Las Cuatro Milpas is one of the longest standing Mexican restaurants in the United States, first opened in 1933. It has never closed, moved, or changed ownership. We have little doubt that it is one of the most authentic Mexican Restaurants in the United States, too. Everything about it reminds us of a simple working class restaurant in Mexico. Food is all from scratch; you can see cooks hard at work, rolling out flour tortillas and preparing masa dough from hominy using a machine that looks a half-century old.
To make the most of this place’s homey appeal, we recommend focusing on items served in a bowl. Simple dishes of rice and beans with an optional addition of pork tamales served with a basket of hand-rolled flour tortillas are the best choice. The beans are creamy and with clear pinto flavor and only enough salt and lard to enhance the texture and palatability rice is textured and coated with invigorating spices. A chorizo-spiked stew of scrambled eggs and beans is an amplified alternative to the normal rice and beans, a dish that usually borders on being too rich and salty. San Diego Chicanos say that the food here reminds them of their Grandmothers’. That doesn’t surprise us. It is comforting, and compulsively edible.
Many diners opt for the more flashy rolled snacks like taquitos and burritos. These are tasty enough, but not up to the high standard of the rice, beans and tamales. If you must get a taco, get the unrolled ones stuffed with a Carnitas like pork, iceberg lettuce and sprinkled with Cotija cheese. The tortilla is fried until just crispy on the edges. When you bite into these tacos you’re rewarded with refreshing burst of juice and oils. These are a good example of this nearly lost style of soft taco once popular in California.
The cafeteria style counter is very efficient; food is plated on the tray as you order it. Make sure to grab a few ramekins of hot sauce. It’s a deliciously simple but unique chili oil, reminiscent of what you find at Chinese dumpling houses, but made Mexican with the subtle smoke of ancho chile and the richness of rendered pork fat.
Because the lines build up in the afternoon, and because of the warming nature of the simple, filling dishes that Las Cuatro Milpas does best, we recommend going for breakfast. Las Cuatro Milpas is a solid deal even compared to a taco truck. It’s hard to imagine spending more than five dollars to get full at the restaurant. The best items served here average half of that. On Saturdays, a special treat is available… Menudo!