El Largo Adiós

by Zach Mann on May 13, 2010 · 0 comments

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This story is thirteenth 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.

Carnitas Taco - Rudy's Taco Shop - Solana Beach, CA
Oh San Diego, the land of surfers and tacos. I will miss you… mostly because of the tacos part.

Those edible plates of carne are everywhere in this state, but to me, saying goodbye to San Diego feels a lot like saying goodbye to tacos. In the case of taco-dedicated taqueria quantity, I don’t think I’m too far off. On this side of the border, what city can make it rain chopped cilantro quite like S.D.?

It only seemed fitting that the last thing I ate in San Diego should be street-style taquitos, so we took one last exit off the Interstate 5 before leaving the city for good.

Rudy's Taco Shop - Solana Beach, CA Rudy's Taco Shop - Solana Beach, CA
Rudy’s Taco Shop is another reason this taco town deserves the taco crown. This unassuming-yet-heralded convenience store and taco shop hybrid is not found in Barrio Logan, or between downtown and Mexico, or even out East where low rent can lead to good cheap eats. Rudy’s Taco Shop can be found by Del Mar, a beachside town north of La Jolla more famous for classic Americana than Mexicano.

When it comes to lunch time, West L.A. clearly isn’t East L.A, but San Diego knows tacos, and that includes surfer bros and G.I. Joes from Pacific Beach all the way to Oceanside. Beach neighborhoods like Solana and Carlsbad may surf solo as cities, but they are very San Diegan, full of shrimp burritos and tiny taquerias, and proof that surfers and tacos aren’t mutually exclusive.

Pollo Taco - Rudy's Taco Shop - Solana Beach, CA Cabeza Taco - Rudy's Taco Shop - Solana Beach, CA
Al Pastor Taco - Rudy's Taco Shop - Solana Beach, CA Carnitas Taco - Rudy's Taco Shop - Solana Beach, CA Carne Asada Taco - Rudy's Taco Shop - Solana Beach, CA
Unlike La Playa in Mission Beach, Rudy’s Taco Shop is not tailored to its populace. I could imagine Rudy’s more easily in Logan Heights than by a North County beach despite the Italian deli across the minimart and the blondes at the next table. Rudy’s isn’t just delicious; it keeps the guise of authenticity despite its surroundings, leaving me to wonder how many of those blondes thought that “taquitos” meant rolled tacos instead of street-style.

Not that we were paying attention. Too much celebrating the night before led to an absolutely awful Saturday of moving things up and down stairs. I owe Rudy a debt of gratitude for giving me six tacos of rest from a hangover.

Lengua Taco - Rudy's Taco Shop - Solana Beach, CA
Hangover deafening my tastebuds or not, I thought Rudy’s was every bit worthy of its accolades. In regards to the various carnes, all of the crucial ratios of grease-to-substance and fat-to-texture were right on point, even if some of the flavor came off as a little subdued. Though I’m generally not a fan of tongue meat, Rudy’s taco de lengua alone was enough to elevate its cause into the best taco discussion, albeit as an underdog.

That Rudy’s is in the discussion at all is a testament to a city without strict regional boundaries or an overabundance of debilitating food media. Now that I’m stuck in West Los Angeles, forced to abide the presence of a gringo-operated Border Grill catering truck down the street, I can truly reflect on what I’ve left behind. It’s going to take me a long time to get over you, San Diego – one hundred tacos long.

Rudy’s Taco Shop
524 Stevens Ave
Solana Beach, CA 92075
(858) 755-0788

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

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