The taco has become the most quintessential comfort food. Regardless of your background, you probably love a good taco. Of course, everyone’s idea of what makes a good taco differs wildly.
For some people, the best tacos probably get served on warm, soft corn tortillas with fresh ingredients and flavors rich in spice and seasoning that you can find in authentic Latin restaurants. Other people swear by fusion tacos, which are often popular in more modern eateries. Tex-Mex tacos manage to appeal to just about everyone, with their combinations of shredded cheeses and flavorful meats.
Whether you’re interested in trying a beer-battered fish taco or some carne asada, you can find plenty of places around San Diego and Hillcrest serving great tacos. After all, Hillcrest is an area known for its incredible restaurants. You could get lost hunting around for the right taco in this area. You can find just about every take on this classic, comforting dish.
Thankfully, we’ve taken the search out of the taco-hunting process for you. Here are four great places to grab a taco when you find yourself craving some South of the Border flavor in Hillcrest.
Rakitori Japanese Pub & Grill
Location: 530 University Avenue (map)
Hours: Monday-Thursday: 4 p.m. to 10:30 p.m., Friday and Saturday: Noon to 11:30 p.m., Sunday: Noon to 10:30 p.m.
If you love tacos and street food but don’t want the same old ground beef options, check out Rakitori Japanese Pub & Grill. Here, you can find many fresh Asian flavors mixed with popular food trends, like their quinoa, seaweed and spring mix salads or their cucumber salads with baby octopus.
There are plenty of creative and standard sushi rolls here, from the classic Rainbow Roll to a “What the Hell” roll. There are also meat, vegetable and seafood yakitori dishes, just under a dozen kinds of creative ramen and plenty of more traditional appetizers, like dumplings and edamame.
Of course, we’re highlighting tacos today, and they certainly have some creative takes on them. Start your meal off with a bugogi tacos topped with marinated beef, onion and glass noodles, served with kimchi slaw and a spicy mayo on tortillas. You can also enjoy that as a burrito with avocado.
There are so many fun flavors, you could almost be forgiven for overlooking their fusion tacos. However, they make a great starter. Share them with a friend and order something else exciting as a entree. You certainly won’t be leave disappointed or hungry after a meal here.
Location: 3952 Fourth Avenue (map)
Hours: Monday-Friday from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m., Saturday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., Closed Sunday
If Tex-Mex tacos are what you’re looking for, then look no further than Cabais Mexi-Deli. This place doesn’t have much of a digital presence, but they are always busy. They’ve become a well-loved and affordable local secret.
Cabais Mexi-Deli serves up large helpings of Tex-Mex inspired dishes for very reasonable prices. You can start your day off with a little Mexican breakfast, stop in for their fish taco lunch special or hit this place for an affordable burrito for dinner.
Their lunchtime fish taco special is definitely worth a visit. For $5, you can get two tacos, a side of rice and beans. You can top that with any of their house sauces, which can be a pretty filling and simple lunch special. They also make smothered carne asada tots. For those who have developed a love for tater tots, this is one version of this popular potato dish you don’t want to miss.
Their menu has all the staple tortas, tacos and burritos you might expect. Get adventurous and mix it up, trying several different kinds of tacos at once. Just be sure to order a side of those tots for an understanding of why people keep coming back to this little eatery over and over.
Location: 3827 5th Avenue (map)
Hours: Monday and Tuesday: 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., Closed Wednesday, Thursday: 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., Friday and Saturday: 11 a.m. to 11 p.m., Sunday: 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.
When you want authentic flavors, it doesn’t get better than a place that makes its own soft corn tortillas in house. That’s exactly what you get when you stop into La Vecindad Neighborhood Tacos. This restaurant has all of the staples you might expect, like nopalitos (Mexican cactus salad), jicama, street corn on the cob and, of course, rice and beans.
Their taco menu is the real draw, however. You can enjoy por al pastor, seasoned steak, beer-battered fish, pork carnitas, potato tacos, chile relleno tacos, carne and pollo asadas and even bacon-wrapped shrimp tacos. Their Costa Azul tacos, which feature those bacon-wrapped shrimp served with red cabbage, avocado, an aromatic aioli and queso fresco, are definitely a fun and flavorful option.
They also offer some dishes with similar filings, including a ceviche tostada, a cheese quesadilla (also available with mushrooms), a chicken or steak bowl with rice and black beans, or even flautas (rolled tacos) only available on Thursday. On Taco Tuesday, you can mix and match tacos, any two for just $6. There are also discounts on house margaritas and other specialty drinks. This is definitely a must visit option when you want to grab dinner and drink some week after a long Tuesday at work.
Location: 141 University Avenue (map)
Hours: Monday-Thursday: 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m., Friday: 11:30 a.m. to 11:30 p.m., Saturday: 10 a.m. to 11:30 p.m., Sunday: 9:30 a.m. to 10 p.m.
With a menu that boasts family traditional recipes and all the tantalizing flavors of Baja cuisine, Ortega’s Bistro is a must visit for seafood lovers and taco fanatics alike.
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CHEESE & CHAMPAGNE?! Yes please 💁🏻♀️ Ortega’s, A Mexican Bistro in Hillcrest has some of the BEST Queso Fundido in San Diego! The restaurant is quiet, cute and has a traditional decor inside and on their patio. The staff there is very friendly and they also have a great special for mimosas on the weekends during brunch! Check them out this weekend! . . 📸: Queso Fundido- baked Oaxaca cheese 🧀 topped with chorizo 🔥, roasted poblano chiles 🌶, caramelized onions, Mexican crema, and a cotija/fresca cheese blend 👅💦 served w/ fresh handmade tortillas 💃🏻 . . #sandiego #mexicanbistro #cheese #poblanos #sdbitesandbooze #champagne #mimosas #chorizo #quesoanyone? #cheese #youstayhungrysd #caramelizedonions #bakedcheesygoodness #hillcrest #universityave #nomnomnom #quesofundido #freshtortillas @youstayhungrysd
Their lunch menu has some great options, including fish tacos, stuffed with Modelo Especial-battered fish and grilled cabbage with cilantro, as well as aioli and Mexican crema on a fresh flour tortilla. You can also try their adobo carnitas tacos, chicken breast tacos, seasoned with epazote and cilantro pesto, poblano pepper and Oaxacan cheese tacos, steak, shrimp and mahi mahi tacos.
During dinner, there are fewer taco options. You can still get the beer-battered fish, carnitas, mahi mahi, shrimp and steak tacos, however. More importantly, you can also order their lobster, made with a secret family recipe. The lobster is seasoned and grilled, and you can add steak or shrimp to the side.
They also have excellent desserts, such as coconut flan, churros with chocolate and simple vanilla ice cream served with chocolate sauce. Combine that with an after-dinner cocktail, and you have a satisfying and indulgent meal that you’ll probably remember fondly for some time to come!