San Diego Tacos Shop ~ Richland Hills, Texas
Set in a day-glo mustard colored old fast food taco joint*, San Diego Tacos provides a wide array of every day Mexican fast food, as one would find in southern California. So what's the difference between Tex-Mex and Cal-Mex? Their website provides one chef's view, to which he articulates the various nuances of the two regional food cuisines. The website also describes their menu in detail - and in English. You may want to familiarize yourself with some of it before heading out, because the restaurant itself does not. However, pictures of the food line the wall for gringos like me.
Mrs. RJG, native of Sonora and a two year resident of Los Angeles, went straight for the Sopes which San Diego Tacos describes as "a traditional Mexican dish which at first sight looks like an unusually thick tortilla with vegetables and meat toppings. The base is made from a circle of fried cornmeal soaked in lime then deep fried. It is then topped with any of the below ingredients. The pinched sides of the sope are its most distinctive characteristic. " What's interesting to me, is the sope is exactly what their family refers to as a gordita. I've been eating "gorditas" almost since the day we started dating 16 years ago. Basically they look like fried ashtrays, with a refrito "soil" base, meat (chicken or grilled beef), lettuce, tomatoes and a Mexican white cheese. Here, that's called a sope. Not sure if it's just a "lost in translation" situation or rather different regions of Mexico interchange the terms - it's anyone's guess.
Whatever they're called, she thought they did a great job with them. The beans in particular she called out as being outstanding. And they used a Mexican cream as well. However, she said those two items dominated the flavors too much to truly appreciate the flavor of the meat.
I went for a carne asada taco, an adobada taco and an order of 3 rolled tacos & cheese. I asked for the hottest salsa they have, and out came the generic red ketchup squeeze bottle right from the fridge. I'm not sure what it is, but I love when salsa come out like this. I can just pour as much as possible onto my unsuspecting tacos. And as Mr. Music says when evaluating taqueria tacos, it's all about the seasoning of the meat and the flavor of the hot sauce. The asada was pretty standard, but I could taste the grilled meat. Good. The 3 rolled tacos are really flautitas by any other name. They came out super crispy, with a fine tasting beef inserted into each. And loaded on top with shredded yellow cheese. And at $1.65 for an order of 3, it's a super bargain. These were excellent. But the best of all was the adobada taco. You don't see adobada much in Texas (or even Colorado), but they're a staple in New Mexico, and it's something I seek out when there. Their menu describes it as "Pork marinated in adobo (chile) seasoning then roasted on a spit." Oh my goodness, it was outstanding! And the red salsa had a really nice kick (not too hot), but with great flavor. And when combined with the abobada seasoning, the flavors went crazy in my mouth. I loved it so much, I had to order another one. This is the kind of food I get cravings for.
I'm all in.
* - I'm almost positive this was originally a Taco Plaza. Do you all remember them? We had one in NW Dallas (on Forest) when I was a kid in the 1970s. My Mom didn't care for them much, so we only went for a couple of times (my Old Man wouldn't go near places like that in the 1970s - "place smells like a fart" he'd grump between puffs on his cigar...). Taco Plaza was bought out by ConAgra in 1977 and later bought out by Taco Bell in the early 80s. Most were converted (as I'm sure this one was).