Welcome to this first installment compiling the extremely scientific* and unbiased** rankings of the last five months spent scouring the entire west coast for the best it has to offer. To kick things off, we’re starting w/ Mexican foods.
[* – not entirely true. ** – not in any way true]
Why, you might ask?
Simply put, because outside of one solid place on the Big Island (Seriously…if you’re going to Hilo, visit Lucy’s Taqueria. Wow.), there is an extreme dearth of it in Hawaii. (Same goes for good pizza and bbq, but we’ll get to those later) Upon our return to the mainland it was one of the things we had talked about missing the most…and man did we do our best to rectify that.
W/o further ado, here’s what we came up with…
(and bear in mind, we didn’t even consider anything chain in our travels. Del Taco, Taco Bell, even Chipotle…all gone)
Hon. Mentions –
Humberto’s – San Diego, CA. MXN – Hillcrest, CA. Roberto’s – Del Mar, CA.
These were all decent enough stops – and would have been top three on Oahu for sure – in the crowded west coast market, they weren’t quite cracking the Top Ten.
10.) Gloria’s – South Park, CA
This place gets the nod solely for being there at the end of a very long day of driving w/ a chimichanga the size of a small dog for less than $5. The fact that it was amazing didn’t hurt either.
9.) La Forchuda – Golden Hill, CA
This was a total first for me. Nestled just miles north of the border, the place had an open air grill right beside the outdoor seating w/ a bucket of beans and grilled jalapenos/onions you could help yourself to.
8.) La Terraza – Cambria, CA
Lil Stevens – the family resident Mexican aficionado – often says that a Mexican restaurant can be judged by the quality of their chips and salsa. If that is true, this place deserves ever bit of this ranking.
7.) Ixtapa Restaurant – Philomath, OR
Benefits quite a bit on the nostalgia factor, as this was an enjoyable dinner in a tiny town we loved…but the fact remains, the food was on point. Major bonus for being dirt cheap.
6.) Del Valle Grille – Goleta, CA
My first experience of the famed Cali burrito, which was French fries inside it. Delicious, but a time bomb to carry around the rest of the day for sure.
5.) La Rockita – Corvallis, OR
Hands down, best al pastor I’ve ever had. (Lit me up for sure…and even took my spice-loving lady friend to task…but that’s beside the point) That it didn’t rank higher speaks volumes to the finalists…
4.) Lucha Libre – Mission Hills, CA
Okay, now we’re getting into rarified air. You will notice that all picks from here on are concentrated in the greater SD area, and w/ good reason. Being so close to border means you don’t get more authentic.
This place has gotten huge love on the Food Network and Travel Channel, though I would argue it’s more for décor/originality than the food. Don’t get me wrong, the mole is great, and the knockout fries are just that. The salsa bar and pickled veggies are second to none.
The real draw here, though, is the lucha theme that permeates everything. Seriously, just Google it. You’ll understand.
3.) El Zarape – Hillcrest, CA
The first time I’ve ever enjoyed a burrito that wasn’t stuffed w/ rice and beans. No filler at all in fact…nothing but perfect steak, guac, and crema. Go, grab some chips and hit the free salsa bar hard. You won’t be sorry.
2.) Coyote Café – Old Town, SD, CA
The Coyote was the venue for a wedding reception we attended, complete w/ the best guacamole ever and an endless taco bar. What really put it over the top though were the churros, which the bride may or may not have been two-fisting on the dance floor by the end of the night.
1.) El Indio – Mission Hills, CA
For all the love Lucha gets, for my money, it’s not even the best Mexican eats on the block. For that, turn a few hundred yards south and hit El Indio, the lesser known little brother that doesn’t try to be flashy, but does what it’s supposed to exceptionally well.
That being, the best burritos I have ever had. Ever.
Seriously…just walk in and ask for the San Diego. You WILL NOT be sorry.