Perfecting San Diego’s Favorite Food: The Taco

Whether you’re hosting Taco Tuesday at home or taking to the streets for a taco-and-margarita crawl, as any San Diegan knows, not all versions of our signature fare are created equal. It’s not just the finished product that’s delicious—it’s the authenticity of every single ingredient that goes into it, from the masa used for fresh tortillas to the splash of lime before taking that first bite.

As restaurants all over town are stepping up their game in preparation for San Diego Restaurant Week, we’re hungry with anticipation for the freshest takes on our most beloved dish. But before we dig in, let us share a few tips and tricks for both perfecting and enjoying San Diego’s favorite food—the taco.

The Tortilla: A Non-Negotiable

Ask any reputable tortilla maker (yes, it’s a trade—and a highly sought after one at that), and you’ll quickly learn that hand-crafting tortillas is a laborious task, especially at a restaurant’s pace. The end result, however, is unrivaled.

The key to a great taco is the culmination of individual ingredients working together in perfect harmony. While in theory, any type of grain corn can be used to make masa dough, choosing a high quality dried corn is best—and if you can source it locally, even better. If you’re making your own tacos, a pack of tortillas from the grocery store may very well do in a pinch, but if you can take the time to source and nixtamalize your corn to make your own dough, the effort will come through in flavor and texture.

Choose Your Protein Wisely

Carne asada, birria, carnitas, Baja fish—in Southern California, we are fortunate to have some of the world’s most interesting and diverse options to serve as the main component of our favorite dish. The best part is that there is no shortage of outstanding restaurants in the area offering flawlessly executed versions of each meat or fish.

When it comes to the quality of your protein, we say leave it to the professionals—though we may be the slightest bit biased there. If you’re feeling ambitious and ready to tackle the challenge at home, buy from a local butcher or fish market. And if you’re going Baja style, a firm white fish such as halibut is a must.

Toppings Are Not an Afterthought

Before we talk toppings, we’ll tell you that less can be more. We’d be remiss if we went on about the importance of freshness and quality in selecting your ingredients just to have it all overshadowed by a whopping dollop of sour cream.

That being said, there is absolutely a place for toppings in the San Diego taco scene—just be strategic. A little pico de gallo, handmade guacamole, crema and a splash of lime can be savory enhancements to the dish—and of course, no fish taco is complete without a drizzle of Baja sauce (if you want to be a little heavy-handed there, we won’t judge).

Pick Your Sides

In San Diego, if there’s one thing we do as well as we do tacos, it’s fresh chips and salsa. If these aren’t an automatic accompaniment to your order, it’s worth the few extra bucks to add them on. You might also consider rice and beans—but only if you’re notably hungry. Otherwise, you run the risk of filling up before you get to the tacos.

What’s your favorite way to enjoy San Diego’s top-notch tacos? Let us know on social media using the hashtag #SDRW2018. And don’t forget to follow us on Instagram and Twitter to stay up-to-date on all things San Diego Restaurant Week, September 23-30, 2018.

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