Thursday, September 3, 2009


Mexican food is better in Southern California. It just is. Don't even talk to me about San Francisco burritos. Please. And the east coast? When I first moved to New York, you couldn't get a decent taco if you were willing to pay $20 for it. I remember almost killing my friends one night in college when I had to substitute scary generic taco sauce for real enchilada sauce when making enchiladas (it was all they had at the grocery store). This has changed significantly in recent years thanks to an growing Mexican population in the city. For me, however, nothing will match the tacos of my homeland. Above you see the restaurant that is my first love in the world of Mexican cuisine: Lucy's El Patio Cafe in Capistrano Beach.

The interior is junky, painted 1000 times with the same weird pink, filled with crappy posters and old arial photos of the area before anyone lived there. El Patio is a local institution since the 30's. We used to go as a family every Friday night.

The tacos at El Patio are chicken with a deep fried flour shell. They are topped with iceberg lettuce and mixed cheddar cheese. This is not an authentico taco, but it is mine. Still to this day, when I walk into the place, my favorite waitress, Joyce, greets me with a hug and puts my order in before I sit down. This place is home.

Next on the list is Pedro's Tacos. Pedros is a small fast food style chain (2 locations in San Clemente and 1 in San Juan). The fish taco is fried, with crema, cabbage and Heinz hotsauce in a corn tortilla. Again, not the most authentic, but so unbelievably good. Sitting on a deck overlooking the Pacific helps make anything taste good, though.

Finally, a new discovery for me: El Jefe Mexican Cafe. Muy authentico, family run, and my new favorite.

Like I said, El Patio is like a first love... awkward, tender, nostalgic, but in actuality not as satisfying as a more mature, more developed relationship. Pedro's is great too, but more like a summer fling... good for filling up after a day at the beach. El Jefe's carnitas tacos with salsa verde and onions on a corn tortilla are a serious, deep love that fits you just right. Plus they are $3 for two on Taco Tuesdays. I mean, really, how can you top that?

1 comment:

  1. A taco retrospective...our taco spots in sunset park do not come with a pacific view.