This story is fifth in a series. Zach will be posting a new story on Mexican food in San Diego every Thursday until he leaves Southern California for the San Francisco Bay, where he will continue to write and edit for The Eaten Path.
I’ve never forgotten how, when my friends and I toured the taco lands of Los Angeles as college students, Cactus Taqueria and La Taquiza changed my fast food Mexican paradigm. When I leave San Diego, I think I will shed a tear for each Tijuana-style taco I’ve eaten… which means this particular farewell is going to be uglier than the endings of Menace II Society, La Bamba and Homeward Bound combined.
Living in San Diego is like leveling up in Fast Food Mexican: The Game. Like most Mexican food in SD, Tijuana-style tacos are more simple, more plain than their LA counterparts – and if you subscribe to the opinion, they are therefore more pure. Taco stands in Los Angeles usually make their business selling more than just tacos, but in SD, places like Tacos El Gordo sell nothing else, and even at taquerias with slightly more inclusive menus, like La Fachada, you won’t find anyone in line not anticipating a TJ taco. The workers at La Fachada make tortillas and prepare meat. They put one on top of the other, and they feel very comfortable with the idea that versality is not necessarily a virtue.
Except for the versatility of carne cookery. The main attraction at taquerias such as La Fachada is the selection of pig and cow parts available as taco stuffers, from the TJ favorite of carne asada to the quintessential street meat of adobado to the brains, esophaguses and small intestines of your favorite animals. One thing I’ve learned as a San Diegan is that each taco shop tends to be better at making one or two kinds of meat, and you never know which (all the better to eat more of you, my dears.)
TJ tacos will probably be what I miss most about this city. They’re small. I eat a lot of them at a time, which is partly why I love them so much. You can’t eat a birria burrito, a carnitas burrito and a cabeza burrito in the same sitting – at least, I hope you can’t, for your sake. The quick drive to Barrio Logan on my lunch breaks has turned La Fachada into my primary dealer, and quite possibly one of my favorite places on earth. It’s convenient and comfortable, and unlike other Mexican meccas between Chula Vista and the border, La Fachada doesn’t turn ordering food into an exam in linguistics.
Functionally, La Fachada is a clone of many taco shops in San Diego and California. There’s the La Fachada Restaurant, a building in the back of the parking lot that nobody goes into, and then there’s the trailer where the tacos are made. By the trailer is an open grill with onions, peppers and a pot of self-serve beans, picnic tables under a tarp ceiling, the salsita bar, a woman behind a portable cash register, and all of La Fachada’s loyal customers. In the back a young man grills the carne asada. In the trailer women assemble tacos. Under the canopy we await our food with a hot styrofoam cup of beans in our hands.
I’m still too gringo not to wrinkle my nose at certain sections of animals, like buche (pig esophagus) and lengua (cow tongue) – both very common orders at La Fachada and many other taquerias but both a little too chewy and slimy for my tastes. I’ve tried them all, though, and fortunately so; La Fachada’s tacos de tripa (small intestines) has become one of my favorite orders. The deep fried, crunchy tripe is heavily flavored and makes for perfect taco fodder. The adobado pork is not quite as good as El Paisa’s down the street, but the birria here is juicy beyond credibility.
La Fachada’s best options are cabeza and carnitas. La Fachada’s cabeza, extra tender and extra beefy, delivers head and shoulders above the competition, and the carnitas, while not as good as Super Cocina’s, are about as good as carnitas cooked in a trailer get. If you pair each taco with the correct salsa, it’s a meal worth writing the homies about.
As I continue to partake in more of the tacos de TJ in SD, it’s becoming increasingly clear that La Fachada does not serve the best in town. Even so, when the crying starts, most of those tears will represent the many lunch hours spent under that canopy, appreciating the simple varieties of a single meal. I might be able to eat that many tacos in an hour-long lunch break anywhere else, but only La Fachada can make me walk back into work with a smile on my face.
20 25th St
San Diego, CA 92102
Zach’s San Diego Countdown
Week 1 – Super Cocina
Week 2 – Los ‘Bertos
Week 3 – El Tio Alberto
Week 4 – Ranas Mexico City Cuisine
Week 5 – La Fachada
Week 6 – Aqui es Texcoco
Week 7 – La Playa Taco Shop
Week 8 – Las Cuatros Milpas
Week 9 – Tacos El Paisa
Week 10 – Tacos Yaqui
Week 11 – Tacos El Gordo
Week 12 – Mariscos El Pescador
Week 13 – Rudy’s Taco Shop