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3928 Twiggs Street, Old Town

For anyone who wants to explore the culinary world south of Mexico, where the food can change drastically every few hundred miles, Berta's is a rewarding one-stop voyage of discovery. The menu features the greatest hits of three continents, from Spanish marinated lamb to earthy Guatemalan pork stew to an exuberant Brazilian seafood extravaganza. And this array is not remarkable merely for its variety, but also for the sensitivity of Berta's cooking to the style of each region -- most dishes are not only authentic, but terrifically good. The best of all of them are Berta's renditions of the delicacies of her Chilean homeland. Her empañadas -- fried packets filled with melted cheese or baked pockets with a savory ground-beef stuffing -- may be the tastiest snacks in all of San Diego. And the lightness and richness of her pastel de choclo (corn, chicken, and beef pie) makes it a world-class rendition of this ultimate comfort dish.

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