It’s nearly impossible to cruise a couple blocks in the San Diego area without passing a taco shop. If you are passing through town and have time for one Mexican eatery then Tacos El Gordo should top your list for a quick bite. The original taco stand started south of the border in Tijuana, and thankfully they added a second location a few seconds from Interstate 5 in the Mexico abutting town of Chula Vista.
Upon entering the restaurant, your senses will immediately kick into overdrive. The sparkling clean interior, which received an “A” rating in a recent health inspection, is brightly lit with hard surfaces reflecting the rapidly blended Spanish and English (Spanglish?) banter of short order cooks assisting customers.
Ordering and serving is handled directly with one of three short-order cooks who specialize in a few cuts of meat. One focuses on tongue, head, tripe, and other parts cooked in steamy carnivorous broth. Another cook machete slices spicy beef and pork (adobada) from a vertical rotisserie, and the last one handles the steak (asada) varieties. Finally, a young lady between the taco assemblers presses and grills homemade corn tortillas and transfers them to the cooks in small batches when their supplies run low. All of the cooking staff are very friendly and are used to guiding first-timers through the process.
The condiment bar is limited compared to other taco stands, because they have already paired the meats with the perfect sauce. Spicy meats are balanced with a thin and creamy guacamole blend, and the fattier cuts are accompanied with green chili based salsa.
All of the palm-sized tacos are served with two handmade tortillas to support a generous helping of meat. While Tacos El Gordo serves a delicious beef and pork adobada, consider stepping out of your comfort zone and try beef head or tongue. Both are braised for hours in a simmering broth until they are moist and tender. For the newly initiated, beef head is fattier and richer than tongue. In addition to some of the region’s best tacos, Tacos El Gordo also serves tostadas, sopes and quesadillas with any of their meats.