Derek Ray 5:51 p.m., May 19
Eating in a trolley car in Barrio Logan? It's the biggest, most delicious surprise of the day. Was humping along Logan Avenue when I see this long, narrow coach-looking little building with a white, metal-security door, open, and a sign on top. El Carrito (2154 Logan Avenue, Barrio Logan).
The view from across Logan Avenue, where the trolley tracks used to run
And, wow. Going inside, you're suddenly in this li'l ol' carriage with cream walls, pictures of forest glades and Jesus Christ, hooped ceiling, nine little four and two-place tables, and the kitchen at one end.
"Won't get better food," says this lady Mari. She's here with her mom, Gloria. "We've been coming for two years. And mom knows good Mexican food. She's been cooking it all her life."
Mari's eating a chorizo burrito. Her mom has a breakfast steak a la Tampiqueña. When Josefina the cook comes up, I order a breaded beef steak, "empanizada."
Breaded beef steak and tortillas. The toasted-Anaheim-pepper salsa is to die for
It's delish, with refried beans and rice and a lettuce-and-tomato salad. Costs $6.50. Can't beat that.
"This is the best old-world Mexican place in town," Mari says. She's a Headstart administrator from Chula Vista. Her mom insists on coming up here, "specially for the menudo, Saturday and Sunday. They really do make the best in town here. They marinate it with cows' hooves. That bone and marrow makes the difference."
It turns out that this was one of San Diego's old trolleys that actually ran up Logan Avenue, in the, like, thirties and forties, before Detroit moved in and engineered the death of the trolleys.
What a stunt that was.
Someone saved this carriage, levered it off the rails to this curbside site. Been a restaurant pretty much ever since. Josefina has been here 17 years.
Just love this place. Feels like you're in some old railroad dining car, bumping along.
Old-fashioned shiny silk flowers on each table
I think they should uncover those buried rails outside, and let us get back to the future. Hey, maybe they could make this the first traveling trolley dining car. If Barrio Logan would ever let it go...