Quantcast
4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs

Counter Culture

Place

Taquería la Chuleta

Fifth Street and Miguel F. Martinez #1100, Tijuana, BC

It's 11 o'clock at night when I spot the counter. This is down where Fifth Street meets Miguel F. Martinez Avenue. Here, no lights. Ti Wan (Kumeyaay for "village by the sea," right?) is silent. Dark. Empty.

I was scurrying along, back toward the line, bound for El Norte. But the brightly lit corner-counter stops me, with its rack of street-side stools and smoky outside kitchen. Neon under the roof of the protective open-sided shed shows up puffs of cooking smoke, and maybe two dozen people on stools chowing and chatting. It's almost like a movie set.

It's also a big barn of a place. Cream brick columns hold up a large dining area behind the kitchen. Long, heavy-plank tables fill the area. A blonde-haired lady slaps tortilla dough about, then squeezes it in a hand-press. A couple of other cooks chop chunks of cooked meat into small slices. The customers sit heads-down, sinking teeth into cone-shaped tacos stuffed with meat.

Huh. Cone-shaped tacos. I pick a counter stool and park myself in front of a couple of pineapples. Feels good inside the pool of light, like there's no world out there.

Only problem: the menu listings are on the farthest wall. Have to strain to see what da heck they say.

"Have the adobada," says this guy next to me. He's just pulled up in his yellow cab, next to another yellow cab. Except the driver in that one's just sitting.

Meanwhile, the adobada is slowly turning and spitting in front of a vertical gas-flame grill. The pork is pink, with grizzled edges. It looks too good. Heck, the smoke smells too good. I order an adobada taco (12 pesos, about $1.10) and a sangría (10 pesos -- say a dollar). Claudia, the tortilla lady, slaps out a tortilla and flings it on the griddle. The cook slices off meat, adds avocado and other trimmings, makes the tortilla into a cone, and gives it to Antonio, one of the two servers.

I've got to say it: This cone-taco is great. No, this is bitchin' great...All the pork bits burst out the top, along with avocado, lettuce bits, onion. A bit of green salsa helps with the zip. The Sangría gives you a wine-y little side-slurp, too.

Antonio, who comes from Oaxaca, looks at me like he's asking, "Another?" I go for a carne asada. It's good, but not up to the adobada. About this time I notice these three guys at one of the long tables. They're talking away. Not English, but not Spanish either.

"Italiano," says one of them. They've just come down to TJ for the evening. "That's our taxi outside. The driver brought us here," says Anzo.

They've been eating tortas, burritos, tacos.

"So what do you think of it?" I ask.

"A month of this and we'd all be down for the count," Anzo says. "So much fried. Cheap meat."

"So spicy," says his friend Remo. Remo says he owns the Max New York Steakhouse and Seafood in the Gaslamp Quarter in San Diego.

"Shit," says the third guy. Gianfranco Langatta. Turns out Gianfranco is a famous abstract artist from New York and Rome.

Remo pays Antonio. Twenty-one bucks for the three. "That's $7.00 each," Remo says. "Wouldn't buy you a glass of water at Max's."

They take off back to their waiting taxi and the return trip to San Diego. For a moment I think of begging a lift. But, loyalty. I like this stuff. And I wouldn't want Antonio to assume I thought like those guys. Also, I can walk. Feel safer in these streets at night than in downtown San Diego. So I decide to order one more thing, to go. Something to share with Carla. Antonio shows me a printed paper menu I hadn't noticed before. Oh man. So the place does have a name. "La Chuleta. " "The Cutlet." And then I see they have daily specials, all for about $3.75. Beef stew, "spine in red sauce," breaded chicken, kidneys rancheros. And they include soup, beans, or rice, chiles, a rice drink or dessert and tortillas in the deal.

Damn. That, I'm definitely coming back for. Meantime, I reckon the torta milanesa should be pretty good. Milanesa's the Mexican wiener schnitzel -- thin slice of beef dipped in egg and breadcrumbs -- and tossed into a telera bun with lettuce and tomato and maybe avocado.

So I order it (35 pesos, about $3.00) and pay up for everything while I'm waiting. Comes to 69 pesos. About $6.00.

Oh Lord. When it does arrive, fresh off the stove, I can't resist a couple of bites. Antonio has fixed some red salsa and a collection of pickled carrots, cucumber, jalapeños, onions, and limes. And picking at them while you munch on the main bun is strictly scrumbo-delish. Sharp, gentle, sharp, rounded. You can taste the egg on the meat. Turns out this dish is Mexico's gift to the rest of the Americas. It's also my gift to Carla -- if I can stop myself before I get to her half.

I'm reluctant to leave. But Antonio's piling chairs, dragging tables. Claudia is putting away her tortilla-squasher. "How many have you made today?" I ask as I get up.

"Maybe 40 kilos."

That's 80 pounds or more. Wow.

"How many tortillas is that?"

She laughs and throws up her hands.

"Can you get me a job in America?" she says.

Here's something you might be interested in.
Submit a free classified
or view all

Previous article

Communion on the hood of a Humvee

The Apostle Paul says we see through a glass dimly
Place

Taquería la Chuleta

Fifth Street and Miguel F. Martinez #1100, Tijuana, BC

It's 11 o'clock at night when I spot the counter. This is down where Fifth Street meets Miguel F. Martinez Avenue. Here, no lights. Ti Wan (Kumeyaay for "village by the sea," right?) is silent. Dark. Empty.

I was scurrying along, back toward the line, bound for El Norte. But the brightly lit corner-counter stops me, with its rack of street-side stools and smoky outside kitchen. Neon under the roof of the protective open-sided shed shows up puffs of cooking smoke, and maybe two dozen people on stools chowing and chatting. It's almost like a movie set.

It's also a big barn of a place. Cream brick columns hold up a large dining area behind the kitchen. Long, heavy-plank tables fill the area. A blonde-haired lady slaps tortilla dough about, then squeezes it in a hand-press. A couple of other cooks chop chunks of cooked meat into small slices. The customers sit heads-down, sinking teeth into cone-shaped tacos stuffed with meat.

Huh. Cone-shaped tacos. I pick a counter stool and park myself in front of a couple of pineapples. Feels good inside the pool of light, like there's no world out there.

Only problem: the menu listings are on the farthest wall. Have to strain to see what da heck they say.

"Have the adobada," says this guy next to me. He's just pulled up in his yellow cab, next to another yellow cab. Except the driver in that one's just sitting.

Meanwhile, the adobada is slowly turning and spitting in front of a vertical gas-flame grill. The pork is pink, with grizzled edges. It looks too good. Heck, the smoke smells too good. I order an adobada taco (12 pesos, about $1.10) and a sangría (10 pesos -- say a dollar). Claudia, the tortilla lady, slaps out a tortilla and flings it on the griddle. The cook slices off meat, adds avocado and other trimmings, makes the tortilla into a cone, and gives it to Antonio, one of the two servers.

I've got to say it: This cone-taco is great. No, this is bitchin' great...All the pork bits burst out the top, along with avocado, lettuce bits, onion. A bit of green salsa helps with the zip. The Sangría gives you a wine-y little side-slurp, too.

Antonio, who comes from Oaxaca, looks at me like he's asking, "Another?" I go for a carne asada. It's good, but not up to the adobada. About this time I notice these three guys at one of the long tables. They're talking away. Not English, but not Spanish either.

"Italiano," says one of them. They've just come down to TJ for the evening. "That's our taxi outside. The driver brought us here," says Anzo.

They've been eating tortas, burritos, tacos.

"So what do you think of it?" I ask.

"A month of this and we'd all be down for the count," Anzo says. "So much fried. Cheap meat."

"So spicy," says his friend Remo. Remo says he owns the Max New York Steakhouse and Seafood in the Gaslamp Quarter in San Diego.

"Shit," says the third guy. Gianfranco Langatta. Turns out Gianfranco is a famous abstract artist from New York and Rome.

Remo pays Antonio. Twenty-one bucks for the three. "That's $7.00 each," Remo says. "Wouldn't buy you a glass of water at Max's."

They take off back to their waiting taxi and the return trip to San Diego. For a moment I think of begging a lift. But, loyalty. I like this stuff. And I wouldn't want Antonio to assume I thought like those guys. Also, I can walk. Feel safer in these streets at night than in downtown San Diego. So I decide to order one more thing, to go. Something to share with Carla. Antonio shows me a printed paper menu I hadn't noticed before. Oh man. So the place does have a name. "La Chuleta. " "The Cutlet." And then I see they have daily specials, all for about $3.75. Beef stew, "spine in red sauce," breaded chicken, kidneys rancheros. And they include soup, beans, or rice, chiles, a rice drink or dessert and tortillas in the deal.

Damn. That, I'm definitely coming back for. Meantime, I reckon the torta milanesa should be pretty good. Milanesa's the Mexican wiener schnitzel -- thin slice of beef dipped in egg and breadcrumbs -- and tossed into a telera bun with lettuce and tomato and maybe avocado.

So I order it (35 pesos, about $3.00) and pay up for everything while I'm waiting. Comes to 69 pesos. About $6.00.

Oh Lord. When it does arrive, fresh off the stove, I can't resist a couple of bites. Antonio has fixed some red salsa and a collection of pickled carrots, cucumber, jalapeños, onions, and limes. And picking at them while you munch on the main bun is strictly scrumbo-delish. Sharp, gentle, sharp, rounded. You can taste the egg on the meat. Turns out this dish is Mexico's gift to the rest of the Americas. It's also my gift to Carla -- if I can stop myself before I get to her half.

I'm reluctant to leave. But Antonio's piling chairs, dragging tables. Claudia is putting away her tortilla-squasher. "How many have you made today?" I ask as I get up.

"Maybe 40 kilos."

That's 80 pounds or more. Wow.

"How many tortillas is that?"

She laughs and throws up her hands.

"Can you get me a job in America?" she says.

Sponsored
Here's something you might be interested in.
Submit a free classified
or view all
Previous article

Camila Mendivil: bullied into blogging

The Chula Vista teen makes her fashion statement to inspire others
Next Article

Gordon Parks’ Batman and Robin crimebusters

The old guard doesn’t cotton to being upstaged by a pair of rookies
Comments
0

Be the first to leave a comment.

Sign in to comment

Sign in

Art Reviews — W.S. Di Piero's eye on exhibits Ask a Hipster — Advice you didn't know you needed Best Buys — San Diego shopping Big Screen — Movie commentary Blurt — Music's inside track Booze News — San Diego spirits City Lights — News and politics Classical Music — Immortal beauty Classifieds — Free and easy Cover Stories — Front-page features Excerpts — Literary and spiritual excerpts Famous Former Neighbors — Next-door celebs Feast! — Food & drink reviews Feature Stories — Local news & stories From the Archives — Spotlight on the past Golden Dreams — Talk of the town Here's the Deal — Chad Deal's watering holes Just Announced — The scoop on shows Letters — Our inbox [email protected] — Local movie buffs share favorites Movie Reviews — Our critics' picks and pans Musician Interviews — Up close with local artists Neighborhood News from Stringers — Hyperlocal news News Ticker — News & politics Obermeyer — San Diego politics illustrated Of Note — Concert picks Out & About — What's Happening Overheard in San Diego — Eavesdropping illustrated Poetry — The old and the new Pour Over — Grab a cup Reader Travel — Travel section built by travelers Reading — The hunt for intellectuals Roam-O-Rama — SoCal's best hiking/biking trails San Diego Beer News — Inside San Diego suds SD on the QT — Almost factual news Set 'em Up Joe — Bartenders' drink recipes Sheep and Goats — Places of worship Special Issues — The best of Sports — Athletics without gush Street Style — San Diego streets have style Suit Up — Fashion tips for dudes Theater Reviews — Local productions Theater antireviews — Narrow your search Tin Fork — Silver spoon alternative Under the Radar — Matt Potter's undercover work Unforgettable — Long-ago San Diego Unreal Estate — San Diego's priciest pads Waterfront — All things ocean Your Week — Daily event picks
4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs
Close