Walking past El Vitral along the open stadium of Petco Park, shelves of premium tequila glisten in the restaurant window. Walking into the establishment, it becomes evident that tequila is definitely a theme. And why not? It is a quality product from Mexico, which falls in line with Chef/Owner Pablo Becker’s whole vision. His vision is to introduce all things good from fine Mexican cuisine and changing the way San Diego views Mexican food. If that isn’t the best first impression, wait until you walk into the main attraction, the open kitchen. Floor to ceiling stainless steel wrapped in glass pane, the kitchen is the ultimate centerpiece. Chef Becker compares the development of a restaurant is like fitting together pieces of the puzzle. He knows because he speaks from experience. When he first started in the restaurant business his mentor asked him to start like any other employee with no prior experience; by washing dishes. From there, he went through every step of the business from the bottom up. Today, as a restaurateur, he knows a restaurant inside and out and top to bottom. In fact from the hostess to the bartender, all are trained to answer any questions a patron might have about the décor, the various brands of tequila and most importantly, the food. Also on his team is Chef de Cuisine Norma Martinez. She heads the concept menu and blends items in like grandma’s mole recipe. With Chef Becker’s depth of culinary skills, extensive restaurant experience, and love for the restaurant industry, El Vitral is a definite home run.
Some restaurants don't only speak for themselves, but yell. And you should be caught by Mama Testa, every dish is made from scratch. In an age when fusion is all the rage, Mama Testa is happy to show that going back to the authentic is by no means archaic. Each dish represents a focus on the traditions and techniques responsible for producing complicated flavors and textures. This is all especially true when fish tacos are the topic of conversation. Mama Testa was the first restaurant in San Diego to take on Bobby Flay, as part of Throwdown with Bobby Flay. And although these tacos may not have been the original cause of Mama Testa's good reputation, besting Flay was a great way to prove that it was one fish taco you don't want to miss.What made all this possible is Cesar Gonzalez, owner of Mama Testa, and his passion for Mexican cuisine and culture. He didn't want free range chicken just for the health reasons or because it was the current trend, but because only free range can bring out the flavors realized by the dishes as they are made in Mexico. In fact, all the fresh ingredients are for making Mexican food the way Mexicans do. And Cesar knows that just the food is not enough to give a sense of the culture, so he has made sure that while you dine, you can't help but notice the decor; pieces taken from themes of the golden era of Mexican movies and chairs baring actor's names. The entire idea of Mama Testa Taqueria is to fill your senses with the flavors, smells and sights of Mexico. A goal it has surely achieved.
This is San Diego and you can't swing a golf club with out hitting the ball into a taco shop. So what makes this one special? It's hard to say, but it is at the top of my list for Mexican food. The locals are here once a week if they are shy, two to three if they are hungry (in any of the 24 hours of the day,) and more often if they appreciate an excellent, inexpensive, and filling meal. The ratings here might not be good, but that is only because of the fast food tables and styrofoam plates. Since you don't eat those, this place is almost 5 stars. And do not be put off by the bars around the open kitchen-counter they are a quaint tribute to the past when this neighborhood was strictly gang turf. Those days are gone and the neighbor hood and this place are family friendly.It is open 24 hours and is good before or after a Padre game, or if you partied too hard at the Turf Club for drinks and not steaks. A good Carne Asada burrito will soak up all that gin and juice and mitigate your hangover. The Carne Asada Fries are a must have.
Order the Squash Blossoms...Order the Squash Blossoms...did you hear me? Order the Squash Blossoms!My friend and I ate here before going to the theater and the biggest problem was I ate way too much and was uncomfortable during the entire musical. Nothing like watching Wicked while turning green yourself! Seriously, the squash blossoms are so delectable and light, full of flavor, and simply one of the best appetizers I've ever had. We also shared the polenta board, which is polenta severed table side with the ragu of the day. The polenta was creamy and delightful, and the ragu is always different ours was filled with summer veggies and full bodied flavors.For our main courses I ordered the spring lamb bolognese rigatoni and my friend ordered the short rib pappardelle. I really wish I had stopped eating half way through my pasta, however it was so delicious I couldn't control myself. Cucina Urbana is totally worth putting on your list of places to mangia!
I love the Garlic Shack! I had read many reviews before visiting and so was expecting some giant size meals, but OH MY GOSH. My burger was the biggest that I have ever laid my eyes on. And those fries, I cannot even describe how amazing they were. $6 for a large is always good enough for me, but you could make a meal of the fries themselves, there were just so many! Garlicky, salty, perfect; I am in love with those fries. The food was definitely amazing. My friend's Korean Beefholic was huge enough for me to steal a few unnoticed bites and was nearly as good as my awesome burger. Besides the food though, the service was just top-notch incredible! Every single person on the staff is so nice, it's hard to describe.