2494 Imperial Avenue, Sherman Heights
In deference to the spirit of Yuletide cheer, let’s kick off our inquiry into the mesmerizing porcine monument known interchangeably as adobada and al pastor with a success story.
Tacos El Paisa (2494 Imperial Avenue, Sherman Heights) touts over 15 years in the taco business and offers one of San Diego’s truest tributes to Tijuana adobada.
Arriving on two medium-sized, fresh-pressed masa tortillas (a malleable hominy dough treated with calcium hydroxide, or slaked lime), El Paisa’s al pastor comes from a crispy cone of more-brown-than-red marinated pork cuts topped with a thick, glistening pineapple halo.
The fat-basted shavings offer a slightly-more-than-mild picante kick, suggesting a conservative application of achiote in favor of a hearty dash of paprika.
Achiote comes from the ground annatto seed and serves more as an invigorating earthen-red dye than a spice, though its distant peppery/nutmeg zang meshes nicely with traditional adobo spices when abundant.
In this case, that dash of paprika punctuates the predominantly smoky BBQ tones of the pork, from which (in true TJ fashion) you may opt to discard a few of the fattier chunks.
Try the smaller street-style tacos at 99 cents a pop every Tuesday or $1.80 during the daily “happy hour” from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m., though the full-sized taco ($2.85) is available until 3 a.m. on Friday and Saturday.
However you approach it, don’t forget to squeeze plenty of lime on there; the citric shock penetrates and binds the savory meats with an accompanying dash of guacamole, onion, and cilantro, bringing all of the ingredients to life.
The bonus: Every order comes with an order of chips and fresh salsas in mild tomatillo, infernal habanero, and smoky chipotle.
The latter is the co-star of the shrimp enchilado taco, in which juicy insects of the sea arrive drenched in chipotle sauce and rich crema, topped with pico de gallo and lettuce, and bound by a crunchy shell.
This decadent follow-up to the al pastor leaves the belly sated and makes a heavenly afternoon companion to an ice cold bottle of Tecate.