Las Cuatro Milpas, a San Diego Institution

“Si mijo, any rolled tacos for you?” asked the grandmotherly-looking lady at the counter.

“Si, tre, gracias,” was all I could do in my non-existent Spanish.

San Diego, being situated right at the border with Mexico, predictably has some of the best Mexican food in the United States and one of those places was Las Cuatro Milpas, a true institution in San Diego. Don’t take it from me, take it from local San Diego media (and here).

In fact more than a few vloggers in the United States travel to San Diego to in search of the best tacos in the city (there’s way to much variety of Mexican cuisine for any other kind of comparison I reckon).

I don’t know where this ranks in reality, but it sure is good.

The name of the restaurant translates into the Four Corns in english, and is the same title of a mariachi song of the same name by a star of the genre, Antonio Aguilar (although I don’t think it influenced the naming of the restaurant). I’m going to go out on a limb and say that most of the servers at the restaurant, probably know of this song.

Established in 1933, this self-service restaurant located at Barrio Logan (the epicentre of Mexican-America) is as authentic as it gets, a clientle made up of locals, a line that never goes down, no frills or extra service, and most of the time no spare space to sit in. And for good reason, the food is extremely tasty, the portion sizes are massive (as most American portions are) and the prices are more than affordable, by US standards they are, dare I say it, cheap.

The long queue moved very fast though and before long I was near the front of the queue. The walls of the restaurant were an old hospital blue, portraits were hung all around, I’m guessing of family members of the store. On top of each table was an old crisscross patterned plastic table. They had clearly been doing this for a long time, a first sign that you were in for a treat.

I had just finished my look around the store when I reached the front of the counter, the server waiting for my order. Behind the server and the countertop were pots and pots of wonderful dishes waiting to be dished up to order.

This was home-cooked fast food, although probably much healthier. I ordered an option of rice and beans, a side of three rolled tacos which came with a side of corn bread.

I had tried tacos before both in San Diego and in Stockholm, but never a rolled taco. These are actually different things. Called a taquito, rolled tacos are essentially rolled up tortilla filled with meat and then deep fried. The deep fried roll is then served with guacamole and sour cream. It is a traditional only that it got popular around the same time this restaurant got popular and was usually sold from vendors next to railroads. Although Mexican in name, the dish got its start in California (in both Los Angeles and San Diego), apparently you can’t find this dish in Mexico. It was essentially deep-fried meat with a bread, that’s a winner in any book.

The main part of my meal was rice and beans.  The rice and beans were cooked in a meat based sauce and served with a generous portion of onions, cilantro and a lime wedge. The rice and beans were soft and heavy textured, beautifully complemented by the onions which gave the dish some crunch, the cilantro which gave the dish extra fragrance and the lime that cut the heaviness of the dish.

And it was a heavy dish, I had it for lunch and didn’t need to get a full dinner the rest of the day. Las Cuatros Milpas isan institution for a reason, if good food at great prices is not it, I don’t know what is.

ON THE MAP

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