bit too much sour cream, and the carne adsada was a bit tough. Not unexpected for late on a Sunday night, but I was hoping for better. Not horrible, but not that good.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Day 60- Adalberto's

Another 'berto's for the collection.

Stumbled upon this one by accident. I had been stalking... I mean, hanging out with SD comic Chase Brockett, so before I went to see him I checked the maps for a taco shop in the area. After my brief visit, I headed over to get my California burrito for the day. Unfortunately the place was cash only and I had only credit cards.I drove around the neighborhood looking for a bank, and happened to spot Adalberto's on the corner of 25th and Market. They take credit cards there, so I ordered up my usual. About average for this one. Good carne asada, so-so fries, with only cheese and pico. Not bad, but definitely not great.

California Burrito PSA: Adam Wolpe cannot be trusted

You may remember Adam from a few days ago. He not only questioned Nico's placement near the top of the California burrito list, he went so far as to say they were garbage.

Last night at OBC, he suggested a new taco shop for me. Now to be fair, he was the one who recommended the taco shop that was actually named California Burrito (day 17), so I was willing to hear his suggestion.

Adam: "It's a place in Mission Hills called Taco Shop."
Me: "Taco Shop? Really? That sounds so generic."
Adam: "No, they're amazing. You have to try the salsa there- it's the best ever."
Me: "I'll try their burrito. This isn't called Salsa90X."

About 10 minutes later, he finds me again-

Adam: "I think that place might actually be called Lucha Libre."
Me: "..."

Not only are those 2 names not even close, I already had Lucha Libre. On Day 3. I'm beginning to worry about Adam. He's a great comic, and an even better dresser, but his taste in California burritos is suspect. With such clearly poor judgment, it makes me wonder how he gets by in day-to-day life without falling into an open drainage ditch, or running himself over with his car. I feel like we need to keep an eye on him. Or at the very least make him wear a helmet wherever he goes.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Day 59- El Sabroso

El Sabroso, an out-of-the way little shop past Sports Arena. They're fast and cheap, which are both admirable qualities. Their California burrito is pretty good. Maybe even top 10. Maybe. The issue with theirs is the use of potato chunks instead of fries. But they are damn good potato chunks.
They also suffer the same issue as Liticker's and El Sol: they fall apart easily. Kind of gooey and hard to keep together. I don't know why El Sol's is like that, but El Sabroso's is from the same reason as Liticker's- they grill the pico with the carne asada. Makes for really good flavor, but the trade-off is a sloppy meal.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Day 58- El Sol

El Sol was today's pick. And although I'm already biased against them I tried to be objective. This was my 3rd attempt to hit this place. First try was on a Friday at 10:05 PM. They had closed at 10. Then I tried a couple days ago, around 9:15 on a Tuesday. They close at 9 on weekdays. WTF, El Sol? Today I was determined. I stopped by around 8:30. And honestly it took all my effort to make the trip- I had just gotten a thorough ass kicking at Muay Thai class.
El Sol is a tiny little place that is more restaurant than taco shop, sporting only 5 tables. And speed is not their forte. Their California burrito was okay. Not great, barely even average I'd say. They use potato chunks instead of fries, with sour cream and pico. But it had a loose consistency, kind of like Liticker's. It was sort of falling apart and hard to handle. Almost like eating a Jell-O burrito.

The only real positive was that their carne asada was pretty tasty. But even that was a bit chewy, which I attribute to either overcooking or mad cow disease. Check on me in a couple of days, I guess.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Day 57- Los Palmitos

Not much time to spare today, so I rekindled my relationship with Google maps and hoped I could trust them this time. Today is my day off and I'm even busier than if I was working: oil change, breakfast with some friends visiting from out of town, doctor's appointment, small claims court to try and help my fake daughter, Del Mar fair with my visiting friends, and finally comedy at Nick Crosby's always-fun Bar 11. The only real gap in my schedule was between the fair and comedy.

Google showed me a place called Los Palmitos that was pretty much on the way. But I had driven by this area several times and didn't recall seeing a taco shop. Luckily for me, they were right this time.
Los Palmitos is a pretty typical taco shop, nothing fancy. And their Californai burrito reflects that: Not great, but not bad. They only use sour cream on theirs. If you stop by here for a Cali burrito, you won't be wowed, but you won't be disappointed. Kind of like watching The Office after season 4.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Day 56- El Paisa

Needing to expand my feeding grounds, I took a trip to Barrio Logan with amazing local comic Jiavani Linayao. Lots of choices here, so we settled on El Paisa. I only speak muy poquito espanol, but I'm pretty sure that El Paisa violated basic rules of Spanish grammar when they named their shop.
Grammar aside, they serve a pretty good California burrito. Really good carne asada and loaded with all 3 toppings. The only real complaint here is that the fries are a bit soggy. Other than that, their Cali burrito is definitely worth checking out.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Day 55- Fuck Adam Wolpe

Today was a repeat. But I had no choice- I walked into OBC to see some amazing comics perform, when I was accosted by local comic Adam Wolpe. He said I had steered him wrong, that my ranking of Nico's as best California burrito in town was wildly inappropriate. He actually said Nico's California burrito "is so shitty."

Gauntlet thrown down and accepted. I have to defend not only Nico's, but my own reputation as a California burrito connoisseur. After getting the OK from SD comic Kim Thompson to do a repeat on Nico's, I walked a block down the street and placed my order. Under $5 and ready in less than 3 minutes; I like the way this is starting out.

One bite and I knew that Wolpe must have recently suffered a closed head injury. This burrito is fantastic. Certainly I've had a couple that are better in the last 2 months, but Nico's is solid top-5 material. They set the standard for excellent fries.

Having vindicated myself (and being reassured of Nico's high ranking by comic Rene Lancaster, as well as Amanda Spicer, wife if legendary SoCal comic Christian Spicer) I let Wolpe know he was either just plain wrong, or borderline retarded. Game, set, and match.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Day 54- Antonio's

Went for the mid-day California burrito today, to avoid any last-minute craziness trying to find a place late Sunday night. The spot I wanted to try was- of course- closed on Sunday. Too bad, it looks promising: a stand alone, tiny brick shack oddly out of place in the middle of downtown. We'll get back to that one.

Since I was downtown anyway, I figured I'd just drive around looking. Didn't take long to find Antonio's on the corner of 6th and A, I think. It looked a little McCorporate, but I have to give them a chance, right?

I ordered my burrito and watched patiently, sipping Orange Bang (hello, diabetes) as the cook whipped it up. The view was partially obstructed by the counter, but I swear to God he made a burrito with carne asada, pico, guac, fries, and cheese... and then made another one without the pico or guac, and that's the one they gave me. And nobody else was in the restaurant. I was a bit too dumbfounded to question them, so I just went on my way.

It was pretty good, though. The carne was a bit dry, but still pretty tasty. If you added guac and/or sour this would probably be a pretty damn good California burrito. See you jerks tomorrow.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Day 53- The Amigo Spot

Hard pressed for a good taco shop today. I was literally on the go from 8AM until 10PM. As I've seen the last few days, many of the remaining taco shops close at 10 (which is a travesty, by the way). As I was cruising along the 8 on my way home from the OB Street Fair I noticed a place in hotel circle called The Amigo Spot.

I had little hope for this place, as it looked like the set from a shitty lounge act sketch- think Bill Murray's Nick the Lounge Singer. Accompanied by cheesy music and a crowd whose average age had to be about 52, I grudgingly accepted this as Day 53 when I saw they actually had a California burrito on the menu.

Once inside, I was greeted with a sign that said "Closed- join us for breakfast!" I asked the bartender "Kitchen's closed, right?" He asked what I wanted to order, and even though the kitchen was closed he told me it would be no problem. A+ for service. I worked in restaurants for over a decade in every capacity- busser, server, bartender, cook- and if someone tried to order after closing my reaction was always "Go fuck yourself." In fact, that was my reaction if someone tried to order 5 minutes before closing. So kudos to these guys for hooking me up.

Sadly the burrito was less than stellar, due solely to somewhat chewy carne asada. Everything else was OK; they used pico, guac, and sour, and plenty of cheese. And they had fries, not potato wedges. So although I really appreciate their accommodating me, I can't recommend their Cali burrito.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Day 52- La Herradura

Interesting night in the world of San Diego taco shops. After an amazing performance from comic Jeff Bilodeau, I knew exactly where I was headed for tonight's California burrito. I had driven past a place on El Cajon Blvd the other night, so no chance of Google screwing up my plans- especially after last night's debacle of shops being closed at a ridiculous hour, or just not existing.

Imagine my chagrin (thanks, junior high vocabulary) when I drive by the place and it's fucking CLOSED. AT 9:15 on a fucking Friday! For realz??? This is ridiculous. Backup plan: a place right across the street from last night's spot. La Herradura. Once I got there, I was actually a little nervous- their logo is a horse's head. Potentially bad sign.

I order their Cali burrito, and notice the sign proclaiming their trademark 20" super burrito.
There are also pictures on the wall of people who have taken the Super Burrito challenge; although nowhere does it say the nature of the challenge. It seems to be simply eat it as fast as possible. This could be the challenge I've been training for.
Anyway, their Cali burrito is just... bland. The carne asada is good, but the pico is plain, the fries are flavorless, they don't use guac or sour. It's just kind of sad and soul-less. I actually think that's worse than a bad Cali burrito. At least a bad one tries and fails. This one doesn't even really try. It's like seeing a 19-year-old stripper: you never even gave the world a chance to chew you up and spit you out. You just gave up.

I've been really puzzled by all the shops I've seen closed early lately. I was especially shocked to see the place I went to last night, right across the street, closed as well. 9:30 on a Friday? They were open at 11 last night, what the hell? I walked across the street to see what was going on and there was a sign in the window displaying their hours: 10PM-2:30AM.

Now THAT is legit. If only their food was better, it might be my new favorite place.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Day 51- Los Amigos Cocina

I'm getting tired of this "quest" bullshit. As my options dwindle, I try to plan ahead. But between Google effing me in the A and the taco shops closing early it's becoming a grind.

Tonight I was doing Feraz Ozel's comedy show in Point Loma, so I did a Google search and came up with 2 taco shops in the area. After the show- which was awesome- I found that one of the taco shops didn't exist, and the other was closed. A third that I happened to drive past was also closed. At 10 on a Thursday??? What the eff? Heading towards Hillcrest/North Park I passed yet another shop that was closed. Don't pussy out on me now, San Diego.
I finally found a place in North Park called Los Amigos Cocina. It is literally a hole in the wall. There's room for 2 people to stand inside and place an order, and they have a grill on the sidewalk to give them more space.I give them huge points for saving me from a frustrating evening of searching, and their California burrito is really good, the carne asada is excellent- but they use diced potato instead of fries. To be fair, it's definitely the best non-fry potato of all the taco shops (I'm sure their breakfast burrito is fucking killer) but still... it's not fries.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Day 50- Jorge's

Back in North County getting my tattoo finished, I spotted a taco shop in the strip mall by Rite-Aid. California burrito from Jorge's for dinner around 5PM.

Maybe I'm becoming too much of a Cali burrito snob, but their attempt at the classic was utterly forgettable. The carne asada was kind of dry, the sour cream a bit heavy, no pico or guac, and they used potatoes instead of fries. Now granted, a bad California burrito is still better than 90% of food out there, but there's a standard to uphold. We have to protect the integrity of the California burrito.

In retrospect, I should have known this one would be bad. It was in a strip mall, next to a Subway for fuck's sake. You don't get anything good form a strip mall, let alone Mexican food. Even the drug dealers who hang out in front of strip malls have shitty drugs. What the hell am I going to do with No-Doze and Maximum Strength Excedrin?

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Day 49- Cotija's

Doing a comedy show in National City- where Russell Hicks fucking crushed, by the way- so before I went I did a quick Google search to find a taco shop nearby. My first choice was a place called Cesar's, but after the show when I went to find it, it wasn't there. Not sure if it was Google fucking me again, or an ambush set by the good people of National City.

So I headed of to my 2nd choice- Cotijan. Not to be confused with Cotixan. Holy shit, their California burrito is the bomb! Crispy, perfect fries, and all the fixin's. Daaaaaamn this burrito is fantastic. I might even rank it the new #1. And how could it not be good? Look how cool this place is:
It's like the taco shop version of that cool diner painting

So if you ever find yourself in National City, the first thing you need to do is ask yourself "What the fuck am I doing in National City?" Maybe you made some really bad life choices. Maybe you promised a friend you'd come to his comedy show. Whatever the reason, some form of unfortunate circumstance brought you here, so make the most of it. Get your ass over to Cotija's and get a California burrito.