I spent early Sunday doing a little chow recon of the areas just south and east of downtown. From what I have gathered, this a pretty vibrant little corner if you want some good eats Mexican style.
What sparked my initial interest in the area was that a google maps search for 'tamales San Diego' turned up two locations in the general area; Chipeaneco [25 & Market] and Los Unicos [Imperial].
First stop was the Farmers Market or Plaza del Sol. This is an indoor tianguis or bazzar of sorts. Upon sight of it, my memory recalled a posting fairly long ago on Kirk's world class blog.
There was a tamale lady and her cart ("Juanita's") out front with the usual suspects and champurrado. Inside the grocery store portion, the only thing of real worthwhile note was the fact that they had a sign in the produce section advertising Papalo: the elusive secret ingredient to Cemitas poblanas. Yet this green was no where to be found. Perhaps it shows up only once and a while. There was no Mamey to be found either.
The primary reason why this tanguis is a chowhound treasure is the Mexican food stalls located inside.
The following is a list -to my best recollection- of the food and food-related vendors inside.
- A Pecaderia (fishmarket)
- Guadalajara Tortas Ahogadas stand
- Aguas Frescas, Raspados bar
- Mariscos Restaurant
- Taqueria 'El Guero' (see Kirk's blog)
- Carnitas Estilo Michoacan Branch (2 other locations incl. adjacent to Super Cocina.)
- Two Restaurants specializing in Guisados
At about 10am on a Sunday morning this place was bustling.
The torta stand also advertised a "Torta Gemma" which I found out from the girl working there to be a torta with carnitas. Any info on this dish? (DiningDiva?)
The most popular stalls looked to be the two rival guisado neighbors with the friendly women pressing out tortillas (old style wooden press) and of course the Carnitas booth (that musky & heavenly scent's allure cannot be broken!).
Regarding the gusiados booths: these -upon observation- looked to rival the holy grail of comida casera in SD: Super Cocina. Devotees of the aforementioned place (JS) should definitely give these two a shot. Especially the one directly across from the Carnitas vendor. What's nice is they even illuminate the stews with little lights, that you can drool over behind the glass. (Its a little dark in there).
I didnt think the panaderia (really like an oven in there) was anything special and the al pastor from the taqueria looked pretty good.
I headed in the direction E. an came across a few mexi-tessens, mini marisco restaurants as well as two restaurants of note:
1. A Guerrenese Restaurant: offers the the tricolore of posoles: blanco, rojo, & the rare verde!
2. The first actual 'Birreria' i've came across in SD (Plentiful in LA proper). I believe called "La Nortena"
I stopped into the the El Salvordeno restaurant next to the Guerrero Restaurant. Why? Because it was PACKED. Only one waiter and helper running around with the ladies on view patting out papusas. Had to order a tamal de Gallina for comparison purposes (WBP in Escon.) to go. $1.75. Creamy, potatoes present but no chipilin herb. Overall: Just good.
The tamale joint Los Unicos had a BBQ going out front with chickens. I entered and talked with the ladies but the only banna leaf wrapped tamal they had (Puerco en salsa roja) was not ready.
I returned back to the car then headed north to 25 and Market for Tamales Chiapaneco. There was a very friendly young guy working in there with excellent english. I inquired about the name and indeed - they are from Chiapas. But they havent put any Chiapas food on the menu, however the will to do so in the near future is there! hurray! In the meantime he told me that his mother works at the cocina of a mexitessen that I passed on imperial (which had a Tamale Chiapaneco cart out front), where his mother works and sometimes prepares dishes from chiapas (the grocery store start with a 'P').
Unfortunately the tamales I want Pollo en mole negro wouldnt be ready till late afternoon. Emptyhanded yet again. Will be back though.
Next stop: University Ave: Super Cocina Pilgrimage
I shouldnt have eaten that tamal because man do those things fill you up, but I couldnt resist my favorite restaurant. So I just indulged in just a taco of what I took to be the special of the day, Puerco en mole verde. Wonderfully dreamy dish. Bright green and rich (always have had chicken moles).
However in full disclosure; I must say although this dish was so very good, it wasnt more complex than what I have prepared previously using a Dona Maria Mole verde, which is one of my favorite supermarket shelf products. I was just expecting a little bit more complexity as I know everything is made from scratch there.
Final note: there is a Mariscos Nayarit place down the street that looks like it would be a winner. You can hear the place down the street, live band, tables jam packed with families.
well, there you have it. Congratulations if you made it to the end...haha/