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10 Killer Taco Joints

The ultimate expression of San Diego's Cali-Baja cuisine

New Orleans has po'boys, Chicago loves its pizza, Philly takes pride in its cheese steaks, and San Diego, well here, it's all about tacos—a nod to the city's beach lifestyle and Baja neighbors.

By: Ann Wycoff; Food, Spa & Travel Writer

Celebrate the Region's Cross-Border Connection

Tacos are the ultimate expression of San Diego's Cali-Baja cuisine, born out of our proximity to Mexico, along with fresh fish, farm produce, wood-smoked meats, zesty salsas and sauces. From food trucks and hole-in-the-walls to oceanfront and high-design eateries, San Diego offers up everything from delicious 99 cent deals to gourmet tacos prepared by local top chefs. Here are a few of our favorite spots for tasty tacos.

Galaxy Taco

Respected chef Trey Foshee takes the taco to new heights at this vibrant La Jolla Shores spot, perfect for post-beach margs and progressive tacos. The eye-catching design features artistic crosses, Day of the Dead imagery, brightly-hued walls and a giant mural of yellow, orange and purple corn.

Don't Miss: Foshee's team makes non-GMO blue masa tortillas from scratch, and fills them with clever flavor combinations like fresh avocado with puréed Rancho Gordo ayocote negro beans and creamy corn salad or braised pork shoulder with jalapeno slaw and chicharron.

Mariscos Nine Seas Seafood

A line snakes through the parking lot at this South Park food truck on 30th Street where devotees sip the complimentary fish soup while waiting for the famed fish tacos.

Don't Miss: The Baja Trio—a soft taco sampler showcasing grilled shrimp, local catch and smoked marlin.

El Pueblo

Yes, it's set at the Valero gas station in Cardiff. Yes, most of the people eating there are also getting their car washed. But this unassuming joint makes the list of taco aficionados all over town.

Don't Miss: The fish tacos which are 99 cents every day.

Tacos el Panson

This no-frills place, where adobada (seasoned pork) carousels in the window, is about savory and smoky meats cooked to perfection. It's worth the urban trek to City Heights for these authentic street tacos.

Don't Miss: Wood-fire grilled carne asada cradled in made-to-order warm tortillas or the adobada carved off the spit. Leguna (beef tongue), cabeza (roasted cow head) and suedero (a side cut of beef) are served simply with cilantro and onions so you can truly experience the flavors of the meat.

Mama Testa Taqueria

Mama Testa Taqueria moved to new spacious digs in Mira Mesa and owner/chef Cesar Gonzalez's catfish tacos are so darn good, he beat celeb chef Bobby Flay in a throwdown on the Food Network show.

Don't Miss: The sauce-covered tacos like steak mole; shredded jalapeno chicken covered in a spinach poblano pepper sauce; or his grilled shrimp in jocoque sauce—Mexican yogurt with caramelized white onion and Oaxaca cheese. Be sure to try his La Carreta sauce (tomato and jalapeno creamy perfection), and order up chef's custom craft beer from Border X Brewing—a fitting match for the topnotch tacos.

Tacos Perla

North Park's hipster taqueria boasts communal tables, black-and-white flicks projected on the wall and Polaroid montages of happy eaters. Next to the open-air exhibition kitchen you'll find mason jars filled with gourmet sauces and chef pairing suggestions.

Don't Miss: The mahi-mahi taco with mango salsa or the Ocho taco with a mixed nut and chile de arbol sauce that lends a smoky kick to the grilled octopus. Expect homemade corn tortillas, daily agua frescas like strawberry lemongrass and locals to be adding crispy crickets to their tacos.

Salud!

Set down the street from the colorful murals of Chicano Park in a century-old historic building, Salud! is a true gem in Barrio Logan. Aromatic smoke from meats and pollo cooking on the outdoor grills welcomes diners. Inside, murals and surf/skate/low rider eye candy fill the space—think racks of skate boards, shiny bikes, and colorful car parts, along with edgy flicks like Serpico on the flat screen and Johnny Cash as a soundtrack.

Don't Miss: Taco Tuesday means 3 tacos for 5 bucks with choices like tender carnitas with avocado crema on a handmade tortilla or the pollo asado—marinated chicken cooked over mesquite. The Taco de Barrio features stewed beef with nopal cactus and beans.

Bull Taco

Set cliff-side at the San Elijo Campground overlooking the Pacific, Bull Taco is known for its "inauthentic Mexican," striking sunsets and ocean-breeze dining at picnic tables.

Don't Miss: Their daily specials with non-traditional combinations like the John Wayne-carne asada, cheddar cheese and tater tots; or the Mighty Duck—duck, bacon, onions, cabbage and salsa verde.

Barrio Star

Red walls, hand-punched tin lanterns, chandeliers, white banquettes and blackboard specials enliven this colorful eatery in Banker's Hill that serves "Mexican Soul Food."

Don't Miss: Wild blackened salmon with Thai slaw, chipotle aioli, cilantro lime sauce and pineapple-jicama salsa on a hand-pressed corn tortilla, delish with a blood orange margarita.

Romesco Mexiterranean Cocina

This two-story restaurant in Little Italy pulses with high energy and impresses with its cool rustic design. The expansive menu spotlights Modern Mexican and the tacos are menu standouts.

Don't Miss: The Mexiterranean with adobada seasoned pork in a flour tortilla with jalapeño tzatziki, pineapple, and olla beans, and the selection of more than 40 fine tequilas and mezcals for your sipping pleasure.

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