Liz Swain 4:24 p.m., May 24
Gorditas ("little fatties") are a taco-alternative that aren't as widely available as burritos or quesadillas. Made from masa dough that's about halfway between the filling for a tamal and a corn tortilla, the little pockets are stuffed with various fillings. They're not impossible to find by any means, but discovering gorditas can take a little extra nosing around.
Surrounded by perfume outlets in an industrial-retail district of Chula Vista, Las Gorditas Restaurant specializes in frying, stuffing, and serving up gorditas. Even with a few other items on the menu, the gorditas are the star of the show.
The restaurant is larger than expected, with booths and tables tucked behind dividers and around corners. The decor is mostly pink and tan, and surprisingly pleasant considering the industrial feel of the surrounding neighborhood. English signage is delightfully hard to come by, though there is a small, supplemental menu in English tacked on the wall behind the counter.
The gorditas themselves are scrumptious and generously stuffed with all manner of fillings. Two of them should be enough food for most people, but they only cost $2.35 each and adding a third isn't out of the question.
Chicharrones (pork skin) in salsa verde is indulgent, and maybe a little odd for some people, but executed very well. Rajas (sauteed green chiles) with potatoes and sour cream is spicy and satisfying for a meatless alternative. Las Gorditas al pastor had a good, deep flavor, but the meat was a little on the dry side.
Other selections include bean and cheese, cactus, carne asada, and chicken mole, so there is definitely a wide enough selection to please most customers.
Everything in the gorditas is on the soft side, from the braised meats to the chewy masa dough, so adding some shredded cabbage from the condiment bar is a great way to mix things up texturally. The hot salsa is hot, not just labeled as hot, which is a pleasant find for people who like their food muy picosa.
Overall, Las Gorditas is worth making a weekend trip for, unless you happen to be in the neighborhood already stocking up on wholesale perfume.
1187 Broadway, Chula Vista
(call for hours)