Walter Mencken 11 a.m., May 24
The Tacoburger: Part Seven
A conclusion (of sorts) and a trip to Mexican Fiesta in Little Italy.
All the searching and it’s come to this: Mexican Fiesta (1460 India Street) in Little Italy.
Developed buildings reach for the sky all around, but this squat taco stand resists the passage of years, crumbling in on itself like the weary anachronism that just...won’t...die. There are probably people out there who would like to see the place disappear and make room for yet another apartment complex, if not some other edifice to urban commerce. But, for now, this little oasis stands, a fossilized San Diego from forty years ago when taco stands became what they are now with the rise of x-Bertos.
Of course, Mexican Fiesta sells some amazing little cheeseburgers for all of $2.50, 99 cents extra for fries. Add a soda and get change back from your five. Cash only. No seats, so move on along to some of Little Italy’s public benches and tables. Sit, eat the burger, and think about taco shops and the burgers they sell.
Tacoburgers, at their simple best, are nothing more than the perfect product of a perfectly seasoned grill. They steam in their own juices and reflect the character of the 1000 carne asada burritos that came before them.
When Mexican restaurants make cheeseburgers, they become hamburguesas and they can be muy fantastica to boot.
The tacoburgers’ reach extends beyond “mere” taco shops, from the land of hipster dive bars to Downtown’s high-concept Mexican fusion restaurants. For such an unassuming dish, taco shop cheeseburgers have left their stamp on a wide variety of restaurants.
Tacoburgers have even become famous, more or less, even if they weren’t recognized for what they were and if the legend has faded over time.
But the thing that makes them most special is that they’re an entrenched part of San Diego’s gastronomical history. True, they’re a tiny slice of the pie, so to speak, but they have their ardent followers. Reader reader Lulutxu felt strongly enough about Mexican Fiesta that she requested it be covered in the tacoburger series.
Is there anything special about the dilapidated Little Italy taco stand? Not per se. The cheeseburger is good there. It’s inexpensive, crisped on the plancha, and tastes vaguely of taco spices. What makes it right is the sense of time and place, the way way you say “gracias” to the guy behind the window as he hands you an all-American burger with Mexican style, and the way you smother everything in hot sauce and dig in.
For now, that’s what there is to say about the tacoburger and its unique, albeit miniature, spot in the SD food scene.